We spoke with Danny Wilde from the duo The Rembrandts and the new duo of Cherie Currie, of The Runaways, and Brie Darling, of Fanny, about their new albums available this month on Blue Elan Records.
By Warren Kurtz
THE REMBRANDTS duo of multi-instrumentalists, songwriters and singers Phil Solem and Danny Wilde, are back with their first studio album in eighteen years, Via Satellite.
GOLDMINE:In addition to your new Rembrandts album, that I love, I also enjoyed the work you did with Jesse Valenzuela last year on the Gin Blossoms’ Mixed Reality album. What a great record that was, too.
DANNY WILDE: Thank you. I have been working with Jesse since 1997. I infiltrated my way into the Gin Blossoms’ world via the co-writing partnership that I have with Jesse and vice versa with The Rembrandts. My five year old labradoodle Pete was the inspiration in name for lyrics in a couple of the songs. Jesse found it easy to rhyme with Pete. It is all about rhyming. In fact, Pete is at my feet, here in the studio.
GM:The first song on your new Rembrandts album, Via Satellite, “How Far Would You Go,” sounds similar to the songs that I enjoy on the Gin Blossoms’ album.
DW: You can probably tell from my solo stuff too that I have more of a feel for Americana. It wasn’t always present on the earlier Rembrandts albums, but it is just the way that I write and Phil too, as that was just me and Phil writing that one. It is those jangly guitars.
GM:As strong as the verses are, when the bridge happens, with the guitars and vocals, that is a nice extra feature.
DW: I fancy myself to be a bridge man. There are not enough bridges that span rock and roll anymore. Everyone gets in and gets out with a hooky melody. I like that little departure.
GM:On the song “Now,” the vocal part in the bridge is an example of a wonderful departure.
DW: That’s from a lot of Roy Orbison and Beatles listening. Some of my favorite moments in Beatles recordings are their bridges which stood out. Roy Orbison also had a great way of building a song with a section that was insanely good. A song could be finished that Phil and I have written, or that Jesse and I have written, and then I will suggest that we insert something to take the song somewhere completely different, perhaps modulate. If the song is written in a major key, I’ll suggest throwing in something in a creepy, dark minor key. It’s just a lot of fun.
GM:Mentioning minor keys, “Off of the Edge” sounds like minor key moodiness to me.
DW: It is that big old Gretsch Country Gentleman tremolo guitar, like a Chris Isaak “Wicked Game” sound. It is a well I go to occasionally to conjure up that sad lamenting vibe.
GM:You also mentioned The Beatles. It sounds like a Paul McCartney opening on “You’d Think I’d Know.”
DW: That is a song that Phil brought in, about 85% finished, playing acoustically. It was sad and I suggested making it even sadder with the tones and reverb and I think it is a perfect song for the old Gretsch.
GM:“On My Own” has a catchy chorus and is a great way to end the album and reminds me a bit of some of the work you did in the early ‘80s with the band Great Buildings.
DW: That is a song that I had written with Jesse and I was going to put it on my EP. Then Phil heard it and thought it sounded like a Rembrandts rock song. I trust Phil’s enthusiasm, so we just plugged it into The Rembrandts.
GM:In the middle of the collection is one that just jumps out at me, “Come to Californ-i-ya.”
DW: That’s a song about Phil’s conflict of moving from Minneapolis to L.A. He has been back and forth over the years since the ‘70s. In my case, I came to L.A. when I was five years old, from Maine, in 1963, with my parents and four siblings when my oldest brother moved to L.A. to go to college. We wrote that song more from Phil’s angle. We did it live in the studio in Hollywood, adding very little to it. A lot of the album was done like that at different studios.
GM:“Count on You,” is the one in theme, I think, that is closest to “I’ll Be There for You.”
DW: Lyrically, I can see that. That is one that Jesse and I started together, and Phil piped in. It is inspired by me and my wife Natali. We have been friends forever. We have been together over forty years, since she was nineteen and I was twenty. We got married in 1981. It is also about friends.
GM:My wife Donna and I have also been together over forty years. Speaking about friends, how did the duo who brought us “Just the Way it is, Baby” become the duo who brought us the theme from “Friends” one of Donna and my all-time favorite comedy shows.
