Global Bass Online February 2002
An interview by Andy Long with John 'Rhino' Edwards of STATUS QUO
Fifty-five British hit singles and a string of hit albums since 1968 have made Status Quo a household name in the U.K. and across the world. In fact there has only ever been one other band that has had more U.K. chart success than Status Quo and that, of course, were the Beatles. Then again, the Beatles broke up in 1970 and Status Quo still are Rockin' All Over The World in 2001.
I tracked down the band on their recent tour and spoke at length to long-standing bass-player John 'Rhino' Edwards, who has been with the band since the mid '80's. Prior to joining the band Rhino had already built up an extensive C.V. (Editor's note: No idea what C.V. means, probably 'Candy Vendor', 'Candid Vagabonds' or most likely a biography of successes. Andy has not been the same since the rocket sled accident).
Rhino: "I suppose Sandie Shaw was the first thing I ever did, which was horrible! After that I was in a band called The Sunday Band and I met a guy called Mike Paxman at a party and we were both completely pissed. They'd just been given the money by their record label to get a band together for Judie Tzuke and he said, "If you can remember my phone number call me tomorrow, you've got the gig". I can always remember phone numbers so I started to play with Judie and that got the whole ball rolling. I stayed with Judie for a long time, on and off I was with her for six years, in fact I've just done a track on her new album and she's still sounding really good."
Rhino went on to form his own band, 'Rhino Edwards', a three-piece with Canadian guitarist Richard Lightman, which Rhino described as 'very hooligan!'. The band began to do well and were close to signing a deal when Rhino got the call to say that Dexy's Midnight Runners were looking for a bass player. He took the gig and did two American tours with the band. At the same time Rhino was also playing with the Climax Blues Band and he somehow managed to combine the two, gigging furiously with both bands and even managing to squeeze in the Dexy's album, 'Don't Stand Me Down'.
"By that time I was also with 'Kim Wilde', Rhino recalled, trying to put this multitude of gigs in some sort of chronological order. That was the best hundred and fifty quid I ever spent, I got an answer phone and the first message on it was from her guitar player to say that he'd been given my name and the next day they were auditioning for bass players. So I went along and got that as well. I've actually never failed an audition,' he mused, 'I actually didn't have an audition with Status Quo...."
So how did he get the gig with Status Quo is my obvious next question.
'Ooh, long story I'm afraid. Me and Jeff Rich used to try and work all the time together and we had a phone call from a friend who wanted to do some stuff at Chipping Norton Studios. The producer was Mike Vernon and he was looking for a rhythm section. So me and Jeff went up there and nothing came of that but the producer said that he'd like to use us on some other stuff.
Later on, I got a call from him saying 'did I want to do an album with this Norwegian bloke?' The guitar player on those sessions was a guy called Pip Williams, who then said, "I'm producing Rick Parfitt's solo album next week, would you like to try out for a couple of numbers?" So me and Jeff ended up doing the whole album, during which time Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster had a big fall-out and Francis wouldn't work with Alan. So Rick and Pip persuaded Francis to try me and Jeff.
I was just about to get married and I'd told my wife that I wasn't going to tour any more, so we did the album "In The Army Now" and the manager asked me if I fancied doing a couple of gigs and I said "No, not really, I want to try and carve out a living doing little projects in studios, how much is it anyway?...I'll do it!". That was in 1985. The first shows we did were in April '86, we went out to Dubai.'
When Rhino joined the 'Quo' he was replacing Alan Lancaster, who had been with the band for seventeen years. I wondered how the fans reacted to this young newcomer.
'Bad!' was the simple answer. 'I didn't know the score, I looked like some sort of Duran Duran reject and it wasn't exactly what they were looking for. In retrospect I think I would have stood a bit more still, I looked like Rudolph fuckin' Nureyev. I think that whoever was in was never going to be accepted by a lot of the hardcore fans, because for them Alan was the main man. He's a definite rocker, there's no doubt about that, I think he's great! Quo are one of the classic seventies bands you know.'
Fifteen years later Rhino is still there with Quo, having been with them now for almost as long as Lancaster, I guess he must be enjoying himself.
'Well it's better than working!' he joked. 'I love it, I couldn't be happier with what I do but I've got three kids and a wife and I do miss them. It is a very pampered lifestyle, so I think that anyone who does my job and moans about it is a twat! They should get out a bit more.'
About two years ago Jeff Rich left Status Quo for personal reasons. He and Rhino had played together for a long time, working together in the Climax Blues Band amongst other things. Rhino called up another drummer who had worked with him in the same band, Matt Letley. I asked him whether it was difficult for the band to adjust to a new drummer after such a long time.
