MRM recently had the chance to interview the legendary Chuck Wright. Wright spoke about his origins, career and new album titled “Sheltering Sky” (out now available wherever music is sold).
MRM: Where are you “calling” us from today?
Wright: I’m in the Los Angeles area, I live in Studio City.
MRM: How have you been holding up during these crazy times?
Wright: Things have gotten better here and I tried to make the best of a very bad situation when the pandemic first hit. I embraced the time as an opportunity for creative expression. I never planned on what I was composing though being a solo album. I was just writing music I’d want to hear. Art for art’s sake so to speak. My first song I worked on, “The Weight Of Silence”, was inspired by the almost apocalyptic feel the world had with all the empty streets in huge cities like Rome, Paris and New York. I recorded everything myself then edited a video together of my performance on guitar, bass and percussion mixed with drone footage of the barren city landscapes around the world.
After posting the video on YouTube, Tesla drummer, Troy Luccetta reached out to me saying how much he loved the track and thought it would sound great with drums on it. I never considered that before but was honored he contacted me and I loved what he did. At the same time, one of my favorite Jazz/ Fusion guitarists in L.A., Allen Hinds, also put down some solo guitar throughout the song which I edited. I then asked keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Sons of Apollo, Dream Theater) if he’d be into in adding some Mellotron and Synth. I also brought in Ben Woods, an acclaimed Flamenco guitarist to reinforce some of my acoustic guitar playing. Not many know I was in a Flamenco group for 2 years, hence the influence in this piece. To my surprise, the song and video won “Best Musical Performance” and “Best Video” at the Rock Music Alliance Awards just days before the album’s release. I didn’t even know I was nominated. It was presented online by Tony Kaye from Yes. The song was up against, Joe Satriani, Jon 5 and other amazing artists.
MRM: What was your first concert as a spectator?
Wright: That’s a great question because I ended up knowing and working with someone from each band. I was about 13 or 14, my Mom took me to see Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night and The Grassroots. The guitar player in the Grass Roots, Warren Entner, later became Quiet Riots manager, I toured with Three Dog Night lead vocalist Chuck Negron in 2008, and the lead guitarist, Michael Monarch, in Steppenwolf became my friend when he had a band with Frankie Banali called “Monarch” around 1980.
MRM: How did you start in the music business?
Wright: The older kids in my neighborhood had a band and knew I played a little guitar.They asked if I could play Bass. I said “that’s just four strings right”. My Mom got me a Bass like my musical hero then, Jack Bruce from Cream. The first song I learned was “Sunshine Of Your Love”. Years later while touring with Vanilla Fudge, I found out the support acts Bass player had inherited millions of dollars and had a music memorabilia room at his house. He invited me to visit. I was stunned, he had Jimmy Pages old Vox amps, Tim Bogarts Bass but then I saw it, the Bass that Jack Bruce recorded the first song I ever learned “Sunshine Of Your Love”. Of course, I had to pick up the Bass and play that song. Talk about going full circle!!
MRM: How were you recruited to Quiet Riot? Man, your bass playing on the song “Metal Health” is PHENOMENAL!
Wright: Thanks, it’s nice to hear the Bass mixed properly….very LOUD! I had a somewhat Prog band in the late 70s early 80’s called Satyr. The guitar player, was also playing in the band DuBrow, formerly Quiet Riot after Randy left to join Ozzy, suggested me to fill the Bass spot after Rudy Sarzo’s departure to also join Ozzy. We played the clubs playing for record labels and did the demos that became the “Metal Health” album.
MRM: Could you speak about your time in Giuffria?
Wright: I was asked to replace the Bass tracks on their debut album and then they asked me to join the band. We had a hit song called “Call To Your Heart” and were special guests on sold-out tours with Deep Purple then Foreigner. How lucky am I, my first ever tours were doing sold-out arenas? Both Craig Goldy and I left the band because Gregg Giuffria wouldn’t let anyone other than our singer, Dave Eisley, write songs for the follow up album. Goldy went on to play with Dio. I joined Quiet Riot for the QR 3 album, which I am a writer on every song and also did the tour in support of the album.
MRM: And what about your time in House of Lords? Did you ever get to work with Gene Simmons directly?
