This turned out to be an epic journey with one of rocks true warriors. He’s carved his initials across the hearts of thousands of fans across the world and we can only admire is honesty and commitment to this interview. He’s a true professional with a great sense of humor. By the time you have finished reading this interview you may have grown a beard? (and that’s only the women Ha). So stick with it and Join the Baileys and Danny Vaughn as we head out on that Rock’N’ Roll Highway to Hell one more time!
Hi Danny, It’s always a pleasure to catch up with you again. We’re not ashamed to admit we have dragged the air guitar out on many a dance floor the moment “Forever Young” (Tyketto classic) kicked in. That’s where we first came aware of you.
Take us back before Tyketto because there’s an element of country rock about you especially when you play acoustically, I’m wondering if you are indeed a country boy at heart or are we just walking through cow shit in the wrong field?
Definitely not a country boy. Brought up from a very young age in New York City. And not, I might add, in some shady suburb or in New Jersey, but in the upper West Side of Manhattan, some 15 blocks south of Harlem. At a very young age I was exposed to Motown and soul music to go along with the Beatles, and Dylan, and folk music that was played in my house.
Even more interesting than that, is the fact that my parents were both artists so, in true 60's fashion, when I was only about 3 years old, they sold everything and the three of us took off to Europe to see all the great paintings, architecture and museums across the continent. That’s how I spent the next 3 or so years of my life, a great deal of which, I am told, was spent living in a mini cooper!
What were your teenage years like and what was your day job?
I remember things as being pretty happy times in my teen years, aside from the usual angst caused by frustrated sexual attempts that resulted from ages long make out sessions and feel ups that sent me home on the subway with a serious throbbing ache in the nether regions. I discovered the thrills of being in a band and playing music when I was about 15 and knew what I wanted to do almost right away.
I did, however, have just about every undesirable job you could think of at one time or another. My first was working in a Greek fruit and vegetable stand making deliveries to impossibly wealthy people and keeping the fresh fruit stalls looking good. But I’ve also been a fork lift operator, a shipping department head, a factory floor sweeper, and a house painter (anybody know a musician that hasn’t been a house painter?).
What bands did you see live?
My first concert was Stevie Wonder at Madison Square Garden! You can’t beat that. I was young enough that I had to leave early in order to be home by curfew. How embarrassing! Next up was Steve Miller at the Beacon Theatre, which is a fantastic old converted movie house all done up in art deco style on upper Broadway and 72 nd street. I think that was my first real live exposure to the blues. From there on, the list gets pretty prodigious. I went to several of the big Jam concerts where Aerosmith and Ted Nugent co headlined and that bill often included Cheap Trick, Journey, and George Thorogood, but the band that caught my serious attention that summer was Blackfoot. I saw them several times but it was at the Capitol Theatre in New Jersey that I conspired with friends to get back stage and got to meet them all. They were larger than life. Ricky had a voice that could level a mountain and Jackson hit the drums harder than anything I had ever seen. They were big, loud, and really friendly. In fact, Jackson, my friend, and I polished off a large bottle of JD before they went on stage and it was during that show that I realized that I was hooked for life. This was definitely what I was going to do!
Let’s see, then there was the metal phase; saw AC/DC several times, Pat Travers,Judas Priest and Iron Maiden together, Yes, Rush, Black Sabbath(with Ozzy) and Van Halen, Aerosmith many times, Santana, The Cars, Blondie, Styx, UFO and Blackfoot (again!) Accept, oh the list goes on and somewhere I’ve still got all the ticket stubs saved.
How did you get to be a vocalist?
I think the first time anybody decided I should be singing was in grade school. I was a seriously hyperactive child with a loud, squeaky high voice that had just transferred in on a scholarship from a NYC public school to a very exclusive private school on the East side of town. Suddenly I was surrounded by an entirely different kind of person. These were the children of wealth and privilege, and I was sorely out of place. To compensate, I ran around more and made a spectacle of myself. One far thinking teacher decided that the best way to channel all of that energy and noise was to put me into an extra curricular course, which was the young choir. I was just at the age where I could appreciate that I was in a room with a lot more girls than boys and I was able, under supervision, to be as loud as I wanted to be! I loved it and within only a month or so, I was singing my first solo in a church. It was called the “Pie Jesu” and the solo was originally written for the castrati of the boys choirs of old. I can remember being very small and suddenly singing all alone and seeing all the parents craning their necks to see where that sound was coming from. The center of attention, I was! And I never looked back.
Were there many bands before Waysted?