DW: Kevin Bright, one of the creators of the show, was a fan of the band. He had the pilot for “Friends” and he called our manager and asked if The Rembrandts would be interested in co-writing a song with the music director, Michael Skloff. At first, we thought it would be a fun experience, thinking it would be the pilot for some show that would probably tank. Two days later we were with Michael in my studio in Thousand Oaks. He had 90 percent of the 42 second version written along with Allee Willis providing the lyrics. Phil added the catchy guitar riff. The time that we got the request to do the song and the show airing was less than six days. Then the song blew up due to a Nashville program director, Charlie Quinn, and DJ and music director, Tom Peace, who were really responsible for the radio explosion of the song. They looped the 42 second version of the song twice and started playing it. People all over the U.S. were calling up radio stations to hear the song. It caught on virally, pre-internet. We rushed into the studio to record a full version of the song and that is where Phil and I got in on the writing in addition to its performance. We added “I’ll Be There for You” as a hidden track on our CD called LP in 1995. We didn’t want to make too big of a deal about it. The other side of the coin is that we alienated our adult alternative audience. Nowadays that is what everyone strives for is to get a placement on a TV show or a commercial. Back then it was viewed as a sellout to our audience, but we have been forgiven and it seems that everyone on the planet has heard that song and we are proud of it at the end of the day.
GM:You’ve got the theme song and Chrissie Hynde was a guest on one of the episodes playing “Smelly Cat” and when asked how many chords did she know, as an expert guitarist, by Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe. Chrissie replied, “All of them.”
DW: Chrissie Hynde is like the goddess of rock and roll. She does know all the chords, I bet.
GM:Now going back to your early days of guitar chord playing, I enjoy “Hillary” by The Quick from 1976.
DW: Oh, great. Thank you. We were a quirky little group, all high school buddies from Van Nuys High School, and my first time in a recording studio.
GM:I remember Great Buildings from 1981 when Columbia was signing new groups including you, The Hawks, Silver Condor and others.
DW: Peter Philbin, an A&R representative at Columbia was a fan of The Quick. We were falling apart. Ian Ainsworth, from The Quick, and I were writing all the time. Peter signed us right away. There was a guy in a band from Minneapolis from a band called Loose Change who was their guitar player, and of course, it was Phil Solem, who was amazing. Ian and I said that we had to get that guy. When Ian and I got the record deal with Columbia, we chased Phil, following him all over. The rest of Loose Change hated us for trying to poach Phil. He wanted to join our band as he was a big Quick fan. Phil joined, and we have been working together ever since. I also did three solo albums between Great Buildings and The Rembrandts. The first was on Island, which Phil played lead guitar on, and the next two were on Geffen. I had songs on album rock radio and was rocking a little harder back then. Now, the new album comes out on August 23, including on vinyl, which I insisted on. Phil and I have signed copies of the vinyl albums for the Goldmine Giveaway winners. We will do some shows this year and a bigger tour in the spring of next year. Thank you so much for the interview. Peace and love!
CHERIE CURRIE & BRIE DARLING met in 2017, over forty years since their ‘70s beginnings with the groups The Runaways and Fanny, respectively. When Fanny were recording their Blue Elan reunion album Fanny Walked the Earth, Fanny drummer and singer Brie Darling reached out to vocalist Cherie Currie to be a guest on the album. Their friendship grew and they have recorded nine covers and three originals for their first full length album together, The Motivator, produced by Dave Darling.
GOLDMINE:Congratulations on The Motivator. This album is so much fun. I didn’t know the title song. When my best friend John would play me T. Rex’s Electric Warrior album in the ‘70s, we would listen to “Bang a Gong,” “Rip Off,” and “Jeepster.” I don’t think we made it to side two together, so thank you for introducing me to the T. Rex song, “The Motivator,” through your powerful version.
BRIE DARLING: I’m glad you find this fun. That’s what we like to hear, right Cherie?
CHERIE CURRIE: I love that T. Rex song and I think the new version turned out brilliantly. Dave Darling, who is Brie’s husband and a six time Grammy nominated producer, just killed it with his arrangement. I love it.
BD: Like you, I wasn’t familiar with “The Motivator,” but I like T. Rex. I believe Dave found that one and he said, “Let me lay down the track and we’ll try it.” Once we did that, we fell in love with the song. By the time it was fully recorded we knew that was the lead song we wanted for the album. Cherie, Dave and I had such a great recording experience. It went smooth and fast. Now with the final product, Cherie and I talk almost every day about how much we love it. We are thrilled! Cherie has kind of an interesting story about recording that song.
CC: Dave decided when we started recording this project that the concept was that I would record a few songs and Brie would do a few and we would back each other up. Brie had laid down a really great scratch vocal track, as a sample. She is such a great singer. Dave had it in mind, though, that this was a song that I was going to sing but I told him that this has to be a duet. He disagreed and I told him that he has to try it. I said that I’ll do the first verse and we’ll pull in Brie’s voice from that recording and wait until you hear how great this will sound together. He did and then he was thrilled. Brie really loved the song and she is such a team player. So, Dave planned it as a surprise for Brie. Brie walked in to hear what she thought was going to be my vocal and, all of a sudden, her voice came in on the second verse and she just started jumping up and down. She was so excited. The look on her face was so awesome. This is what started the concept of us sharing songs more because Dave felt that Brie and I sound great together.
