Derek St. Holmes – 06/26/2011

By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.

After fifteen years apart, vocalist/guitarist Derek St. Holmes is finally back where he belongs, and that’s in the Ted Nugent band.  The dynamic duo of Nugent/St. Holmes is responsible for writing some of the greatest rock songs of the mid-70’s.  The very first single off of the classic 1975 self-titled Ted Nugent debut album was, “Hey Baby.”  This was a song that St. Holmes not only sang lead vocal on, but also wrote and arranged.

Nugent and St. Holmes rocked concert arenas across the globe, playing over 300 shows a year. But, in 1978, St. Holmes left the Ted Nugent band.  He returned for a brief period in 1982 and 1987.  In 1995, he returned to help co-write the critically acclaimed Ted Nugent release “Spirit of the Wild,” but left again after the supporting tour. 

This year, St. Holmes will be on tour all summer with Ted Nugent.  He also plans on releasing a new solo CD after the tour and possibly recordng a new CD with Nugent in the near future.

What follows is an exclusive RockMusicStar interview with Derek St. Holmes.  During this interview , St. Holmes explains the events that led to him returning to the Nugent band and much more.

Please read it below and be sure to check out Ted Nugent in concert this summer. 

RockMusicStar:  Derek, as a longtime fan of Ted Nugent, I want to say welcome back to the Ted Nugent band.  So many of Ted’s career highlights were when you were his right hand man.  What led to you getting back with Ted this time around?

Derek St. Holmes:  Thank you, I’m very happy to be back.  What led to me getting back in the band started when I got a call from Ted’s manager.  He said that he was trying to get Ted to get back to his classic rock vibe, like we had in the 70’s.  He said, I know that you’ve been coming out over the last few years, and doing a few songs with the band here and there, and it always sounds great.  He then asked if I would be interested in coming out this summer, and I said, “Yeah, of course I would.”  I love Ted, and love the material that we did together.  I’m very proud of it, and I don’t know why we’re not in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame with the first album, but that’s another story.

Also, my girlfriend has always been a big supporter of us getting back together.  For the last five years, she always asked why we weren’t playing together.  She then convinced me to fly out to a couple of Ted’s shows.  So I showed up, and got up a few times onstage and had some fun.  So that’s what I did.  And it was great to feel what it was like again.  So honestly, that’s what got things rolling.

RMS:  Well, having you back in the band is a no brainer.  Ted Nugent never sounded the same without you. 

DSH:  Well, I hate to use this comparison, but it’s kind of like a Jagger/Richards.  When Ted and I are together, we write stuff that has some magic to it.  It’s always been that way.  He likes to be a lone wolf and run on his own, and I understand that.  But he can’t deny that when we get together, we always come up with something.  But, I’m very excited about going back.  I’ve done two shows already with him.  It’s a much gentler and kinder Ted Nugent.  It’s almost like we’ve done the 360 again.  I’ve come back into his life again, just like the first time.  So we are just going to go out there and have some fun, make music again and there is even talk of another album.  So that would be awesome.

RMS:  What about the set list for the upcoming summer tour, any chance that you going to play some obscure tracks? 

DSH:  Yeah, I’m excited about the rehearsals.  We are going to pull out some of the stuff that we haven’t done in a while.  Of course we will still do “Snakeskin Cowboy,” “Hey Baby,” “Dog Eat Dog,” “Stranglehold,” “Stormtroopin’” and I’m trying to get him to do, “Where Have You Been All of My Life.”  Hopefully, he will want to do that one and I would also love to do, “Queen of the Forest.”  Both of those are from the first Ted Nugent release.  I don’t know if he’s ready for those yet, however.

RMS:  That would be incredible if you could convince him to add those two songs.

DSH:  We will see.  But I actually would love to do the first album in its entirety.  I know that Frampton is out right now doing “Frampton Comes Alive” and that is so damn cool.  I would pay money to see that.  And I think people would get pretty excited to hear the first Ted Nugent album as well.

RMS:  I agree.  Now, how do you feel the current Ted Nugent band line-up compares to the other line-ups that you were in? 