I almost didn’t get involved in bands at all. I had the first one in high school, but after that I was confronted with the choice of having to go to college or move out on my own. I had been up to a couple of colleges where I had friends and quickly realized that if I went I would be spending my parents hard earned money to go somewhere to have keg parties and I couldn’t do that to them. So I moved out. I got a job at a t-shirt factory that employed illegal aliens as workers for 2 bucks and a bowl of rice a day. It paid the rent (sort of) but I didn’t have any plans other than to share a flat with my buddies for all eternity. It was a friend that came down to Brooklyn and got me out and told me I needed to join his band in Rockland County, New York. We started playing the lucrative covers circuit that was thriving all over New York and New Jersey. I went through about 5 of those bands before the Waysted call came in.
Most fans actually think it was Tyketto that gave you your first big break but it was Waysted who introduced you to the big time. It doesn’t get any better than opening up for Iron Maiden and recording the “Save Your prayers” album and shooting videos. Talk us through the process of how you got the gig with Pete Way and the gang? We want to know what the whole experience was like as Pete was one of our heroes in UFO - a national treasure and party animal.
I had been playing in a covers band in the Rockland County area that was pretty well known and, unbeknownst to me, was seen by a guy that ended up playing keyboards with a band Paul Chapman had going down in Florida called D.O.A. They were putting together songs for Paul to take back to England to shop for a new band record deal when things didn’t work out with their singer. Somehow, they got word to people they knew in my area (this was all a long time before the internet) and, eventually, someone walked up to me in a club I was playing and told me about it. “Do you know Paul Chapman from UFO? Well, he’s looking for a singer and asked me to contact you”. Of course, I thought it was a joke at first. I have always been a big UFO fan so I knew all about Paul. Anyway, I made the hook up and was on my way to Florida for a few weeks. We recorded some songs and it all felt pretty exciting. Paul then told us he was off to England to get us our record deal and promptly fell off the face of the earth! We never heard from him again. Turns out, the first thing he did was run into Pete Way in a pub and, instead of encouraging him to get his band going he basically said, “Never mind that bollox, come join me in Waysted”. And so, for a time, it was all over!
Fast forward a year and suddenly I get a call from the same keyboard player who is now in Waysted and he tells me that they are having a number of disagreements with their singer, Fin, and I should keep on my toes and prepare for a phone call from their managers if it doesn’t get smoothed out. Eventually, the call came though and I was asked to fly to England and rehearse for 4 days before being flown to Tel-Aviv, Israel to play a music festival there in Ramat Gan Stadium. I was told that if I did well, I’d get the gig. You can imagine the whirlwind adventure that was. Anyway, the next day all the local papers had my photo on the cover and I was the new man.
We heard you got stung financially and got stuffed better than a Christmas Turkey regarding writing credits.Were you a bit naive at the time?
Yeah, there’s no doubt that I was. But there was more to it. It was a real “SpinalTap” moment. We were in Oslo, about to begin the first date of our worldwide tour opening for both Status Quo and then Iron Maiden, when the box of albums (still vinyl back in those days) arrived at the hotel. You can’t imagine how excited Johnny and I were (Johnny Dee, the drummer and still one of my favorite people) to be getting our first album. I opened the box and was happily enjoying the whole experience when I suddenly saw the song writing credits. “All songs Way/Chapman”.
I was furious and stormed into the manager’s room. I had written almost all of the lyrics on that album and some of the music with Pete as well. I was told by the manager, an evil, impotent wretch that should rot in a thousand fetid pool of hell, that I was never promised writing credit. Promised? You do the work you get the credit, right? Isn’t that the way it usually works? Not that day. They had published the songs right out from under me. Without batting an eye he told me to deal with it or he’d put me on the first plane back to the states “and you can go back to playing fucking covers”, I remember him saying.
So I let him bully me. And I made my own choice to see it through and develop my own contacts and friendships out of it But what a disappointment.
Ok let’s get to the Tyketto years but before that we have to mention the Firefest show in the UK where you and the original line up did a farewell show. It was great to see the band live, in fact Kieran Dargan (Firefest promoter) was almost in tears when you came off stage and said to us “How can you call it a day after a performance like that?” How was it emotionally for you and the guys knowing that you won’t share the stage together ever again?
Never? Ever? One never knows... [Editor's note: by now we know]
I have to be honest and say I wasn’t feeling the type of emotions that you are looking for. It felt like no time had passed. I’ve never been more comfortable on a stage as I am when Michael is behind me, Brooke is to my left and Jimi to my right. I know that each of them knows exactly what they have to do and that they will do it right. This leaves me free to mess it all up in the front! I felt good and I never really had thoughts about that being the last time. For me the last time was in 1995 and this was a nice post script.
Let’s re-wind to where it all started. How did Tyketto come about?