'Yeah, it took everyone a long time because Rick and Francis tend to play ahead of the beat and they're always pushing it and pushing it. Matthew didn't know that the idea of the drummer in this band is to try and hold it all back, so when we were rehearsing everything was going faster and faster. Francis phoned me up that night and said 'You shittin' yourself?' and I said 'Yep, are you?'.
But Matthew and I have a lot of mutual respect and I can say to him "No, you shouldn't play that, that's the wrong vibe". He really injects a lot of himself though, he's such a fantastic drummer, really powerful. I'm into football and I always think there's a lot of analogies between football and music. With Jeff we had Steve Perryman and with Matt we've got Tony Adams, he's very dominant in the band.'
If that analogy was lost on you, don't worry, it was lost on me too. When researching for this interview it amazed me to find just how many Status Quo websites there around the world, they must be one of the most documented bands on the web. Rhino himself is quite a prolific writer on the official site, with his extensive and amusing 'tour logs'. These notes from the road give a hilarious and frank insight into the life of a rock band and are well worth a read. You can find them at:
'I'm a bit behind with them, more behind than a donkey's tail,' Rhino told me. 'The guy who runs our website is a really good fried of mine and it's a really good website with a lot of personal input. It's a little bit from the horse's mouth so to speak and it can be a real laugh after a couple of drinks. It keeps people in touch, when we're on tour it gets a lot more hits but we're going to pout it out, basically as a "bog read", because you can pick it up, mid-dump, have a little look and put it down.'
Like so many bass players before him, Rhino succumbed to releasing a solo album. It's titled "Rhino's Revenge" and is available from the Eagle label. You can read my review of the album at the close of this article, meanwhile here's Rhino's story of how it came to be…
'I wrote this song called "Julia", and I really liked it. Sometimes when I've been writing for Quo it's been virtually impossible because I get this huge spectre of Francis on one side and Rick on the other and I'm thinking "Would they want to sing that?".
So I finished this song and it was a lot of fun. I decided to do an EP, just sell it over the web, 500 or so copies. I got together with Mike Paxman again and he offered to record it at Judie Tzuke's studio and to produce it. I wrote a few more songs, had about five or six and Charlie Morgan came down to play drums on them. He did all the songs and it was so wicked that Mike said to me, "This is stupid, we might as well do an album now."
It did take four years in total to do because of time off with Quo, and then I'd write one or two songs and spend time at the studio. I really love working at Judie Tzuke's studio, it's got the best vibe, ("man!") of any studio I've ever been in.
There's no clock. You finish when you finish and it's never a problem. Judie and Paul are lovely people. I called on a lot of people to come and play on the album, all the guys in Quo. I'd actually written one song with a part for Rick in mind which he enjoyed playing and Francis does a great guitar solo on one of them, Andrew plays keyboards, the guitar player from when I was with Kim Wilde, plays the main solos which are awesome.'
Rhino's band have been approached to do a small tour next year, which he's looking forward to. Meanwhile, in the Status Quo camp, Universal have just released a four CD anthology box set retrospective entitled, 'Rocker's Rollin'. Sixty-eight tracks covering their entire career, including most of the singles, some classic album tracks and a few rarities. It's going to be a great set for old and new listeners alike.
'I've had a bit of feedback from fans on the net and they were a little disappointed because there are only two things that the dedicated fans haven't heard before and I think they would have liked to hear a bit more than that, I think I probably would as well actually. What are really considered to be the classics don't really involve me and when I came along it coincided with the band taking a 'poppier' direction for a while because Alan Lancaster always wanted to keep it rocking. I like to rock, no problem there.'
On stage with Status Quo Rhino is always seen playing Status basses, I asked him for some details and he said, pointing, 'I've got that red one and that white one'. Fortunately, Rob Green of Status was able to fill in a few details.
'Rhino's basses originally started as Series-1 models from the mid 90's. These originally had graphite necks and molded bodies. We then re-made the bodies from mahogany at some point and fitted a new 2-band E.Q. which I believe is now totally bypassed, just running the bass passive. Strictly speaking these basses are not made any more but, being the set-up we are, it is possible to make just about anything. We have made replicas and similar basses over the years.'
'I think the red one's about eleven years old,' Rhino continued, 'I've been using that non-stop, since I got it, the white one is really just a spare. I've also got a Status Stealth which I used exclusively on the "Rhino's Revenge" album. I'm a bit of a collector I suppose, I've got a custom shop Jazz, some people call it sea-green, it's more like puke-green!
I've got my trusty Alembic Omega from 1980, which is what I started off with, I've got a Status five-string headless, an Overwater five-string, a couple of Hohner acoustics, a Norwegian guitar which I can't think of the make of, it's really good, a Danelectro Longhorn, a Wal fretless, I've just got rid of a Spector which was a bit of a mistake.
