There aren't too many bands that can still play amphitheaters despite not having had a hit in about 25 years, but Loverboy are still out there rocking -- and still selling tickets. The band is part of a summer tour featuring Journey and Pat Benatar that plays The Gorge on July 28th. And perhaps even more impressive, the band has kept their core lineup intact for all these years too, save for original bassist, Scott Smith, who passed away in 2000. We caught up with Loverboy's singer Mike Reno to chat about some of the band's rock radio staples, how to keep them interesting all these years later, and which country superstar is a major fan. The band's latest LP, Rock 'N' Roll Revival, is out August 14th, and features re-recordings of some of the band's biggest hits, plus three new tracks that the band recorded with powerhouse producer Bob Rock.
This record reunited you with Bob Rock, who you worked with on your first LP, and who has since gone on to produce platinum album after platinum album for bands like Metallica, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. I was just telling someone a story about how Bob Rock was an apprentice on Loverboy's first record. We were working with Bruce Fairbairn, and this was going to be Bruce's second record ever. Bruce also hired Mike Fraser -- he didn't even pay him I don't think, and he slept underneath the mixing console -- and he got coffee and changed the tapes. Now he's producing AC/DC. It's like all the people we worked with have become superstars. It's wonderful.
Speaking of producers, I'm fascinated by Mutt Lange, who wrote one of your big hits, "Lovin' Every Minute of It." Aside from being one of the most meticulous rock producers of all-time, he's also a famous recluse. Do you have any good Mutt Lange stories? The Mutt Lange story goes like this: We received a note that there was a song that Mutt Lange would like us to do.
Was he famous at that point? He'd already done Foreigner, AC/DC and The Cars, and we were really happy to hear that he had a song for us. In that day and age there was no way of getting us a tape on time, and we really needed it because we only had another five days in the studio. So he had a recorder and he held his phone up and we held our phone up and we recorded it on this little ghetto blaster over the phone and we couldn't really hear all the parts. We just had to take it upon ourselves and go for it.
Did you write "Working for the Weekend" with the intention of writing a rock radio anthem? Paul had originally started the song and had the lyric "Everybody's waiting for the weekend." He was sitting on his deck, down on Kitsilano [in Vancouver, B.C.], in the nice part of town by the water, looking out at everybody with their beer and their dry cleaning. He had this feeling that everybody was waiting for the weekend to start and how it was going to kick ass and be great. So we recorded the song and I changed the words in the chorus to "Everybody's working for the weekend." And he just went, "Wow, that's great!" And the cowbell was basically the click track. We were just jacking around one day and Matty started hitting the cowbell and it just kind of happened. If you think about it, that starting gun is the cowbell. That's the weekend starting. But I still never thought it would be played 30 years later. You just don't think that way.
Is it possible to keep 25-year old songs interesting after all those years? We've changed things over the years and after a while you just start doing things differently. You take different solos, you add different breaks, you double a chorus, you make the crowd sing -- that kind of thing. Some days you get up there and the set feels like we've been playing it for a thousand years, but every time we play these songs, everybody jumps out of their seats and starts singing so it takes the sting out of it immediately. And then all of a sudden everybody's having a great time and of course you feel good and pumped up.
Do you have a favorite pop culture use of one of your songs over the years? The thing that blew me away the most was when [Fred Durst] of Limp Bizkit and Eminem teamed up and recorded "Turn Me Loose" in their style. It was a freebie that they put it out. Those were huge guys. Eminem, it doesn't come any better than that. And Limp Bizkit, they were top of the line for a long time. Also, we're kind of a high energy power pop band and these guys were pretty heavy dudes. That really blew me away.
Do you hear from younger bands about the legacy of Loverboy or are new bands too young now to have grown up on your songs?
Do you hear from younger bands about the legacy of Loverboy or are new bands too young now to have grown up on your songs?I was in an elevator once and there was a guy standing there with a hat on. I just stood there until the elevator doors opened and as I got out, he holds the door open and goes, "I just wanted to tell you that I grew up with you guys. I knew all your stuff. It was between you and KISS as my favorite rock bands." And he held his hand out and said, "I'm Garth Brooks." And then the door closed.
Do you remember the first time you played Seattle? Boy, we played some baseball tournaments to raise money with Joan Jett. We hung out at radio stations. Sammy Hagar we played with. We played the Tacoma Dome. We played the King Dome. It's just been insane.