DSH:  I think the current band, with Greg Smith on bass, and Wild Mick Brown on drums, is a powerhouse.  The shows we just did in Texas were incredible.  But, God rest his soul, our original drummer, Cliff Davies, passed away a couple of summers ago.  So it will never be the same.  But, I think, who we have now is perfect.  And as far as bringing back original bassist, Rob Grange, that would be for Ted to decide.  But I don’t know.  I can kind of understand why Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones never re-united Led Zeppelin, after they lost one of the original members.  But Wild Mick Brown is an incredible drummer, and an incredible singer.  And Greg Smith is an incredible bass player, and also an incredible singer.  I’m just pleased as punch to be there.

RMS:  What was the experience like working for Ted during the mid-late 70’s?  Can you give us a little insight, into the state of the band, during the first time around for you?

DSH:  Well, for the first record, we played those songs over and over live, before we even cut demos on them.  When we finally went in to record, we had them very tight.  So we made them as live sounding as possible.  I remember going in and cutting “Stranglehold,” “Hey Baby” “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” “Where Have You Been All of My Life” and all of those tunes.  And it was nice to see that we sounded as good, and as exciting, as we did live.  And I think that is what got us our record deal.  But other than that, I would have never thought that “Hey Baby” was going to make the album, much less be the first single.  I freaked out when the management called me, two weeks after the album was out.  When I found out, I almost fell over.  We worked so much that we never had time to listen to the radio.  I remember coming back home to Detroit for a while, and my friends picked me up one hot summer day, and we were driving around and “Hey Baby” came on the radio.  And I’m freaking out and their going, “Derek, shut up.  We hear this every hour.”  It was so wild.

So then we go to the next album, “Free for All.”  And we are kind of not getting along too well, because we lived together for two years straight on the road.  And when you are that close to someone for that long, you don’t even like the way that they breathe.  So for most of the record, we were fighting.Ted wanted things a certain way, and we wanted it a certain way.  We all wanted it to be successful, but everyone was trying to fight for their own opinion.  We had a producer that was really watering us down, and making it sound different to our ears.  So that’s when I was told, if you’re not happy, maybe you should just leave.  So, I said, “I think I’ll leave.”  That’s when they brought Meatloaf in, but for some reason, it didn’t work out.  I guess they played all the stuff for the label and the label said, “Where is the guy that sang on the last record?  You got to get him back.”  So, then management called me, and I came back.  So, I ended up singing on one track, but initially I sang the entire album.  But they ended up leaving a few songs that Meatloaf sang.  So, that’s how Meatloaf started his career, and he can thank Ted Nugent for that, and me, for getting out of the way, so he could come in. (Laughs)  But other than “Free for All” and “Dog eat Dog,” we really didn’t have any other hits off of that album.

So we got back together and we started working on, “Cat Scratch Fever.”  We knew that the title track was a cool song.  But again, we were having our difficulties working together.  For Ted, it was the first time that he was gaining success again, and he didn’t want anyone to screw it up.  And even if the guys in the band weren’t doing exactly what he wanted, he would do whatever it would take, because he was on the ride up.  But again it’s a hard when you live together day in and day out.  I still blame everything on the management for never giving us a break, they should have let us take a year off.  That’s what we should have done.  It’s funny, because I just finished reading the Steven Tyler book, and he said the same thing about Aerosmith, and we had the same management.  He said that if they would have been able to take some time off, and get away from each other, they probably wouldn’t have had all the problems that they had.  For guys in bands (musicians), six months is long enough to change your life.  I can’t even go on vacation for five days, because I’m ready to get out of there.  So maybe, after six months of being by yourself, you come back ready, to be with your band.  But, anyways, we got through, “Cat Scratch Fever.”  But there was still turmoil, because we couldn’t get away from each other.

Then we were told that Ted was going to record a live album, and after the live album, everyone can go and do whatever they want.  If you want to record a solo album, you can.  If you want to quit, you can quit.  Whatever, nobody cared.  So, that’s what happened, we did the “Double Live Gonzo.”  So after that, I decided to leave, and start my own band.  But if I was smart, and management was smart, we should have just stopped for a year, at that point, and got away from each other.  But, that’s not what happen.

So we broke up, and I started a band called, St. Paradise, with Denny Carmassi from Montrose on drums, and Rob Grange from Ted’s band, came with me.  We did that for about a year, and then disco started, and  killed rock.  Nobody wanted to hear a rock band at that point.  If you weren’t an already well established artist, you were just thrown to the side.  And I was one of the artists thrown to the side.