I'm thinking about getting another one, but mostly I use my red Status because I really love that one. For recording I use an Ampeg V4, that's really class, you can distort it nicely. It just sounds like it's having the shit kicked out of it as opposed to being overdriven, because I do tend to thwack it, I'm definitely not light fingered.
Live, I'm using Marshalls, but after Christmas I might be changing to Hughes and Kettner. I've been trying out some of their stuff and it's really got some balls to it. Marshalls have served me very well over the years but I always liked the Ampeg sound that really filled the stage up.
We're using in-ear monitoring now but before that my side of the stage was called "Death Row" and Rick's was called "The Wall Of Death". The volume! Jeff had 10,000 watts of monitoring, we were so loud, some places you could see people's hair being swept back!'
Rhino also plays occasional guitar, notably on the Quo classic 'Gerundula' as well as on his own material.. He has an ESP Strat, a Steinberger and one of the new Status-Graphite guitars.
The music press have often been, shall we say, less than kind to Status Quo over the years, criticizing them for their simplicity and labeling them as a 'three-chord band'. A couple of days after this interview the band had to cancel two or three shows because Rick Parfitt was suffering from repetitive strain injury, the press thought that was hilarious...ha ha ha...three chords...ha ha ha...R.S.I...ha ha ha. Come on guys, grow up will you, you're supposed to be serious journalists! I asked Rhino for his take on the 'three-chord' label.
'I just think that these people haven't got a fuckin' clue what they're talking about, it's all arseholes!' was his understandably acidic reply. 'I think the three chord song is the hardest song to write, if you've got a song that doesn't do very much, just concentrates on rocking, it's the hardest thing in the world to do.
On "Rhino's Revenge" I've actually written one song with two chords in it and I'm really proud of it. Songs like "Caroline" are much more timeless than songs that are up their arse. To me this is what it's all about, it's organic music, it's inventive, the guitar parts that are worked out are really musical. My favourite bit in the whole set is a sixteen-bar section in "B" where you just go Duh-duduh-duduh-duduh, I get off on that like crazy, it's in "Forty-Five Hundred Times". You look at the audience and they're all bouncing.'
Regardless of what the often-cynical music press may think, Status Quo have a loyal fanbase, often fanatically so. I pointed out to Rhino that a friend of mine was seeing his fifty-seventh Status Quo gig that very night.
'I'm afraid he's got a long way to go', was Rhino's answer. 'We had a woman celebrating her two hundredth just the other night and we've got a few people who've done over three hundred. A few years ago in Finland we had four generations of the same family at a gig, from about two to seventy-eight. That's one of the great things about the band, a lot of people have been really into it and their kids have been brought up on it'
The band have been touched by tragedy recently with the sudden death of their manager, David Walker, from a heart attack as well as the death of keyboard player Andy Bown's wife. Andy himself has been on a leave of absence from the band for some time now, but is planning to return in the New Year. The fact remains that the members of Status Quo are not getting any younger. Francis and Rick have been there now since the band's inception in the late '60's. Rick Parfitt has had a quadruple bypass, so it begs the question, 'Just how long will the Quo keep rocking?'
'Well, we have set a date for splitting the band up.' Rhino revealed exclusively to Global Bass. 'Its April 3rd, 2034!' I suspect this may not have been an entirely serious comment. 'B.B. King was once asked when he was going to retire,' Rhino laughed, 'and he said "About seven years after I'm dead", that was class!'
So just to wind up this interview I asked Rhino, a football fanatic, how Brentford will do this season.
'Going up I'd say,' he said, optimistically. We'll see, mate, we'll see.
Eagle Records EAGCD143
First of all, this is not a standard Status Quo album. It doesn't have the Quo sound and it was never intended to, despite the fact that all the members of Quo are playing on it somewhere. What it is, is an album of hard rock songs in the classic British tradition. A powerful, guitar-driven edge permeates throughout and Rhino proves himself in the arena of rock writers.
As well as all the bass parts, Rhino contributes a large proportion of rhythm guitar parts and is complemented by some fantastic lead work from Steve Byrd and Dave Goodes. Rick Parfitt is easily spotted on the satirically political 'Republican', whilst Francis Rossi slips a solo into 'Spend Spend Spend'.
Finally for all those people out there who think of Rhino as a straight root-note player, you might be surprised to hear some pretty smooth fills on 'Spacemaker' or the fabulously funky line on 'Don't Come Around Here No More'. You might be even more surprised at the solo bass piece, 'Two Suns'.
An ambient, chordal piece with creative double-stops and a beautiful flowing melody. As Rhino says in the liner note, "To anyone that ever gave me any shit....this is Rhino's Revenge!
Copyright © 2000-2009 Global Bass Online