Tyketto started after I had left Waysted. I was now (in my own mind) a success and I was certain that my phone would be ringing off of the hook in no time. Well, initially, there were some offers. Rod Smallwood got in touch about putting me together with guitarist Mike Grey on a project. I was excited; after all, this was Iron Maiden’s manager. But, the aforementioned evil fellow that was still mismanaging Waysted stepped up out of sheer spite and cited some clause in my contract with him that said he could keep me from working with Smallwood/Taylor. And that killed it. I also auditioned for the band that would later turn out to be Skid Row (My first real serving of humble pie). They turned me down. At the time I was indignant. “ They turned me down”? After all, I was the rock star at the time. About 6 months later I heard their first recordings with Sebastian and I got it. I was never the right guy for the gig and he sure as hell was. Anyway, things got really quiet after that. Somewhere in the recent past I had done a demo to help out a friend of a friend. My dearest buddy, James Lomenzo had called me and asked if I would sing on a demo he was playing on for a friend of his. The guy’s name was Michael Clayton and he was doing a drum demo to send in to Geffen Records to audition for Whitesnake. We did a Cheap Trick song and it was a lot of fun. Michael and I took to one another immediately. In fact, I couldn’t have imagined a better team than Mike, James, and I.Mike came in the top 3 candidates for the gig, but just missed getting it. Sad for him, lucky for me. James went on to White Lion, but I finally decided to stop waiting to audition for other bands and make one of my own. The first call I made was to Michael and we started forming our cunning plans.
You didn’t get signed until 1990 so were you just writing and playing where ever you could at that point?
We had formed a complete game plan before the first song was written. After all, we had only started talking in 1988. I knew what needed to be done and we had the connections. The longest time in between was spent finding Brooke and Jimi to complete the band. We were on very good terms with White Lion’s managers, Loud N Proud, who also managed Overkill at the time. They were interested in whatever Michael and I might come up with so we took our time, wrote the right songs, became a band in every sense of the word in very little time by living and working together, and then presented ourselves to them as the complete package. I think we might have played less than 20 gigs before we were signed by Geffen Records in less than 2 years after our first phone conversation.
It was a damned good plan!
I will add that they had us play a 5 song set in a huge sound studio in front of 5 people, our managers, Mary Gormley, and the legendary John Kalodner. At the end of it he simply stood up and said that he agreed with Mary that they should sign us right away.
It was that simple.
Were you happy with the contract or would you have just signed anything to be on a major considering your experience in Waysted?
Loud N Proud were good managers and they had everybody’s ears at that time because White Lion was doing big business. We were offered contracts from at least 3 different labels. Geffen was our collective choice and we were very happy about it.
How would you compare recording Tyketto’s debut album “Don’t Come Easy” for the Geffen label to your debut Waysted album, having obviously become a more accomplished artiste?
I was certainly a lot more confident than when I made “Save Your Prayers”. Back then I was trying to do what everybody told me to do. This time, having been part of the entire process of forming and creating everything along with the other guys, I had a much better idea of what was needed and how to do it. Also, I had the added bonus of working with producer Richie Zito. He and I got on very well and he was one of those guys who really knew how to guide you and When to let you have your way and when to beat you into shape. I learned a ton from Richie and I was glad to have him there.
It was round about the time Whitesnake 87 went bang. Did this influence your style of music and image in any way?
I think that, certainly, there must have been an influence. Whitesnake were EVERYWHERE back then. You couldn’t turn on the tv without seeing bloody Tawny Kitaen dry humping that Jag or Rudy Sarzo licking his bass (yuck!). The funny thing about all of that is that the image overshadowed the talent and that had its down side on bands later to come. Eventually, bands were signed because they looked the part and it didn’t matter whether they had songs or not. Whitesnake, of course, had it all and you had to emulate them in some way. If I’m honest, I would say the song “Wings” started out as an attempt to sound like Whitesnake. Over all, we were much more influenced by Bon Jovi but, funnily enough, when we first got together my vision was to model ourselves after Nightranger. As we grew together that idea changed.
Some would say you were lucky to be on Geffen. However, having interviewed Dave Meniketti of Y&T recently it seems you guys have something in common. Geffen dropped you both! How devastated were you at not doing the 2 nd album with Geffen?
You can’t even begin to properly describe that moment. It was the worst feeling ever. The thing about it in our case was that we were completely broadsided by it. We had finished “Strength In Numbers” in Fantasy Studios in Berkley, California. The released date was announced, advance copies had already been sent to a few select people and we had just finished all of the photos and art work for the cd package. They waited until then to have some guy in the accounting branch of the company declare us a loss and say that even though they had just invested another $150,000 dollars into it, they weren’t going to release the new cd. We were devastated. To their credit (or perhaps to the credit of John Kalodner and Mary Gormley, I never found out) Geffen did an unprecedented thing and allowed us to have the master tapes and take it somewhere else to be released, free of charge! That’s how the good people at Music For Nations got hold of it.
