Interview with former Rainbow keyboardist Tony Carey
- Tell us about your formative years. How you got into music in the first place.
Tony Carey: When I was 7, we got a piano in our house. I had been going down to our church and playing theirs (churches weren’t locked in the 50’s), picking out christmas songs or harry belafonte songs, and was fascinated with the sound – both the piano and the pipe organ, which they let me play though I couldn’t reach the pedals. Anyway,
I lived at that piano in our living room till I was 11, then found the acoustic guitar and started a group. We’d do mamas and papas songs… when I was 14, my father got me a lowrey organ for my 14nth birthday, and I started a rock band with some other kids in the neighbourhood – we learned the first two Doors albums, note for note.
I also studied the contrabass, in the school orchestra (I LOVE orchestras) and was pretty sure I would never have a real job. I STILL can’t reach the pedals on a pipe organ, by the way.
- How did rainbow happen?
Tony Carey: I left High School with a friend and travelled to New Hampshire, in New England, to start a band with a singer up there. I was 17, and played electric piano and bass. We got a huge record deal with ABC Dunhill and they brought us out to Hollywood, I was 19. We tried for 2 years to finish a record; too many drugs (the producer),
Girls (me) and too much bullshit (the label). We were in S.I.R. rehearsal studios in Hollywood, playing, and Ritchie happened to be next door auditioning folks for his new band. They heard me through the walls, i guess –
I was always LOUD – and sent Jimmy (Bain) over to ask if i wanted to audition. I was sick of trying to get a record made with my band – there was no end in sight – so i said ‘sure’. and got the job.
- How was it working with Ritchie Blackmore?
Tony Carey: Personally? no comment. I’ve never said anything bad about RB, and never will (there are enough people for that). professionally? the best showman i ever saw, except maybe Hendrix. MAYBE. a wonderful musician, very demanding (of himself, most of all, but of everybody). Things got complicated later, and i had to leave. That story is pretty well-known. But actually WORKING with RB? the easiest job I ever had.
- Take us through your experience of “Rainbow rising” and the two world tours with Rainbow?
Tony Carey: I was 21, the youngest by a long way (Ronnie was 35) – and I don’t remember all that much. it was definitely an exciting time; I’m not a hard rock guy, though, and I’m not really a keyboard player – I do all kinds of things. So I took the experience for what it was worth, which is all you can ever really do.
- After your departure from Rainbow you went solo and became very successful. How were the early stages of your solo career considering you gained a reputation with Rainbow?
Tony Carey: Rainbow was a shitty career move for me, actually. It took quite a while to establish myself as a singer, people had already put me in the ‘hard rock keyboard guy’ drawer. Just like you, actually.
- Have to ask this. How did “A fine fine day, one of your and 80s biggest hit come about? The story behind
Tony Carey: No big story, it’s a song. I’m a songwriter, I make stuff up for a living. I’ve written 1200 songs, some of them hits, most of them pretty good, some of them awful. ‘fine, fine, day’ was about a criminal – my ‘uncle sonny’ – and cause I was in the right place at the right time, and because MTV was just starting, I got lucky.
- You have been involved in the active music scene for more than four decades now. How has the working process changed over the years?
Tony Carey: It’s unrecognisable. We started in 1978 with my solo stuff, working on 2″ tape like everybody else, and found some pretty cool ways to put 120 tracks on to a 24-track tape. ‘we’ is Nigel Jopson and myself; Nigel was a great engineer, later went on to work with Pink Floyd, and is now a journalist – he interviews all the cool producers and engineers for audio magazines. I learned to engineer working with him, we were both kids having fun, and I’ve been my own engineer since about 1990.
These days everything is done on a computer. I’d NEVER go back to analogue; I think i spent 3 years of my life waiting for tape machines to rewind.. But the basics are the same: good song, good singer, a lot of luck. you have that, you have all you need. you DON’T have that, no chance. That won’t ever change.
- Tell us about your space/progressive rock group Planet p project.
Tony Carey: I always recorded tons of music in all kinds of styles. country, jazz, rock & pop, electronica, classical – I like everything. We’d gotten a deal in america for my second record – ‘I Won’t be Home Tonight’ – and I had those songs, plus a hundred others that didn’t fit the style. We approached John Kalodnar at geffen records with ‘planet p’, and he signed me. So there i was, with TWO record deals on American labels… it was pretty confusing. I didn’t appear in any of the PPP videos, just to keep it separate. MTV helped a lot, and ‘why me’ was quite a big deal in 1983. I’ve just finished my 6th PPP record, ‘steeltown’, but now i call it ‘Tony Carey’s planet p project’. it makes my life a little simpler.
