Goldmine spoke with former Survivor lead singer Dave Bickler about his new vinyl solo album and Jerome Mazza, who is a key guest on the new CD from Steve Walsh, the former lead singer of Kansas, along with his new CD, all available through Deko Music.
Enter to win these three new releases from Deko Music [see end of this post for details] and read the related interviews below.
By Warren Kurtz
DAVE BICKLER debuted in the Top 100 in the summer of 1972 as the lead vocalist of the Chicago band Jamestown Massacre with their single “Summer Sun.” In the ‘80s, he was the lead vocalist for another Chicago band, Survivor, for their first four albums, bringing eight songs to the Top 100 during his time with the band, most notably the multi-platinum single “Eye of the Tiger,” which spent six weeks at No. 1. Dave now brings similar power to his debut solo album Darklight.
GOLDMINE:Congratulations. I am enjoying Darklight.
DAVE BICKLER: Thank you. I appreciate that a lot. I put my heart and soul into this record, so I am very grateful to hear that.
GM:Let’s go back to your first single in 1972. The first time I heard Jamestown Massacre was much later. We were living in Chicago, 1989 through 1993, and DJ Dick Biondi played “Summer Sun” on WJMK, Oldies 104.3. I took our daughter Brianna to meet him and thanked him for introducing us to all these songs from Chicago bands. For example, with The Shadows of Knight, I learned more songs beyond “Gloria” and “Shake” that I heard growing up in Cleveland. I enjoy both sides of your “Summer Sun” single. The 1972 A side reminds me of what would follow by the band Chicago, with Jimmy Pankow’s compositions “Just You ‘n’ Me” and “Old Days.” Your flip side, “Words and Rhymes,” beginning with the bass and keyboards, has more of a progressive rock sound.
DB: “Summer Sun” was my first record. I still play the 45 and I think that 45s should come back. It sounds so good, very hi-fi. “Summer Sun” was the first of my songs to hear on the radio. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. I was going down the road, heading to downtown Chicago, when it came on the radio. It was my dream come true. With the flip side, “Words and Rhymes,” we wanted to be like the band Yes. You mention The Shadows of Knight. We did shows with those guys. We opened for them. They were the loudest, coolest band. They started their career with the “Gloria” single and got even better over time. After I left Jamestown Massacre, Frankie Sullivan joined the band and it evolved into the group Mariah, before Frankie and I became founding members of Survivor.
GM:Survivor’s debut album happened in 1979 with the songs “Somewhere in America” and “Rebel Girl” receiving airplay the following year.
DB: The demo for “Rebel Girl,” and what ended up on the record, was recorded at Gary Loizzo’s Pumpkin studios, the late great Gary Loizzo.
GM:He certainly was. I met him in Westmont in 1989 at an American Breed show. A few years ago, he gave me a great quote on the electric sitar used on “Master of My Fate,” on a flip side released a year after “Bend Me, Shape Me.” I included the quote in his 2016 memorial. Your second album, Premonition, in 1981, included your group’s Top 40 singles debut “Poor Man’s Son” and another favorite “Summer Nights.” I see that “The Captain,” Daryl Dragon, played keyboards on the album, another person that I have met over the years and have written a recent memorial on.
DB: Yes, at Rumbo Recorders, Daryl and Toni’s studios. A lot of records came out of there. It was a fantastic place. I was so sad to hear about Daryl’s passing. He was a great guy. He played keyboards on a lot of the Survivor records. He led us. We didn’t like the drum sound at Studio A at Rumbo so we set up the drums in the kitchen and they let us do that and Mark Droubay played drums there on that record.
GM:When my wife Donna and I were first dating in 1976, one of the first movies she chose for us to see was Rocky. We both enjoyed it. When Rocky III was about to be released, we were living in Dallas. Eleven days before its official release, there was a preview, for ten dollars, about twice the price of a normal ticket, but Sylvester Stallone was going to be there to answer audience questions after the film on Monday, May 17, 1982. We loved this film, and this is where we first heard you sing “Eye of the Tiger.” Wow!
DB: Wow. That is pretty cool. It was the thing that put Survivor on the national stage. Credits go to Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik for writing a great song. I realized what needed to be done with their composition. It was a case of opportunity meets preparation. I understood the swing of the song and I just got it. I felt that it was going to be a hit record. I didn’t realize it was going to be the opening number of the film. My son goes to the Rochester Institute of Technology, RIT, and their team is the Tigers. So, I sang “Eye of the Tiger” at an alumni event a couple of months ago there with the RIT Tigers. It is fun doing events like these. I have also sung the National Anthem at a bunch of places. The best was at the United Center in Chicago, because my mom was there. It was for a Chicago Bulls basketball game.
GM:The Eye of the Tiger album ends with “Silver Girl,” one of my favorites, which was also the flip side of “American Heartbeat.”
DB: What’s funny about “Silver Girl” is they said we needed one more song for the album, so we just had the right one, fortunately.