So, 1979 came and went, and then in 1980,  things in Aerosmith started getting really crazy.  Joe Perry quit, and then Brad Whitford was playing with Jimmy Crespo, Joe’s replacement.  Brad would call me, and complain that things were just not going right, and it wasn’t the same deal anymore.  I told him that I was trying to put something together,  and we chit chatted for a while.  But, our manager, who was the same management, said, “Why don’t you guys get together, and form a band called, ‘Whitford-St.Holmes,’ and do an album?”  Management said that they could get money from the label, and it will keep both of us busy.  So that’s what we did.  But, it became a situation, where MTV came in, and we weren’t really a MTV band.  We could have been, I guess, but nobody wanted to spend the money on us.   And we were one of the acts dropped from the label.  But, we did have about four songs ready for the second album.  But, then around that time, I got a call from Ted, and Brad gets a call from Aerosmith.  And Aerosmith wants to try to put it back together.  And Ted wants me to come down, and sing on his new album, called “Nugent.”

So, I went back and did that, but we still weren’t getting along.  I don’t know what it is, but whatever it was, is not there now.  The vibe that Ted and I have now is good.  It’s interesting, we are just two different types of guys.  I have no ambitions of being whatever I thought I was going to be back then.  All I want to do now, is play music and perform it, and Ted is the same way.  Ted told me, he said, “Derek, let’s just do all of our shit, and just rock it, and go out and have some fun.”   I said, “Absolutely!”  He said, “I want you to sing your ass off and go crazy.  Turn it up.  This is your ticket, go!”  And I’m thinking , this is all the stuff that use to get me in trouble.  But, yeah, it’s all good now.  All the things that  I wanted to do in a band, I’m now being asked to do.  I just hope it doesn’t came back and bite me.  (Laughs)  Part of it, is because Ted is getting older, and he doesn’t want to do all the running around, but neither one of us is going to be jumping off of drum risers and amps anymore.  But, I’ll do the best I can.  But, I’m getting old too.

RMS:  Yeah, I’m really looking forward to your show in Lewiston, NY (Artpark) on August 16th.   It’s going to be crazy, because it’s a free show.  I’m betting that there will be more than 30,000 people there, if not more.  

DSH:  Wow, I did not know that it was going to be a free show.  That’s going to be a lot of fun.  Buffalo has always been a fun place to play over the years.  There are some very nice, and sweet people, that we have worked with over the years in Buffalo.

RMS:  Now back to your time in Ted’s band during the 70’s, it’s a well known fact that Ted is very anti-drugs and drinking.  And I remember reading interviews, in which, Ted claims that his band would sometimes indulge.  How true was that, and if so, was that a problem, or was it an exaggeration? 

DSH:  ( pauses…)  I don’t think that he was over exaggerating, I think he was really clear on what was going on.  When you don’t do anything like that, you see it really crystal clear.  We weren’t as bad as some bands, but you know, we were out on tour, and we could pretend we were the Rolling Stones a little bit.  And that involves drinking Jack Daniels, and drinking beer, and occasionally who knows what else.  But, I don’t think any of us got crazy.  But, I think Ted wished that we didn’t do any of that.  But, it’s hard to be the dad.  We were wild, and he was leading us into the wild kingdom.  I was 22, the other guys were two years younger than Ted.  I think Ted was 25, 26 around there.  But with all of that said, we did some things that we would never do again.  But when you play music as high energy as Ted’s, you can’t afford to be messed up.  We would have tripped over ourselves, if we were too drunk, or too high.  We were going 100 miles per hour.  That’s why we got kicked off most tours, because we were kicking everybody’s ass.  As far as the drinking and drugs, I didn’t understand it then, but I do understand it now.  But we can look back on our youth, and say we shouldn’t have done that.  But it’s all good now.

RMS:  My last question, will we ever see a Derek St. Holmes solo release?  

DSH:  Yes, I’m working on it right now.  I have to put it on hold, I was trying to finish it in time for the tour with Ted, but I’m missing it by a couple of months to make that happen.  But, all of the songs are done, I have almost all of the backing tracks recorded.  I still need to go in and put down guitar solos and lead vocals and then it will be completed.  But, I’ll have a title by the end of the tour and like I said there is talk of another Ted Nugent record as well, so we will see.

For info on the upcoming  Ted Nugent tour, please go to www.TedNugent.com

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