From Guitar Player Magazine April 1984
When you left The Animals in 1966 were you already planning on getting into the business end of music?
Well, I didn't see any future in being a solo bass player. I'd seen Hendrix before the last Animals tour started and I knew what I was going to do when the final tour ended. When we finished the last show, I just flew right to New York, picked up Jimi Hendrix, went back to England and formed the Hendrix Experience.
Did you and Jimi find the musicians for the Experience?
We checked out a lot of guys. As it happened, Noel Redding came up to the office looking for a gig as a lead guitar player with the New Animals. I said, "well that place is filled. You fancy playing bass?" He had the same haircut as Jimi, and it looked right, you know. So he borrowed my bass and did a little audition with Jimi, and that's how he came to be in the band. Then there was a toss-up between Aynsley Dunbar and Mitch Mitchell on drums. We couldn't make up our minds; we just flipped a coin on that. Mitch had been playing with Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames.
Linda Keith, who introduced you to Hendrix, has said that it took you a couple of visits before you decided to work with him.
Not at all. I met him that afternoon. We went and had a cup of coffee and planned it all out there and then. I was leaving the following day to go out on tour, my last Animals tour. And I arranged to come back to New York immediately and pick Jimi up and get things underway. That's exactly what I did.
Was he just playing blues then, or did his music incorporate any of his electronic effects?
Well, he was a monster guitar player. The weird thing was, I was going out with a girl in New York at the time, and the night before I saw Jimi, she had played me this record called "Hey Joe" by Tim Rose. It'd been out for eight months or so and had never been a hit. I said, "Wow, I'm gonna find an act and record that song in England. That's going to be a hit." When I saw Jimi Hendrix at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village, the first song he played was "Hey Joe."
Was it hard producing him?
I had a lot of trouble with him on his singing, because he didn't think he could sing at all. We used to have big head-to-heads about how far forward his voice should be on records.
Was Hendrix' first album, Are You Experienced? engineered by Eddie Kramer?
No, no. He had nothing to do with it. We did it in about six different studios, anywhere we could get in with cheap time. We didn't meet Eddie Kramer until the second album, Axis: Bold As Love. Even then, Eddie wasn't the contributing factor. Eddie was the engineer, but the tape operator was a guy called George Chikantz. He was a real whiz kid. He kept coming up with different ideas for sounds, not Eddie. George came up with most of the ideas for the actual electronic things-the automatic double-tracking and phasing.
How much of the electronic guitar sounds on record were a result of Hendrix' innovations as opposed to your own ideas or George Chikantz'?
Well, we used to go to the studio and just switch on the machines, practically. We spent a lot of time in rehearsal. Jimi and I shared a flat, with Jimi's girlfriend and my wife. We just spent 24 hours a day concentrating on the music. He would come up with songs, and we'd sit and discuss the changes, and then get down at rehearsal and try it three or four different ways with the band. It was music 24 hours a day for two years-totally blinkered. We didn't look up.
Where did Hendrix 'psychedelic side', as evidenced by some of his lyrics, come from?
I got him involved with science fiction books. I've always been a science fiction freak. When he moved to England [in late 1966], he started reading these books, and "Stone Free" was one of the first songs he ever wrote. That was the B side of "Hey Joe," and then he wrote "Purple Haze", and we went in and were determined to make it a sound effect thing. It was a progression. And by the time we sat down to complete the first album with a couple of singles and odd songs in the can his style had evolved to the point of things like "Third Stone From The Sun".
Do you think he was influenced much by the life-style in London as opposed to America?
I would think so, yeah. It.was entirely a different life-style than what he was used to. He was hanging out with people who thought he was the tops. That sort of respect helps to make an artist blossom.
Did he hang out with many of the English guitar players?
Oh yeah. Clapton was always around the house. He and Clapton were great friends.
Why did you and Jimi part company after only two years?
When we started work on Electric Lady*land, things had changed somewhat. Here the guy was a big star; he didn't want to listen anymore. I felt that the first two albums had been done relatively quickly. We started working on Electric Ladyland, and he would turn up at the studio with 20 or 30 hangers-on and start playing for them, you know. He was showing off a bit to them, instead of getting on with work. We'd spent about ten days in the studio, recording songs that I thought we'd gotten on the first takes. I just sat there and thought, "This is ridiculous. There are things I want to do, things I want to see." My wife was expecting a baby; I didn't like the crowd Jimi was hanging out with; he was getting into acid a lot. He wasn't listening to a word that was said by the producer, so I just said bye-bye. Because there's a big wide world out there, and I know enough about the business. I'll do it with somebody else.
After you and Hendrix split, did you stay in touch at all?
Yeah. About seven months after we parted, he came 'round the house and asked me to manage him again, but I told him I wouldn't work with Mike Jeffries, so we forgot about it. Then two days before he died, he came to the house in London and asked me to produce him again. This time we agreed to do it. I was going up to the northeast of England to see my family, and he was going to go to New York and bring back all the tapes he'd been working on since I'd split with him. When I got off the train to see my family, my father was waiting for me and told me Jimi was dead.
When you met with him, was he in good shape, physically and mentally?
He seemed very together, very happy that we were going to work together again. He came by ostensibly to see my oldest son, because he'd been born after Jimi and I parted company. We had a really good night-like old times again. He was going to go back and get the tapes, and we were going to start work again on the following Tuesday.
How soon after your split with Hendrix did you start producing Slade?
About five months. I went back to England and found Slade and signed them up. And it took me two years to get a hit. After that they had 23 hit singles in England .
Why do you think the Slade phenomenon never translated into American sales?
I think it had a lot to do with what was happening in America-Nixon, Watergate, Vietnam. And the secret to Slade onstage and on record was a sense of humor-a take off on heavy metal and all the rest of it. That was the underlying thing that made Slade a hit in so many countries, in 15 different languages-Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, Japan. But I think America at that time had lost its sense of humor. Now, of course, you've got Quiet Riot with a Slade record in the Top 10, "Cum On Feel The Noize."That was #1 in England for Slade in 1972. That year I started Barn Records, which I owned 100% until I sold it in '82.
Why did you sell the label?
Time of life, I suppose. I just wanted a complete break. I'd become an administrator, had five studios operating. But I wasn't doing any music myself. So I sold everything and was going to drop out for a couple of years and try writing a book, because that's always been my other passion in life, reading. I read about five books a week. So I bought meself a computer with a good word processor, and started doing that. I enjoyed it immensely. Then this Animals thing came along, so after much soul searching I shelved it. I thought, "Well, I can write a book next year, but I can't go on tour with the Animals," But I intend to get back to writing.
If you came across another great undiscovered talent, would you be tempted to try your hand again at producing?
I'd love to do it again. You've just got to see somebody that really knocks you dead. I can't work with somebody that I don't think is a blinder. We have a young guitarist on tour with us named Steve Grant, who I think is the best musician I've seen since Hendrix. He's a blinding keyboard and synth player as well. He's signed to me, and we're going to do an album when we get back to England.
Of all the things you've done in the music business, which would you say has been the most rewarding?
I think overall I enjoyed my time with Slade the most. They were very young lads when I met up with them. I'd been in a successful band myself; I'd produced and managed a successful artist and saw him die. I had a lot of knowledge of the business, and I laid down a lot of ground rules that they went along with. They were successful because they kept their heads together very well; they were tremendously professional; and they applied themselves and worked extremely hard. Working with them was the most enjoyable experience of all the things I've done.
PHOTO: Bridgeport, Connecticut 1968