GM:Another one that they were playing on Dallas radio, plugging it for hit potential, was “The One That Really Matters.”
DB: I like that song a lot.
GM:Now on to your new album, Darklight. It opens with “Hope” about a dream of a better day.
DB: I think it sets a tone for the record Darklight because it sums up how I feel. I do believe in hope.
GM:“Kaleidoscope” is another favorite with a strong chorus.
DB: Thank you. I like it a lot too. My wife gave me a little poem that she wrote about a kaleidoscope and I turned that into a song. I thought it was perfect choice to come after “Hope” sequentially.
GM:“Fear of the Dark” is a bit edgier hard rock with a wonderful build to its powerful parts.
DB: That was a dream. I woke up and that melody was in my head. I went downstairs and sang it into my little gadget, a Zoom recorder. I keep that handy and my iPhone as well nowadays, so if I have an idea I can record it quickly because otherwise you will lose it.
GM:My favorite song on the album is “Magic.” It is catchy with guitar from Steve DeAcutis that reminds be a bit of Gin Blossoms.
DB: Steve is a great guitarist. That is a song about my wife.
GM:“The Gift” has a great arrangement. What is interesting to me, with the melody and harmonies, is that it reminds me of Lady Antebellum, with today’s country harmonies.
DB: I think that harmonies and harmony bands are sadly underrated these days. I love harmony. I think that is a great compliment. I always like to have harmonies in my songs. Dave Archer played keyboards on the recording, filling it out.
GM:“Always You” has a great acoustic beginning, reminding me a bit of the band Extreme.
DB: It reminds be a bit of Led Zeppelin with the soft start, like a symphony, with tension and release.
GM:On the finale, “The Sky is Falling,” I can hear Ryan Hoyle’s drumming so clearly and Brad Smith from Blind Melon is playing bass too. Donna is a fan of Blind Melon’s “No Rain.”
DB: Ryan is great, and Brad also is an awesome player. I would also like to give a shout out to Brad’s Abandon Jalopy band project with his album Mercy. I’ll be doing some shows in the UK with a full band. It will include two songs from the new album, “Hope” and “Always You.” There will also be some U.S. dates. I am very proud of the album, something that I have been working on for a long time. I think it is my best foot forward. Thank you for promoting it.
JEROME MAZZA is the lead vocalist for the band Pinnacle Point. Producer Khalil Turk discovered Jerome on YouTube singing with that band and invited him to sing a duet with Kansas’ former lead vocalist Steve Walsh on the song “Born in Fire,” the opening track on Steve’s new CD Black Butterfly. Khalil also asked Jerome to sing lead on three more songs on the album. This also led to the recording of Jerome’s Outlaw Son CD, with the same musicians who appear on Steve’s Black Butterfly CD. Khalil is now working with Jerome on the next Pinnacle Point album.
GM:I am enjoying both CDs, yours and what you brought to Steve Walsh’s CD. I have also been listening to you with Pinnacle Point from the 2017 debut album. “Prelude” certainly reminds me of Kansas.
JEROME MAZZA: I appreciate that. Thank you very much. With Pinnacle Point, guitarist Torbin Enevoldsen was my partner. “Prelude” ended up being the last thing we did for the album, with Torbin putting lead guitar on the track that I had.
GM:I was introduced to the music of Kansas in 1974 through Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. He had established the Kirshner label and he was promoting his new band on the label, with the group playing songs from their debut album including the opener “Can I Tell You.” I was immediately drawn to Steve Walsh’s vocals and Robbie Steinhardt’s violin.
JM: I became a major fan of Steve Walsh and Kansas when I was fourteen and I heard their album Masque at a party. It blew me away and I have been a fan of Steve and Kansas ever since.
GM:Ah yes, their third album with “Child of Innocence.” Both of us were fans before “Carry on Wayward Son” became their breakthrough hit single and my favorite hit, “Dust in the Wind,” with Robbie’s violin part.
JM: Speaking of violins, my mom used to play classical music when I was a kid and I was a big fan of Grand Funk. I was ten years old when I heard the Grand Funk Railroad album, On Time, and then Closer to Home and I was just blown away by Mark’s voice. He had this soulful, rock voice and played guitar. He inspired me to play guitar. I saw Mark Farner about five years ago here in Clearwater, Florida and his voice is still fantastic. He still struts around the stage.
GM:My wife Donna and I saw him around then too on the other side of the state, here in Daytona Beach, and we were amazed. He was part of the Happy Together tour led by Flo and Eddie of The Turtles. When they came on stage after Mark Farner, Flo said, “Don’t expect us to have the same energy as Mark Farner.” Speaking of energy, there is a song on Steve Walsh’s 1980 solo album called “Every Step of the Way” that I learned from a radio request when I was visiting Kansas City about a dozen years ago. The listener thought it was by Kansas and the DJ said it was Steve Walsh and the station had it and played it. Eight minutes later, the song was still going on and the next day I went to a used record store and bought a copy of that album, Schemer – Dreamer, which I had passed over for years. I had no idea how great it was.
