PAUL CROOK (MEAT LOAF, SEBASTIAN BACH, ANTHRAX, FRANK DIMINO) / AUGUST 2017
Nice to meet you Paul!
You've played and worked with many musicians among them Glenn Hughes (composing the song Feels Like Home for Glenn's solo record Building The Machine), Scott Metaxas from Nuclear Assault (co-producing Billy Milano's M.O.D. record The Rebel You Love To Hate), and Frank Dimino on his Old Habits Die Hard album.
You've performed on television night time talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Top Of the Pops in the Uk and Germany. You also co-own Devil Star Entertainment in Las Vegas with John Madera so you've had a lot of things going on since day one. Let's dig in and find out what's going on!
** When did you get started playing guitar and what had been your influences at that time?
I started playing guitar at 10 yrs old. I originally wanted to learn bass guitar. I approached my father with my dream to become Gene Simmons. He said "you want to learn guitar. It has 2 more strings."
** In your early days, at the start of your career, you teamed up with Rush's keyboard tech Jack Secret (Tony Geranios) putting together some songs with him, some of which were produced by Rush founder/guitar player Alex Lifeson. What were you doing in your life at the time, musically or even non musically, that put you in the path of Rush's keyboard tech? That was a major step in the right direction musically for you wasn't it? You also toured with Blue Oyster Cult as their keyboard/guitar tech and your career just kept skyrocketing from there. What was that like playing and touring with them?
We're going back to 1984-85, I was just out of high school, playing in a metal cover band. Jack and I had mutual friends. We met/ clicked right away. He invited me to his place to do some song writing.
I really enjoyed his company as well as his brother, George.
We wrote/ demoed a bunch of songs. Alex Lifeson liked what he heard and was kind enough to give us his time/ share some of his knowledge.
Alex Lifeson is a gentleman of the highest order. I still remember him giving me a ring: "Hi Paul, this is Alex Lifeson...". He was so nice. So soft spoken and encouraging. I was blown away to say the least.
From there, Jack got me the tech gig with BLUE OYSTER CULT.
I have nothing but fun/ positive memories when I think about my time with BOC. I love them very much. I still speak with Eric and Buck.
Saying this, I wouldn't be doing this interview if it weren't for Jack opening those doors for me.
Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom are incredibly important to my early development as well. They were/ are a massive well of knowledge for me.
** Listening to you playing with Meat Loaf, you sound amazing. You seem to be right in your element with him. How did your work with Meat Loaf come about and what's kept you playing with him for so long? Exactly how long have you been playing with him?
Thank you for the kind words.
I met Pearl (Meat's daughter) on the VH1 Maximum Rock Tour. The bill was Motley Crue, Megadeth, Anthrax - 2000.
She was a backing singer for Crue. She put in the good word for me to her father. Scott Ian also had a friendly hand in this.
What has kept me around... Jim Steinman songs are complex/ challenging.
Performing with Meat Loaf is also challenging. He likes to throw curve balls at us on stage. But it's the creative freedom that turns me on the most. Meat is all about taking advantage of what each member of his band brings to the table.
I've been with Meat Loaf for 15 yrs.
** Do you play rhythm parts on any Meat Loaf albums or are you strictly playing leads?
I actually play more rhythm than lead on Meat's albums. He is always looking to change things up so he'll invite outside artists to track a solo. I'm talking guys like BRIAN MAY, STEVE VAI, RICKEY MEDLOCKE, just to name a few.
** Why is Meatloaf's band called Neverland Express?
Jim Steinman is a huge fan of Peter Pan.
** Any more Meat Loaf albums planned for the future?
Meat has talked about a couple of ventures with me. Not sure if they will ever happen. Albums are expensive to make with literally no chance of recoup due to today's pirating.
** What are the next shows/tours coming up for you with Meatloaf?
There is nothing planned. Meat is busy "acting" at the moment.
** As well as producing the Anthrax album Vol. 8 The Threat Is Real, you also appeared on their 1995 album Stomp 442. Why were you called in to replace Dan Spitz on that album? Dimebag Darrell appeared on two songs off of this album. What was he like and what was it like working with him? What was behind the idea of not using the Anthrax logo on the cover of the Stomp 442 album?
I haven't ever spoken to Dan Spitz about this. I believe it had to do with him simply not enjoying his time with the guys when it came down to the creative process. He stopped showing up at rehearsal.
One afternoon in '92, I had to drive past the Anthrax rehearsal building to get home so I decided to stop in. Charlie was by himself, recording guitars. He asked me to plug in a guitar and jam a solo. Things simply escalated from there.
Darrell... No need to talk about him in a musical sense. We're all aware of his incredibly important contributions. That said, Darrell was very kind, intelligent, engaging, fun. Like so many of us, I am honored to have been personally abused/ targeted by his antics.
Regarding the Anthrax logo, I don't have an answer for you.
** Why did you not stay a permanent member of Anthrax? Do you still keep in touch with any of them?
I was never asked to be a "member".
It worked out better for all of us.
I always look forward to seeing them whenever our touring schedules aline. Wonderful guys.
** In 1999, you joined Sebastian Bach and stayed in his band until 2004. Why did you only have one recording out of that time with him? That recording was Rock Bottom, a KISS tribute album.
Bas lived about 20 mins from me. We got to know each other well. I remember the phone ringing at 9am on a Monday morning...
Bas: "Hey dude."
Me: "Hey, what are you doing up so early?"
Bas: "I have kids, dude. Wanna join my band?"
Me: "Hell Yeah!"