Wright: I got a call to put House Of Lords together with Gregg Giuffria but this time he said I could write music in the band. He was offered a deal with Gene Simmons new custom label if we put together a great band. We saw drummer Ken Mary with Alice Cooper. He was amazing so we offered him a position in the band. Lanny Cordola did the 2nd Giuffria album so Gregg brought him in. Lanny is still a close friend and collaborator. He’s on three songs on my debut solo album. I was working in a band called Eyes at the time with James Christian and suggested him for the band. I spent a lot of time with Gene in those House of Lords days. We used to play racket ball once in a while and hang out. He’s a genuinely a super nice guy, but when you go into a business deal with him that involves money, that’s a different thing. But in general, he’s nice, he’s amazingly well-read, and he’s hilarious, really funny. With House of Lords, I’ve always felt that band was super strong musically, musicians, songwriting, great singer. I thought we had all the elements, we even had the number 1 most requested song on rock radio in 1990 with our remake of Traffics, “Can’t Find My Way Home”. Unfortunately, Gene, did his custom label deal, with RCA, which was a country label. That label didn’t have the machinery, the rock radio promoters, or the right staff to break a rock band.
MRM: What was your involvement with Gregg Allman?
Wright: Producer, Tim Eaton, called me into to record tracks for Gregg’s new solo album “I’m No Angel”. They were fun sessions with my friend Gene Black from Joe Cockers band and Mark Droubay from Survivor.
MRM: How was it working with Ted Nugent?
Wright: The sessions for his “If You Can’t Lick Em, Lick Em” album, like Ted were pretty intense. My friends Dave Amato (REO Speedwagon) played guitar and my late friend Pat Torpey (Mr. Big) was on drums. Pat is on the three tracks I did with Lanny Cordola on my solo debut album. Ted had a stack of Polaroid photos at the session of dead animals he had killed and had a full-scale Deer target he set up outside to practice shooting with his bow and arrow. Most of what you hear about Ted is true just multiply that by 10. Best thing about that album is the title.
MRM: I was surprised to hear you worked with rap music. What all did you do with rap?
Wright: I was hired to do a Rock Rap record with Sen Dog from Cypress Hill that Lanny Cordola was producing. Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper) was the drummer. It’s very heavy and done well. I am no fan of Rap but this was really a Hard Rock album with some Rap vocals.
MRM: What’s up with Ultimate Jam Night?
Wright: For those that don’t know what Ultimate Jam Night, it’s an immersive Rock ‘N Roll show, now held every other Tuesday in Hollywood, California at the world-famous Whisky A Go Go, Hollywood, California. I started it in 2015. The show integrates over 50 of the world’s greatest musicians into a 4 hour live performance of unrehearsed cover tunes from a wide-range of popular music.
We recently held a charity event to raise funds and continue building awareness of World Central Kitchen (www.wck.org) who have been on the front-lines of providing food to the entrapped in Ukraine and its millions of refugees. As honorary guests, a Ukrainian family that just fled the horrors of Bucha, Ukraine as war refugees joined us on stage. The 7-year-old-girl with them sang a verse of “We are The World” that left everyone in tears. We opened the show with Mussorgsky’s “Great Gates Of Kiev”.
Please visit ultimatejamnight.com for more about this event.
MRM: What could you tell us about your recently released new album “Sheltering Sky”? Who are some of the notable guests you have on there?
Wright: The music is very cinematic and very diverse covering a wide range of styles such as Hard Rock, Funk, Prog, Jazz Fusion, Folk-Gospel, and even Celtic. It feels like a concept album. It features 41 guest performers including members of Mr. Big, Skid Row, Tesla, Dream Theater, Janes Addition, Asia, Jefferson Starship, acclaimed solo artists Allen Hinds, Toshi Yanagi, Whitney Tai and many others. It’s widely available on CD and all digital platforms on the Cleopatra Records label. You can even get it on Amazon. The reviews have all been fantastic!
MRM: Will you be out on the road any time soon?
Wright: I am leaving for Barcelona July 1st, for two weeks, touring with “The Legends Of Classic Rock” which was started by White Lion founding member, Greg D’Angelo and former Great White vocalist, Terry Ilous. I’m currently recording Bass tracks for a new band project on Frontier Records called “Sahara” with early years House Of Lords drummer, Ken Mary, who’s currently in Flotsam and Jetsum. Also, on guitar is current House Of Lords guitar player Jimi Bell and Italy’s on Alessandro Delvecchio on keyboards and producing. To me, musically it sounds like a cross between early House Of Lords and Queensryche.
MRM: Thanks for the interview! Anything else you would like to add?
Wright: My hope is that my debut solo album “Chuck Wright’s Sheltering Sky” will be my musical legacy, not a song I recorded in 1983. Just give it a listen and enjoy the adventure.