I can remember sitting in a meeting with John Kalodner in New York a little while later. He was very apologetic for not being able to keep us on the label and then he looked me in the eye and said, “I signed Tyketto because of you and your voice. I promise you that wherever I go, you will have a record deal” You can see what that promise was worth. I tried to get him to take my phone calls several times over the past 10 years. Wanna guess how far I got?
The Grunge scene was on the horizon and it seemed like the tide was out and the AOR and melodic bands were stranded on the shore. Did the band become disillusioned?
Yeah, that was a dark time. It was Michael that managed to get our morale up again, using the “we ain’t going down like dat” (Italian attitude), and he was the one that even thought to have the audacity to approach Geffen and ask them to give us the masters for “Strength”. He definitely took over the reins there for a while. Once we were up and running again, we were working harder than ever.
What made Jimi Kennedy jump the Tyketto ship?
That’s one question that I will decline to answer. Jimi’s reasons were personal and I think that I would be doing him a disservice by offering my opinion on it. You’re better off asking Jimi himself.
Let’s quickly mention the other guys and tell us what they were like as musicians and band mates starting with
Michael Clayton (drums) He seems to have a good business head on and comes across as very professional?
He is all that (of course he learned it all from me! :-)
Michael , first and foremost, is one of my most trusted friends and someone that I dearly love. He is one of the most naturally gifted drummers I have ever met and seems to be able to accomplish most anything he attempts and make it look effortless. While he was never one to write songs in the sense of coming up with lyrics or melody lines, he was essential to our writing process because he was a very good arranger. He instinctively knew when a part was not working for whatever reason and would always be the one to send either Brooke or myself back to the drawing board. He continued to be my essential sounding board for the 2 Vaughn solo cds he was on as well.
Jimi Kennedy (bass) How big a loss was it to lose Jimi at the time?
We had been a family for a few years at that point and it felt really odd, like missing a limb, when he wasn’t there. We worked with a few bass players in the interim before finding Jaimie Scott and it took some time to get used to feeling okay about it. It was almost like you were cheating on your girlfriend.
Brook St James (guitar) A great riff maestro - tell us what Brook brings to the table beside the beer?
Jack Daniels, of course! Brooke and I were always, like so many singer/guitar player teams, the fire and ice of the whole thing. And we were always swapping roles, so it was even more of a schizophrenic situation than usual. What worked so well with us was that we came from completely different musical back grounds. But also, we both respected the hell out of each other’s talents. So I never had any misgivings about handing over a song that I had worked on to him and saying, “Right, here’s the basics, make it rock!” There was a real bond of trust between us as song writers.
What’s nice is that I think he and I connect as friends even more now than we did back then. Someone at Firefest this past year described Brooke as the most “natural” guitarist they had ever seen. And that’s appropriate. He is at the height of his powers when he isn’t thinking about it and has the ability to just live through his instrument.
I love the guy.
We use the term classic song a bit too easily but I have to say “Forever Young” is a fuckin’ classic song (now you’re paying attention out there). Tell us how the song came about?
Every album has its problem child and that one was ours. It was the main song that got us signed. It was the one everyone was certain would be a hit and it was the one that came under the most scrutiny by the record company. To the point, in fact, where certain people had us redo it about a dozen times, each time sending it back saying “It’s not quite right. We don’t know why it isn’t right. We don’t know what it’s missing, but keep trying”. Finally, Richie Zito, our producer, had had enough and he came to the realization that we were all making the mistake of asking them if it was okay. This final time we sent them the first version that we had recorded and sent to them and simply told them,(spoken in our best suck up, fake Los Angeles accent) “We know what you mean now. You were so right to make us change it, thanks so much for your help! Check it out, it’s perfect now”. And, of course, they agreed. Idiots.
What the story behind the lyrics?
We just wanted to write a rock anthem. Something with a universal message that could get picked up on by everybody. We were trying very hard to be Bon Jovi as I recall.
Did you write it either as a band or individual members?
As a band.
“Standing Alone “ nearly brought the roof down at the FireFest festival the fans were so vocal it must give you goose bumps to hear the fans still singing your songs so passionately?
Ooooh yes!, (Said in best Churchill the dog voice) As a songwriter nothing could be more gratifying and humbling than to see that something you created has a tiny spark of immortality to it. “Standing Alone” was always the song that touched people the most and has brought me some really intense and special fan mail over the years. It’s wonderful to think that people have taken something I wrote and given it their own meaning from their own lives. I do the same thing with other people’s music, so I know how special a song can become to a person. Out of all of the songs that I have done, that’s one a small group that truly can still make me emotional on stage.
Is there one Tyketto song that personally defines the band and that era of music?