BD: Cherie is one of the few people that I have worked with who is so sharing, giving and open and I absolutely love that about her. We have developed a trust and know that we have each other’s best interests in mind and lift each other up. I think we make each other better.
GM:I didn’t know “The Motivator,” but I know the rest of songs covered including one I don’t think I ever heard on the radio, “Gimme Some Truth,” from John Lennon’s Imagine album. I bought that album when it debuted and played it over and over in my bedroom growing up in the ‘70s. I just love it. One of the songs from the album was played at our wedding reception in ’79, and my wife Donna and I agree that “Imagine” is our all-time favorite Beatles related song. “Gimme Some Truth” is a deeper cut on the album, but politically it feels as relevant today as it did in 1971. Phil Parlapiano plays piano wonderfully on your new version.
CC: He is amazing. That is one I didn’t know but Dave sent me Brie’s scratch vocal and I felt that sounded complete, with no more takes needed. She was brilliant and I love the song now. Thank goodness for Dave. We’ve been able to take these songs and add a neat, cool spin on all of them. I am very blessed that I get to work with these two wonderful people. A lot of the songs from that era are still topical, which says something.
GM:Then there is the other “Gimme” song from another big British Invasion group, “Gimme Shelter,” with your high harmony notes on this Rolling Stones classic.
CC: That is all Brie. When we started working together, I couldn’t hold back on how big of a fan I am of Brie.
BD: What I love about it the most is that I find Cherie and I supporting each other. If anyone gets to experience this kind of a relationship, it is golden. I love it.
GM:That is wonderful. The album includes three new songs that you wrote. Let’s start with the up-tempo anthem, “This is Our Time.”
BD: This came out of one of Cherie and my early conversations. I think Cherie was talking about us working together and this being our time for us each to take our pasts and move forward. We were just so thrilled to be working together. This was an opportunity to honor our pasts but kind of break away from it and make it current. The cool thing is that I love songs that have multiple meanings. Yes, this is about Cherie and me, but it is also about people in general making an opportunity to do something.
CC: We’ve both been through a lot in our lives. We’ve had success but there have also been major challenges and we are thrilled that this is our time to have each other’s back and even be protective of each other as we collaborate and share our music.
GM:As much as I enjoy “This is Our Time,” and your “making an opportunity” ambitious spirit, of the three new originals the one I love even more is “Too Bruised.” It is beautiful. There are great harmonies. The strings are nice on this pretty song with a theme of sadness. Our daughter Brianna thinks of it as a bluesy “Don’t Speak,” as she grew up on No Doubt in the ‘90s.I played it for her when we were traveling to a concert recently to get her thoughts on the song.
CC: That song blew my mind. Brie was sitting at the computer and she was playing the music. I heard this beautiful voice and these amazing lyrics. I looked up and Brie was actually singing it. I thought this is perfect. I freaked out and called my son, Jake Hayes, and told him, “I just heard a perfect song that Brie and Dave wrote.” It is one of the best songs on the record.
BD: We are happy that we did the early covers, paying tribute to our past and our experience and then writing the originals to move forward on to what comes next for us. Writing new songs together gave us the opportunity to share what is going on with us right now and start our new journey together. I’m looking forward to the next record having a lot more originals. I just love that you asked your daughter Brianna to listen and got her opinion. I think that is wonderful to involve young people, especially young women. I am all about encouraging young women.
GM:Thank you. On the third original, “I’m Too Good, That’s Just Too Bad,” features Dave with some heavy guitar.
BD: Cherie and I wrote all the lyrics to that. Our friend Patti Quatro, who introduced us, was also involved in that song, but Dave wrote the musical track and we wrote the lyrics and melody. When we were doing the Fanny Walked the Earth record, I wanted to have all the women who were involved in Fanny on the record and Patti, who was on the album that gave us our biggest hit, “Butter Boy,” suggested that we have other girl band members from back in the day and suggested Cherie. Other than Nickey Barclay, who now lives in Australia, we had all the Fanny members on the record and more women, too. That is how I met Cherie and was wowed by her high energy.
GM: So, on “When We Need Her,” on the Fanny Walked the Earth album, with a sound so full and wonderful, is that one of the songs you both are on?
