What's your favorite Cheap Trick song
Tom Petersson speaks cheap trick
Hello my ladies and gentlemen
Hello ladies and gentlemen
Are you ready to rock
Are you ready or not
Midwest band Cheap Trick started rocking in the 1970s and hasn't stopped since. They came from Illinois, had their big break in Wisconsin, and are now anchored in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Tom Petersson, who is not only an original band member but is also the "man behind the 12-string bass", talked about the Cheap Trick, their roots in the Midwest and their favorite places when touring here.
MF: Congratulations on the Hall of Fame!
TP: I've heard this a lot lately! It's the one thing everyone has heard of. Every teacher at the children's school, everyone in the pharmacy who doesn't normally speak to us. It's one of those things that resonates, "Oh, hey, cool!
MF: Did you expect it this year?
TP: No, we didn't expect it at all. Everyone says, "It's long overdue," but we didn't think we were going to get in there at all (laughs). It looks like, "Wow, we got in pretty quickly."
It's not something we grew up with. There wasn't a Hall of Fame when we started. * I don't know that it's something that someone could bring to music to inspire them. It's not something that you have control over.
MF: What did you do for the Cleveland Hall of Fame exhibit?
TP: I have a 12 - string base, one of my original 4 - string Gibson Thunderbirds, I think I have a leather jacket - the coat I put in the Dream Police Video and in the album, on the inside sleeve.
MF: How do you feel about going back to the Midwest to perform there?
TP: It seems like we're always in the Midwest. I think I live south now, south of the Mason-Dixon Line (Nashville), but we're always in the Midwest.
MF: Do you still have family here?
TP: Yes, my mother and sister still live in Rockford, Illinois with their children and husband, my nieces.
MF: What are your favorite places in the Middle West?
TP: One of my all time favorite restaurants is Karl Ratzsch's from Milwaukee. It's a German restaurant and I love this place. There are so few real German restaurants in the US it's amazing. It seems to me that it's ... it's like Grandma Homestyle, where it all kind of came about. You just don't see any German restaurants - you see places where bratwurst and things like that are - really authentic with roulade and sauerbraten and such.
MF: And the huge pretzel. I had a few when I went to Summerfest last year.
TP: Yeah, they have Mader there too, which is really good. Walking distance to two in the same town. I like the Brat Stop in Kenosha.
In Chicago, I like Twin Anchors in Old Town. I haven't been there in years. I always go to Hugo's Frog Bar in town. It's on Rush and Oak. Carmine I go a lot for Italian. Garrett's popcorn, of course.
I love Mickey's Diner in St. Paul. It's excellent. I love Angel Food Bakery in Minneapolis. That's great. You have great things.
MF: How about Chicago pizza?
TP: I like Pete's pizza. That's a good one.
MF: Let's go back to Cheap Trick ... back. When did you know it was time to conquer the world and leave the world? Middle West.
TP: You had to get a record deal. The big deals were signed from New York City or Los Angeles so at some point we had to figure out how to build a following and it never really happened. We'd gamble and gamble, then we'd save our money and go to Los Angeles and do a few shows at Starwood in Los Angeles and try to get people to come and visit us when no one ever heard from us.
Honestly, none of it came out. We didn't have a deal when we happened to be playing at the Sunset Bowl in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It was a bowling alley during the Christmas season. Producer Jack Douglas who made our first album - he was the biggest rock producer of his time, he made Aerosmith and all kinds of people, he was huge - his laws lived there and he was there for Christmas. He came to visit us at the bowling alley and he signed as our producer.
He said, "If you get a record deal, I'm your type. I'll make your record.
The minute the record label heard this, it got caught up in a bidding war. Up until that point we weren't persona for free, but overnight we were brilliant (laughter).
MF: You left the band right after that (80-87). What brought you back
TP: I came back in '87 and we did that Booze and drink record and we had our first and only number one hit single, "The Flame". That was good timing (laughs). It (the song) really had nothing to do with mine specifically, but it was good luck.
Cheap Trick is like family to me. Rick, Rick Nielson, and I have worked together since 1968. We went to London together in 1968 and formed a band in 1969. We started doing all the original material from that point on.
If we were all just a cover band, we had to do original material, which meant we didn't get a lot of work at all. All they wanted was people to produce songs that hit the top 40. So anyone who made money had to do that, do disco songs or whatever was on the radio - Abba or whatever it was.
We didn't do that. We just got through it and kept going and eventually built a strong following in the Midwest. Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison were really big to us, but it still didn't help us get a record deal, luckily we played in Wisconsin.
MF: One of the reasons for your unusual sound was the 12-string bass that you're the "man behind". How did that happen?
TP: At first I only had a Gibson Thunderbird from the early 60s. It was really an extension of that sound. I got my first 12-string bass in 1977 when I finally convinced a new guitar company, Hamer Guitars (of Wilmette, Illinois) to make me one. That's when it started.
We were on tour with Kiss, and they showed up in the middle of the tour with the bass. I pocketed it, loved it and never returned.
The idea was to have an instrument that had a huge sound - 12 strings. It filled in the sound and made us sound a lot bigger than if just four people were playing. It's an orchestrated thing and it kind of suited my style. Since then, I've really been using everything I use.
I love guitars, and I also love looking out for vintage instruments in the Midwest.
MF: What's your favorite cheap trick song?
TP: Well, that's like saying, "What's your favorite song of all time?" It's usually something we just did. Everything that is the latest also attracts us, not because it is the best, because it is the latest. Who can say what the best song ever?
I love the new single "When I wake up tomorrow" on our new record, Bang Zoom, Crazy Hello. It's so cool because it's Cheap Trick, but it has this Bowie thing going on. It's really coincidental - he died after we recorded that song. I think it's great.
MF: Tell me a little bit about Rock Your Speech?
TP: Rock Your Speech is a music project that my wife and I started. Our son, who is now nine, Liam, is autistic. We wanted to put together music that had simple lyric content but phrases that you could use. Parents could use it as speech therapy. It's not like little children's music like "Wheels on the Bus". It is music that anyone can hear and like, including me. I can play it for my colleagues.
We put together a complete music program for speech sounds based on melodies and different words. We make a lyrical video - something like karaoke - so that the lyrics appear in real time. You see the person singing in the song. It's all literal. If you say that the sky is blue, you will see the person with the blue sky sing. (Learn more at RockYourSpeech.com.)
*The first contenders for the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame were in 1986.
Cheap Trick Midwest concert schedule
Jun 09 Hilde Performance Center in Plymouth, MN
June 11th America's River Festival in Dubuque, IA
June 17, Grange Grove at Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL
June 18, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City, IA
Jul 07 Summer Party in Milwaukee, WI
Jul 08 National Cherry Festival (July 2-9) in Traverse City, MI
July 13th Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, MI
Jul 14 DTE Energy Music Theater in Clarkston, MI
July 16th Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in St. Louis
July 17, Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, IN
July 19th FirstMerit Bank Pavilion on Northern Island in Chicago, IL
July 22nd, Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, OH
Aug 04 Wisconsin Valley Fair in Wausau, WI
August 15th, Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO
August 16, Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA
Sep 04 Fulton County Fairgrounds in Wauseon, OH
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