I don’t think there is, no. We attempted different things and I don’t think we were particularly part of any era. We had more to offer than most hair bands and we didn’t even have our first album out until 1991 so we weren’t an 80's band. We had melody. When does that ever go out of style? If there is an autobiographical Tyketto song it would have to be “Sail Away”.
Jamie Scott came in and you did the 2 nd Tyketto album “Strength In Numbers” The melodic rock ship was under siege from all corners of the globe, you now had another label and a different bass player, did you feel like it was the start of a new voyage for Tyketto or were you still trying to repair the damage?
As I mentioned, we were still with Geffen through the entire process of making “Strength In Numbers” , so even with the changing musical climate in the world, we were still feeling very confident. We were working with Kevin Elson, who had produced Journey and Mr. Big so we were feeling like we were invincible at the time. Having Jaimie join up was a fresh start and a strong impetus to show off the bands musical ability and diversity.
To say that the mid 90’s was a turning point in your life would be an understatement. The 2 nd album was out around 1994 and the following year you had to leave Tyketto to look after your wife who was ill with cancer. I know personally how hard this must have been for you but we all deal with situations in different ways. You are caring for your wife whilst SteveAugerI is fronting the band you helped bring to the masses with a different vocal style and direction with the “Shine” album. How did you get through this difficult period in your life?
The break up was bad. The guys hated me for it as they saw me as trying to stomp all over their chances as well as my own. At the time we were all professional about it and did things by the numbers, so to speak, but later on I got a letter from Michael that damned near tore my heart out. He really hated me for leaving. And there were several reasons other than the personal situation in my life. I was watching my beloved band work harder and harder to accomplish less and less. We toured like animals, foregoing any creature comforts you can think of. The money got less and less, making tours less supportable, and the hours got longer and more difficult as the gigs were squeezed in together with fewer and fewer breaks. We were working more than ever but accomplishing less and less as fewer and fewer people were coming to the shows and more of our old business acquaintances were slamming the doors in our faces and not returning any phone calls. I was heart broken and needed to get out. Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t left even though the end was inevitable.
Did your personal situation make you look at life and music through a totally different lens?
Yes, certainly. I think that writers of any kind have to absorb what they experience and observe and re tell the stories they know from their own perspective. Quite often the hardest and harshest times in life yield the most personal and exceptional moments in songs.
Tyketto sort of disbanded in 1996 after the “Take Out & Served Up Live” album and the band members went on to different projects. Was this about the time you had to return to the factory and the day job?
No, I was back to the grind almost from the day I left. There was no savings account to fall back on. Tyketto had wisely kept all of our initial publishing advance and band earnings in a collective fund that was spent on band needs, not divided up so we could all get new cars and toys. That was what kept us funded for a few years after the record company well ran dry. But nobody had any real personal earnings. I got a job nearby where I was living in the shipping department of a plastics manufacturing plant, driving forklifts and over seeing various shipping duties.
How hard was that? Did you feel your music career was over?
It was soul destroying. I never do things by halves so when I decided it was over, I meant all of it. No more music for me. I didn’t even touch a guitar for a year at least.
It was only after a make or break point where I knew something had to change that I invested what little money I had saved up at work into a couple of instruments and, by today’s standards, an unbelievably primitive midi keyboard sequencer and recording machine and I slowly started writing songs again. I wrote with no goal in mind. No particular style, no band or album to create for and it was the most free and open creativity I’ve ever engaged in. Those songs are still my favorites that I’ve made.
You managed to get back to your music and re-united with ex Tyketto mates Michael Clayton and Jamie Scott on the “Soldiers And sailors” album. How close were you to asking Brook St James to come in and putting the whole Tyketto band back together?
To be honest, not close at all. I had all of these songs that I had written sitting around when Michael called me out of the blue and we started being friends again. He asked me if I was doing anything and I told him that I had all of these song ideas but they were not, in any way close to Tyketto stuff. I was up in New York at the time and he came by to see me and have a listen and suddenly we got the old enthusiasm back and started talking about making an album. We both agreed that the songs were very different and that having Brooke play on it would make everyone think we were making a Tyketto album only to be let down later when it wasn’t. I was never tempted to use the band name (or do something like “Danny Vaughn’s Tyketto” like some bands are sadly doing now) so it became a solo album.
Sorry mate but I never heard the SAS album so how did it compare musically to a Tyketto album?
Well, I’m going to suggest you correct that oversight because it’s a damned fine album! I have a special love of “Soldiers” because of the types of songs and the style that we used in recording it. We went up to my dear friend, Paul Orofino’s studio in Millbrook and took our time to make, what I think of as a very organic, 70's kind of album. Some of my best songs are on it, like “Shadowland”, “HandfulOf Rain” and “Is That All There Is”. There are, of course, hints of the Tyketto sound. How could there not be with me singing, Michael drumming, and Jaimie playing bass? But it’s not similar sounding to Tyketto in my opinion. It was never meant to be.