BD: Yes. Exactly. It is one of the songs that I wrote and we recorded it in the studio in Massachusetts and then we brought it out here to L.A. Patti flew in to add her vocals and we brought in all the amazing women like Cherie, and Susanna, Vicki and Debbi from The Bangles, Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, Genya Raven of Ten Wheel Drive, and more. That will forever be one of the best things about this album is getting all these women to come together and be on an album with one of the original girl bands. It was an honor to have them all.
CC: Thank you for enjoying “When We Need Her.” Also, I am working with Patti’s sister Suzi Quatro on her upcoming movie.
GM:Suzi is another favorite. I met her forty years ago in ’79 when “Stumblin’ In” was a hit and we were doing a record store promotion. We had her on a Goldmine podcast recently talking about her new album No Control. That’s another great 2019 album. I think “Bass Line” may be my favorite on it. Speaking of siblings like the Quatros, Brie, your brother Henry’s choice of “Do It Again,” for your new album was a pleasant surprise. I saw the title and was wondering if it was going to be ‘60s Beach Boys or ‘70s Steely Dan. Then when I listened to it, I heard, “We're back where we started, here we go round again.” I forgot about this ‘80s Kinks single. This is a great choice from your brother Henry and a wonderful guitar solo from your brother Phil on it too, plus another family favorite, Susan Olsen on background vocals.
BD: Thank you. Even though it is from the ‘80s, the Kinks are from our ‘60s and ‘70s background. It is such a fun song and Cherie just kills it.
CC: And Susan Olsen is like my adopted sister. I have known her for many years. We had friends and family on the song including my sister Sondra Currie and my ex-husband Robert Hays. Phil Campbell from Motorhead recorded that conductor part from his home in Wales.
BD: Throughout the record we had friends and family. For the first time I was able to have my two brothers and my sister Rory on a record that I appear on and that means so much to me.
GM:Speaking of family, Donna was a big fan of The Osmonds growing up. In addition to the Hollies’ version of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” she also knew The Osmonds’ version very well as the flip side of “One Bad Apple.” Now there is your new version with Cherie’s beautiful counterpoint poem.
CC: You know that’s funny as that’s a scratch vocal. I wrote what Brie was singing about our vets and our homeless vets. The idea came to me that we would bring this song into present time by having Brie do this beautiful lead part along with me and pay homage to our vets.
BD: The poem that Cherie wrote is undeniably beautiful. Almost every time I hear this, I end up crying. It is really moving, and it is an important issue with many vets still suffering.
CC: This solidifies how much I really wanted the song to be a duet.
BD: Both Cherie and my father served in the military and my brother did too. We have special feelings and compassion for the people who go through that for our safety.
GM:Another touching song with beauty is “Get Together” with a quartet of strings that really adds nicely to the recording.
BD: I love strings. I think we did string sections on three of the songs, right Cherie?
CC: Yes, and Dave meticulously wrote out these very unique string sections and it was just awesome to watch it. The man is truly a genius. This record has been the easiest record I have ever made and the most satisfying. I look forward to doing these songs live and we will also honor our past and our fans with songs from The Runaways and Fanny in the shows, too.
BD: And there are a couple of songs from Fanny Walked the Earth that I want in the set including “When We Need Her,” that we discussed.
GM:Cherie, I am also starting to hear your nephew Trev Lukather’s band ZFG. The song “Special” is catchy and Trev’s guitar playing is so powerful. I look forward to a full album with them. I am so interested in next generation acts including this “sons of Toto” band with Sam Porcaro and Trev.
CC: Trev is my twin sister Marie’s son and I am so proud of him. He has really come into his own. He has worked a lot of years to become the kind of guitarist, singer and songwriter that he is, and I just couldn’t be more proud of him. He just kills it on stage. I saw them here at the Canyon Club as an opening act and they completely blew the lead act off the stage.
GM:I am obviously excited about your merging of talent and the upcoming tour with new and old songs. Brie, I remember being seventeen and driving around suburban Cleveland, listening to Fanny’s “Butter Boy” on the radio and loving it.
BD: Thanks. I was happy to be in Fanny and help get the group back, not only into the Top 40 but in the Top 20s on the charts, even though we were banned in Boston.
CC: Thank you so much for the support of the new record. It really means a lot. We truly appreciate it. We are like fish out of water because the business has changed so much. We’re depending on people like you to help us. We look forward to seeing Goldmine readers at the shows.
To win both recordings from Blue Elan, all you have to do is put your email and address in the boxes below by August 31, 11:59 p.m. You will immediately be entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive our informative eNewsletter from Goldmine (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. Blue Elan has supplied us with two autographed vinyl copies of The Rembrandts’ Via Satellite and two sealed CDs of Cherie Currie & Brie Darling’s The Motivator to give away, so your chances are doubled.