JM: That is a great song. I bought the album when it came out. Reading the lyrics, it seems that song was about him getting out of Kansas and wanting to do what he wanted to do. There are a couple of really good ballads, “So Many Nights” and “Just How It Feels,” great songs.
GM:So how did you get involved with Steve Walsh’s new album?
JM: It was totally out of the blue. After the first Pinnacle Point album was released, Torbin and I put a video out of “Damage is Done,” which is one of the songs on the album, and at the time the producer Khalil Turk was working with Steve on his album and looking for someone to do a duet with Steve on the song “Born in Fire.” Khalil just happened to see the video of “Damage is Done.” He told me, “As soon as I saw the video, I said, ‘That’s my guy. I’ve got to get this guy’.” He tried to track me down for four or five days and finally I got a call at 5 a.m. a week after the Pinnacle Point album was released and he asked, “Would you like to be on an album with Steve Walsh?” I was totally stunned because Steve was my idol. I said, “Yes, absolutely. I’d love to do it.” A week later I was in the studio cutting a couple of songs for him. Then he loved what I did so Khalil and Steve asked me to stay on to do a number of songs. That was quite a thrill.
GM:“Born in Fire” is quite a driving duet. Tommy Denander’s guitar is great.
JM: Tommy is fantastic. He and Steve did “The Piper,” which is on the album. Then Tommy kept sending Steve songs and Steve said, “This music is so great. I want to do something with these.” It captured a vibe that Steve always wanted to do. That is how the Black Butterfly album got started.
GM:I think “The Piper” is catchy and exciting.
JM: I think it sounds like a Kansas type of song. That is one of the greatest songs on the album, I think.
GM:Then there are three where you are listed as the singer on Steve’s album.
JM: I am so honored to be part of it. Steve was so gracious to share it with me. I did “Winds of War,” “Mercy on Me” and “Now Until Forever.”
GM:“Now Until Forever” is my favorite, with the opening lines, “I open my eyes. Seeing is believing. The world comes alive.” Lyrically, it immediately reminded me of “Dust in the Wind.”
JM: Everybody seems to love that song. “Mercy on Me” was dedicated to my mom. It was Khalil’s idea. My mom had passed away just a few days before I hooked up with Khalil and I had just gotten in from the funeral the night before he called me. The first song Khalil wanted me to sing was “Mercy on Me.” I said, “Wow” and told him that one of the last things my mom told me was, “Have mercy.”. He said that we have to dedicate this song to her, so in the liner notes it reads, “’Mercy on Me’ dedicated to Jerome’s mother Sarah Mazza.”
GM: Now moving on to your album Outlaw Son. You have the same musicians who played on Steve’s Black Butterfly.
JM: We were finishing Black Butterfly and Khalil asked, “How about doing something with Tommy Denander and Steve Overland?” Tommy had played guitar and keyboards on Steve Walsh’s album and Steve Overland had done the backing vocals. I answered, “Are you kidding? I’d love to.” These guys are two of the best in the world. At the time we had just begun writing songs for Pinnacle Point 2 and I told him that I don’t have much time to write and Khalil said, “That’s alright. Tommy and Steve will write the album, you just sing it.” It took about six to eight months from start to finish.
GM:“Song for the People” has wonderful harmonies, reminding me of the full sound of Jefferson Starship.
JM: I am a big fan of Mickey Thomas from Jefferson Starship.
GM:What a nice guy. I met him at the Reno airport and he gave me a wonderful quote on the Starship flip side “Love Rusts.” Your song “Streets of Fire” is another one that reminds me of that group. Then “Crossfire” reminds me of Journey.
JM: Yes, me too.
GM:There is a Van Halen sound on “Immortal” with the guitar parts.
JM: Yes, Tommy can play anything. My favorite on Outlaw Son is probably the last song, “Unfinished Business.”
GM:That one is a bluesy favorite, reminding me of mid-‘70s Deep Purple in the David Coverdale era.
JM: “Unfinished Business” reminds me of a Mark Farner type song. I think “Undercover Love” has a Whitesnake type sound to it. My wife Dee’s favorite song on the album is “Save the Best ‘til Last.” With this album complete, we are working on finishing Pinnacle Point 2, with Khalil this time, and then our band is going to go out and play Pinnacle Point songs. We’ll know later regarding playing Outlaw Son songs live. For the Outlaw Son album, Deko is putting out a package that includes an Outlaw Son CD, an 11” x 17” autographed Outlaw Son poster, and a bonus download of the song “Streets on Fire,” which Steve Overland and I do as a duet. This version is not included on the CD. Thank you so much for this coverage.
To win all three (3) recordings from Deko Music, all you have to do is put your email and address in the boxes below by March 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. Deko Music has supplied us with two vinyl copies of Dave Bickler’s Darklight album, two copies of Steve Walsh’s Black Butterfly CD, and two copies of Jerome Mazza’s Outlaw Son CD to give away, so your chances are doubled.