Your follow up album “Fearless” was released not long after the September 11 th catastrophe. How did that event affect you personally?
It’s amazing to think that it was almost 7 years ago. It has become such a daily part of our consciousness. I don’t have the words to adequately describe what I was feeling. I used to work in Tower 1 when I was younger. I had a lot of friends that were there and I’m amazed to say that none of them lost their lives. But their friends did. None of us are far removed from knowing someone that was directly affected by it. At one point I started thinking about whether or not I should write about it in songs (some real crap was coming out at the time, sorry Sir Paul, I do love you, but “Freedom” is possibly the worst song you ever wrote) but then Bruce Springsteen came out with “The Rising” and that said it all. There was nothing I could think of to add. Truly one of the greatest albums ever recorded.
How did you summon up any enthusiasm for touring as everyone was in a pretty depressed state of mind and pretty paranoid about jumping on a plane?
As a matter of fact, we came over to play the first Z Rock very soon after that. It was literally a case of saying, “we will not be intimidated”. There was no way these foolish terrorists were going to stop music, or anything else in life that matters. Plus, I reasoned that so soon after that horrible event was probably the safest time to fly.
I like airport security. I show up early, I don’t complain, and I never object to being searched or checked.
You seemed to strip everything back to the bones and went out doing a lot of acoustic shows, was this financial strategy to cut costs down? Or just a way of getting intimate with the fans?
It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Michael and I had talked about how strong our songs were. So strong, in fact, that he reckoned I could hold an audiences attention for 75 to 90 minutes all by myself. I had been experimenting with some new recording gear at home and doing some really stripped down acoustic versions of our songs and it ended up becoming a short cd that we released ourselves. Doing a tour behind it was a revelation. In some places there were 300 people all coming out to listen and sing along. And we turned it into something of a chat session as well, with people from the audience coming up and playing with me as well as asking questions, etc. I definitely want to do that again.
I can’t help thinking that the “Standing Alone” album in 2001 and Forever Live in 02 were really only a bit of a stop gap before the Tyketto reunion in 2004. Are we still stood in the cow shit? Or are we sewing the right seeds before the mighty Tyketto spring up once again to be the cream of the crop?
Well, no. The “Standing Alone” cd was something that I really wanted to do for myself and I have every intention of doing another one someday as I have at least a dozen songs that I have written that most people have never heard because they are much more acoustic and aren’t suitable for my band recordings. As for that live thing, I was talked into doing it and, while there are a couple of fine moments on it, like the live version of “Sail Away”, I really wish we hadn’t done it. I find it funny that some people think that Tyketto would just show up to the ball and sweep everyone off their feet. How many bands have come back after a long gap and reformed to make cds that so many people were disappointed in? You can’t recapture the past, people. It was great because it IS past and is now written in stone. Nobody can just pick up where they left off a decade or more ago. You change. Like it or not. So now there is talk of trying to make another Tyketto cd, but can you imagine the pressure we’ll be under to make another “Forever Young”? Guess what? It can’t be done. To people, the past is always brighter than their present. So if we do record something, we’ll just have to do our best and everyone can have their bitch and moan about it not being “Don’t Come Easy”!
Although, believe me, we wouldn’t make the mistake of making a completely different style of music. Tyketto has a sound that we would strive to get again.
Surely there must have been talk of writing and recording another Tyketto album as the tour was well received?
Yeah, we’re talking about it. But we won’t put out just anything. The next phase is to see what Brooke and I can come with for initial ideas and see if it’s going to be up to our standards.
Anyone who saw you guys do your final shows will be thinking of how things might have been for Tyketto if Geffen had supported you with the 2 nd album. Looking back do you think you lived up to your debut album as far as killer songs are concerned or was it just bad timing with the Grunge scene taking over?
A great deal to do with bad timing. I think if Tyketto had released “Don’t Come Easy” in 1988 and had the time it takes to build up the fans on all of the major tours that were happening at the time we might be conducting this interview from my villa in Spain!!! Ha, ha. But, that’s just not the way it happened.
Well Danny it’s been a fascinating journey so on that note lets talk about the Traveller album from Vaughn.
We know you spend your time in many countries including England so you are a sort of rock ‘n Roll gypsy arriving at the next destination serving up your own brand of good music and then off to the next landscape etc. Did this experience inspire the title of the album Traveller?
I was a traveller long before I was even a musician. My father and mother are both artists, painters to be exact, and, as I mentioned earlier, when I was very young, they decided to sell most of what they owned, take the money and go traveling around Europe for a few years. This was in the mid 60's and that was an extraordinarily brave and crazy thing to doespecially with a small child in tow But that was how I started out. A very different sort of drifter than say from a military family, but they know what I’m talking about. Being a Traveller, for me is also about being an outsider and an observer. It’s the joys of the road, of always experiencing the new, but also the loneliness and the fear of it as well.