- You have produced many instrumental albums an played in it as well. Take us through it
Tony Carey: Well, I always play most, or all, of the instruments on my records. The instrumental records? No vocals, that’s all, and a lot of experimenting. I might have invented techno . 🙂
- You have had an association with many major bands and artists in the 80s. How was the experience?
Tony Carey: Busy. John Mayall, Chris Norman, Joe Cocker, Jennifer Rush, I can’t even remember all of the people i produced and wrote for. But basically: BUSY. which is the best way to be when you’re in your early 30’s. all that energy.
- You recieved gold for your single “Room with a view” frm the soundtrack album “Wilder western inclusive”. Is it different when you do a soundtrack album in terms of the whole all round perspective?
Tony Carey: I’ve done 5 movies. a SUNG track is definitely different than film-music, but it’s great work: watching the film and composing to it. I always had fun with movies; I had some trouble with studios, though. I’m stubborn, and not used to getting 5 different opinions on things, none of which turns out to be the end result… I did 3 films for Peter Patzak, a great Austrian director, though, and they were just great. He liked the music.
- What was the idea behind the forming of “Over the rainbow”?
Tony Carey: To be Joe Lynn Turner’s Jukebox. (that’s a joke). there was interest, the musicians were good, JR Blackmore is a good friend, and I said ‘why not’. I don’t do tribute bands, though; the idea was to do one tour playing Rainbow material and then record a new album. in 2009 I got cancer, and that pretty much killed OTR for me. They played for awhile with another keyboard player, but never got a record done, and that killed it for them.
- Tell us a bit about Ebc Roxx
Tony Carey: Well, ‘BC Roxx’ is more accurate – the ‘E’ is lea, a german singer who looks fantastic but can’t really sing that well. Her manager put it together, and JR and I had written some stuff for OTR, and just kept on writing.
Mercedes-Benz was just starting a new F1 racing team, with Michael Schumacher, and we wrote ‘silver arrows’ for them – the Silver Arrow was the famous old Mercedes race car. EBC was a project, and I do a lot of projects, and it was fun – then it was over.
- Your latest project ‘Steeltown’ is said to be loosely based on Norway and its history.Why Norway?
Tony Carey: You’ll need to buy the record and read the notes…. 🙂
- Over the course of time you must have seen a lot of change in the music industry.How do you judge the present day music industry? Where do you see it heading in the near future?
Tony Carey: No idea. I try not to judge anything, or anybody. I’d HATE to be trying to start a career now.
- Growing up who were the artists you idolised?
Tony Carey: Idolised? nobody.
- New upcoming artists that has impressed you?
Tony Carey: I don’t pay much attention. These answers are getting shorter, have you noticed that?
- While travelling you must have come across different cultures n met different local musicians from different parts of the globe. How has the interactions influenced your music?
Tony Carey: Oh, the world is so small today, you can get all the culture you can stand from the internet. I’ve certainly been influenced by PEOPLE I’ve met in Africa, South America, Japan, Australia, but the music scene is pretty much worldwide. If you want to hear african folk music – youtube is right there waiting.
- “Sex, drugs and rock n roll”. Does it always have to be that way for a musician?
Tony Carey: yes. (that was another joke, that makes two. find the third and win prizes!!!) I’m not much of a rock fan, and haven’t taken drugs since the 80’s. Sex is pretty cool, though.
- How hard is it for an independent artist to survive in the scene?
Tony Carey: I would say nearly impossible; if you can get gigs, okay, but as a recording artist today? forget it.
- Any plans for touring India or collaborating with Indian Artists?
Tony Carey: I’d love to tour India, I’ve never even considered it, and I’m always ready to collaborate with anybody talented – no matter where they’re from. ATTENTION: www.tonycarey.com, all offers entertained!
- Your plans for the future?
Tony Carey: Well, we don’t retire, You know? I’m 60 now, and am still doing exactly what I’ve been doing since I was a kid. I’ll keep doing it until I can’t, for whatever reason.
- Leave a message for your fans.
Tony Carey: I didn’t know I had Indian fans. Nice to meet you, if you’re reading this, get in touch, on the website or Facebook, and I’d love to talk to you. I keep a running correspondence with lots and lots of people…
stay well! TC