Bas: "Cool, see you at noon!"
The lack of recording has all to do with timing. He wasn't looking to write. He just released a new album. We spent our time touring it. He then began his BROADWAY career. We would do shows around his theatre schedule.
Sebastian Bach is a badass!!! I truly believe the Universe worked that experience for me. There is no way I could've handled Meat Loaf if it wasn't for Bas "priming" me.
** You recorded and wrote some music with Bernie Mardsen of Whitesnake fame. Where are those recordings? Are they available for purchase?
Bernie Marsden is a powerful, creative force. We met in 1987 in Germany (festival tour) while I was teching for BOC. He and I hit it off. He took my number. A few months later he invited me to stay at his home in Buckinghamshire (South East of London). We spent a few months writing/ recording. He then went through a battle with management shortly after I headed back to the states. I don't have any of it. Not even sure if he does. It's probably lost.
Wow... such great memories now that I think back. Bernie Marsden taught me how to properly play British guitar. The Brits play different than the Americans. Bernie schooled me on intonation, bending, vibrato.
** Guitarist Brian May of Queen is one of your biggest influences. What is it about him that has influenced you so much? Who else influences you? (can be musically or non-musically)
Yes... Brian is a huge influence. If I stop and think about the impact, I guess it has to do with being the best I can be. Everything Brian does is so perfect to me.
I have many other influences. The main standout is my father, Dennis Crook. Again, it has to do with work ethic.
This brings me back to your Meat Loaf question where you asked what has kept me around so long. But this is now coming from a different point of view. Why have I been a member of the NLE for 15 yrs? It's because I work fkn hard!!! There is no place for complacency in Meat's world.
** Speaking of Brian May, you also appeared in the Queen musical We Will Rock You in Las Vegas. Tell us how that came about.
WE WILL ROCK YOU the musical produced by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Robert DeNiro. Written by Ben Elton.
2004 - Patti Russo (Meat Loaf) mentioned that the Queen musical, WE WILL ROCK YOU was holding open auditions in Las Vegas. The musicians had to perform in front of Brian May & Roger Taylor.
There was no way I was not doing this.
I reached out to the production office - received an address, time slot and sheet music for ONE VISION & WHO WANTS TO LIVE FOREVER.
I booked a flight/ hotel.
I got to the audition building at 11am on a Friday. They were running musicians in/ out. It was a weekend cattle call... 100's of players.
Sitting in the waiting area for an hour, I finally get called into the room. Brian and Roger were not there. I remember my mind not even thinking about playing at that point. It shifted to, shitballs... I really wanted to meet them.
Anyway, there were two friendly guys (smiling) sitting behind a folding table and there was a drummer, bass player and a piano player. I plugged-in and started playing ONE VISION with the band. I think I played for 90 seconds when the two guys stopped us. I was then asked if I could come back on Monday.
I then realized that the weekend was being used to weed through the talent.
I extended my hotel stay.
Monday rolls around, I receive a text message and head to the convention area at Bally's.
There were probably 75 guitar players that survived the weekend.
Everyone is sitting around in the hallway when Brian and Roger show up. This is now exciting!
They were building band lineups... I get called in. Brian and Roger are sitting behind a large folding table with a few bottles of wine. I plug-in and play both songs.
They were polite but not engaging. They said "thank you very much" and that was it. I didn't get to shake hands. I am heading home in the morning.
An hour later my phone rings asking if I could come back tomorrow.
I extend my stay.
Tuesday rolls around. There are now only a handful of musicians, maybe 4 of them are guitar players. Brian and Roger arrive. We are all in the room.
Brian walks over to me and asks me about my guitar. I was taken aback, couldn't figure out why he was talking to me out of everybody else in the room. He was so friendly... I was in awe.
They are building band lineups again. What is great is that John Miceli (Meat Loaf drummer) is sitting behind the kit. I didn't mention him until now because he has his own story to tell...
Some time goes by, I get called up. We play WHO WANTS TO LIVE FOREVER. We then start ONE VISION. The guitar riff is badass!!!
The song then moves to the breakdown (before the guitar solo). Brian gets up out of his chair and walks over to me. I'm thinking - "WTF???". I then realize - Holy shitballs, I have to hit this solo as Brian May is standing 2 feet in front of me, practically hunched-over, looking at my fretboard.
I play the solo, Brian nods in a positive fashion.
I still can't believe he did that to me. Cold... Hahahahahahah!!!!
John and I left there not knowing our fate. That said, I knew Miceli was getting the gig. He destroyed everyone, it was actually funny to watch.
Anyway, John and I hit the tequila bar for a "couple of few" shots then fly home the next day.
Two weeks later I received a
phone call asking if I'd like to relocate to Vegas.
John got the call as well. A month later, Patti Russo got her chance to audition and got the call to be the "Killer Queen" character. It was great, the 3 of us remained together.
As my father says - "you don't get anywhere in life without taking risks".
I packed up my New Jersey life and drove across the country. My father joined me for the drive.
We began rehearsals in early July. The show opened at the Paris, Las Vegas Hotel in September.
The song book was incredibly challenging. There was no phoning-in this gig. I had to approach the guitar with concert intensity while maintaining recording studio accuracy. It greatly improved all aspects of my playing.
The cool part of the musical experience was getting to work with Brian one-on-one. He spent a lot of time in Vegas and showed me all the brutal bends in his solos. Even how to use the serrated edge of the coin to create sounds that I could never figure out while growing up, trying to play Queen songs.
The best part of the experience is that Brian and I, to this day, still have a tight friendship.