There’s more of a band feel and look about Vaughn. Tony Marshall I believe is a real good team player, How important has Big Tony Marshall been as a band member in Vaughn?
Tony has been my “go to” guy in several occasions. I always need help in planning. I like to have someone to sound out my ideas off of. He was who I felt comfortable doing that with.
Tony Marshall is the sort of players who knows his strengths and weaknesses and doesn’t like to step out of his comfort zone. How did the album turn out in terms of who played what guitars on the album?
Those decisions were made very simply and easily between Tony and Pat Heath. Neither one of them seemed to express any deep ego on the subject. They both seemed to immediately understand which player should do what based on their strengths. I felt very lucky to have had that pressure taken away from me by two such cooperative pros.
“The Touch Of Your Hand” sees Tony take the lead roll as far as guitars are concerned. What was it about this song that made him want to put his own personal mark on it?
Tony came to me about it almost as soon as he heard it. He and I worked on some of it together and he put some of himself into the chord structures. It was a piece of music that became personal for him and he wanted to do it all the justice it deserved. And he did just that.
Were most of the lyrics for the album complete in pre production? Or were there any last minute changes?
I always have most of the lyrics finished by the time we’re recording. There are always a few ideas and minor things that have question marks over them and those are tweaked in the final performance. I’ve heard stories where Aerosmith will record entire songs without any real lyrics written at all. Then Mr. Tyler goes in and puts his stuff over the top of the players. That’s something I could never imagine doing. It seems to me to be twice as hard as it needs to be. For me it makes more sense to have the stories that you want to tell lined up first and then put the music underneath it. For instance, I had basics for lyrical ideas for the song “Traveller” a long time before the music or melody came to me. Same with “Death Of The Tiger”.
Where do you feel you were at as a song writer during this album? In this we mean did you feel you had the freedom now to go in any direction with out having to constantly change the sails to keep the Tyketto fans sailing in your direction?
No, I never worry too much about that because I would never naturally stray too very far from that style. Tyketto’s style was a large part from me. So anything I do now will have some of that. My fans have been very understood about my occasional forays into unknown territory. They don’t always agree with where I go, but they are kind enough to allow me to try.
Anyway, with Traveller I was looking for the type of songs that would show our two guitar approach off in it’s best light. That was a guiding principal for writing the album. And the songs that didn’t fall into that category were the ones that I did most of playing on.
“Death Of The Tiger” has an interesting story behind it that we believe was inspired by a trip to Tampa Florida?
Yeah, there was a place that I was told about where you could go and stay for the night in a trailer parked outside where big cats were able to prowl to a certain degree. You can’t imagine what it’s like trying to sleep to the sound of Barbary Lions roaring just a few hundred yards away from you! But this place is also meant to bring awareness to the more unpleasant aspects of the zoo, the circus and the wild animal business. It’s terrible what happens to these fantastic creatures when we no longer find them “useful” to our entertainment needs.
What was your mind set regarding the writing of this album? Had you a definite plan or did you get together with the band and knock ideas around? How did you find wearing the producers hat?
I didn’t have a complete plan. I try not to. I had enough solid ideas to get started but I’m not the type of writer or producer to walk in and hand everybody their assignments. I prefer to draw up the templates; the skeletal structures and then wait to see what the players involved get inspired to do by those templates. Some songs were in a nearly completed state when I presented them and others were in need of hard work and tlc. I love producing. It’s a million and one headaches but it’s just the most fantastic experience to take a concept from some words on a paper all the way to the final tapestry. I like doing things spontaneously, if your budget allows. The beginning of “Death Of The Tiger” came from me sitting with a Triton keyboard, headphones, and a pad and pen making notes on all sorts of different stock sounds that I might like to use to create moods. I would love to try my hand at sound track music. Anybody working on a movie out there?????
I know what its like to produce your own album and band. It’s a bloody tough call mate. Anything you would change now looking back apart from Tony Marshall’s strings?
There are always things that could have gone better. But mostly, it’s budgetary stuff. Money could have been spent a little more wisely. It’s always the stuff you didn’t plan for that gives you the biggest kick in the nuts. The owner of the studio being a complete paranoid looney, He shouldn’t be in the music business in any way and made life difficult for all concerned.
Are you still up for outside producer roles and if so would you step out side of the rock circus into a different musical sphere but perhaps not Hip Hop Ha?
I would love to produce a band, but it would have to be something in my realm of experience. I mean, what would I be able to bring to the table to a prog band like Coheed and Cambria? Nothing much. I don’t have a feel for what they do. So it would have to be a rock band.
You can bet your ass not Hip Hop! What a load of boring nonsense! I think that’s what I dislike the most about the state of music right now. Generally, pop music is always 95% rubbish that does no harm but, black music, all through the years of my growing up, has always been great. Whether it be pop, soul, Motown, R&B, it was being done by people with serious talent. Black music now has the same high percentage of rubbish as pop does. These R&B “singers” that all got bulldozed by shit programs like X Factor into thinking that singing consists of warbling through a thousand notes on every line like your sitting on a washing machine during the spin cycle just makes me ill. And Rap? Remember Public Enemy? Remember Chuck D? Remember when the lyrics had something to say? Nothing spoils like success. For all of you wanna be soul singers out there, lay of the vibrators and go buy every album Stevie Wonder made in the 70's. Then go listen to Sam Cooke, and Ella Fitzgerald. There are some seriously wealthy people out there that should be ashamed of themselves for ever having the audacity to call themselves “artists”.
It’s something you have wanted to do for years. We spoke about it back in 2002. Was it harder than you thought it was going to be to get the sound from your brain to the finished mastered end result?
Actually, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought. The secret is to have a wonderful engineer that can translate your creative ideas into technical know how. We had the blessing of working with Pete Coleman and he impressed and amazed me every single day.
It must have been a far cry from your Tyketto days when Geffen were paying for the recordings?
About $200,000 worth of a far cry, yes!
You guy’s more or less put this product out. Briefly talk us through the recording process. Did you demo the ideas via the net and then all go in to a studio to record the album?
I am a huge proponent of pre production. Once we had reached the limitations of what email and phone calls could give us, we spent about 2 weeks solid, going for hours each day into a rehearsal studio and playing it out. Figuring out which rhythm patterns worked, which guitars made sense for which songs, all the nuts and bolts. You are far better served by working most of your hiccups out before you’re in the studio and on the clock.
You have used one of your fathers’ paintings as the Traveller album cover. That’s a great touch how did that come about?
I have always wanted to show off my Dad’s incredible paintings. But I never would have done it just for the sake of it. I needed something matching to the tone of the songs.
I had decided early on the “Traveller” was going to be the title of the album, the main theme to it, and was discussing the cover ideas with my girlfriend Hayley, who is a very talented graphic designer as well as a fine camera operator and video editor. She got to looking through a small catalogue that I have of my father’s work and she’s the one that spotted that particular painting. In fact, even more credit goes to her because she altered the painting (with Dad’s permission, of course) to more suit the frame work of a cd cover. And for the final touch, she designed the logo and the Traveller font. I am very lucky to have so much talent nearby willing to help me out.
Life on the road isn’t always what it seems I know we got bored sick of hotels and yearned for a pint of Tetley’s and a Saturday afternoon watching Leeds United. Where do you call home? What do you like to do to chill out?
Home is where the DVD collection, the television and the surround sound system is! That’s my biggest vice. I’m a huge movie addict. And Lately that has extended to watching DVDs of great tv shows like “The Shield”, “The West Wing”, “Homicide”, “Deadwood” or “Carnivale”.
Let’s get bang up to date. What are your plans for 2008?
There will be a few Tyketto shows this summer we are still working out the kinks in that but after swearing up and down that last year was “the final farewell” the other guys realized that it was still fun and wanted to roll on a few more. I’ll announce them when I have the dates locked in.
I’ve just finished the vocals for a new “From The Inside” cd which I hope will be released later this year. It’s VERY melodic rock. More so than the previous one and I was able to write some more material for this one. We went for much more of a Journey type sound.
I’ll be on tour this spring and later again in the autumn with the Illegal Eagles and it is my hope that the guys in my band and I will start writing the next DannyVaughn album somewhere in all of this. That’s if they can get me away from the telly!
Ok finally (for now)
When we spoke straight after you came off stage at the Firefest show and said to you, Tyketto can’t call it a day after this show you said “I’m up for it. Ask these guys.”
It’s still your baby can you really close the door on Tyketto or will you leave it on the latch just incase?
It’s never been “my baby”. It is, was and ever shall be a 4 way thing. That’s why we’ve never tried to call anything else Tyketto other than the putting the original members together. There is always the chance of more things happening for us in the future. But it’s up to all of us.
Danny, as ever, it’s been a blast sharing some time with you. Good luck for the future and keep us posted and up to date with all your future projects. Regards to the rest of the Vaughn guys and we look forward to sharing a pint of Guinness or two with you the next time we meet up.
Thanks to both of you guys for keeping the faith and for spending the time putting all of this together. I hope you have a well paid secretary! [Editor's note: No, they only have an exhausted editor... this was a LONG one!]
Interview by the Bailey Brothers