For all of you reading this near near North Carolina John and The Babys will be playing on Aug. 26th in Wilmington, NC at The CFCC Fine Arts Center with Jefferson Starship. A classic rock n roll show that is not to be missed.
Now for the meat and potatoes. As I said before this week I had the great pleasure of interviewing John Bisaha of The Babys. Now some of you are saying The Babys? The same band from the 70s? Yes! John is the lead singer and bass player and has helped resurrect this band after a 30 year hiatus. Here are some links to get you caught up to speed on The Babys history.
The Babys - "Every Time I Think of You" 1979
The Babys - "Isnt It Time" 1977
The Babys - "I See You There" 2015
Hello John. Welcome to this little slice of glam Rock n Roll heaven we like to call Hair In The Air. I know this isn’t your normal interview but it’s quite an honor to have you answering some questions for us. I haven’t hosted an interview since my time at broadcasting school so please bear with me.
JB: You bet! This is actually a cool way of doing things. I get a chance to think and craft my answers the best way possible. So thank you for the opportunity to do so!
John you are currently the lead singer and bass player for The Babys, a powerhouse rock band that formed in the 70’s and struck big with hit singles “Isn’t It Time” and “Every Time I Think of You”. You joined The Babys in 2012. How did you get hooked up with these guys?
JB: I was introduced to ‘the audition process’ by my friend Mike Hansen. Mike played drums in a band with me in the early 90’s called Hall of Souls. We had only recently reconnected after many years through that marvel called Facebook! He gave me a ring and told me there was a band looking for a singer. After several moments of playing the name game – I finally found out it was The Babys. After several months of auditions, I received a call from Tony telling me I was the guy…
What is it like joining a band that already has its own dynamic and vibe? Especially as a lead singer this must have been a very challenging endeavor?
JB: It really is a dream come true for me. I was a huge fan of The Babys since Broken Heart came out. We try to stick to that vibe and sound from back in the day – staying true to the songs and how they were intended to be played. That’s why there are seven of us on stage. The Babys produced some huge tunes with huge sounds – horns, strings, female backup singers, etc. I’ve known these songs since they came out – my biggest challenge was incorporating bass into the mix, and making the whole package seamless in its delivery.
The music landscape has been changing very rapidly over the last few years. I’m not really sure anyone knows where it’s headed. The one thing we as musicians still have is the live performance. Tell me about the current lineup of The Babys and what it’s like on stage for you guys during a good night?
JB: The more it’s changed – the more it stays the same! The only things that have changed through the years is the fact that we all get older, while technology keeps evolving. Too many new toys to play with! But you are right – live is LIVE! We all live for that moment. There’s nothing like playing to a packed house with every fan standing, dancing and singing every word/note of the songs. Our lineup consists of the two originals – Tony Brock on drums and Wally Stocker on lead guitar. Joey Sykes adds a dimension The Babys never had back in the day – a second guitar player to compliment Wally throughout the show. In the past, either Michael or Jonathan would leave the keys to play second guitar – now we have both. Which brings us to Francesco Saglietti on keys. He’s a fabulous up and coming musician. He will do great things in this business. And we round out our sound with The Babettes – Holly and Elisa! The three of us have sang together for YEARS! Total package – big sounds! We have a lot of energy on stage, something that you may not see with other acts from our era. We feed off of that energy – then toss it to the fans – who then give it right back. And the circle continues…
Trust me I’ve had my fair share of bad nights on stage. Rock n roll is so unpredictable and I think that’s what makes it so dangerous still. When issues start to arise during a performance it can kill a band mentally. How do you overcome these issues and get the train back on the tracks?
JB: We’ve had some technical things happen from show to show – a monitor mixer forgetting to save a session you worked a few hours on, to amps frying during songs. But hey – you have a job to do. Can’t let those things get you down. Imagine having in-ear monitors that lock all ambient sound out, and having ZERO drums in your mix. Played an entire show that way. Was a marvel to hear and see video that was tight! I could only ‘feel’ Tony that night. And that’s a testament to how well we are getting on as a band – plow right through and give it your best. We played a huge festival this year where Walt’s amp blew one song – and mine blew the next. Not sure the crowd really knew. We got things moved to new amps or direct for me within each tune – and the rest of the group covered. We never missed a beat. You smile – shake your head – and move forward…
In 2014 The Babys released I’ll Have Some of That. What was the response from the fans on that album after the band had been broken up for so many years? It seems like new blood created new energy in The Babys.
JB: The response has been fantastic. We knew we needed to have a reason to be out and playing again. Having a new record, with new energy and members seemed the right thing to do. We recorded the album at Tony’s studio – Silver Dreams – in a whirlwind 8 weeks. We have a range of songs that were written musically just after The Babys broke up, to songs written the week prior to recording, and some in between. And the beauty is – they all seem to fit together pretty well.
You guys are back out on the road and you will be releasing new material in the very near future. What can you tell me about the new tracks? What was the inspiration? Why at this point in the game have you decided to put out these songs?
JB: We’ve been asked to record a couple of tracks for some upcoming movies. One of them called for a remake of The Babys remake of ‘Money’. We’ve got some killer threads in that tune. We made it a cross of what The Babys did with the song back in the day – and brought a little more rock to it. A little AC/DC meets Humble Pie meets The Babys. Fun stuff. We are actually toying around with recording a live album, and may even record a studio album of the hits and our favourites (had to spell it that way for Tony and Walt!) plus some new tunes.
As a guy in a band I know how difficult it can be to deal with four/five/six other strong personalities. It’s a full time commitment. How do you deal with arguments and disagreements within The Babys?
JB: Arguments? Disagreements? I don’t understand your question… In all honesty, we all get along famously. There may be strong or differing opinions from time to time – but all things are easily dealt with. We are all grown adults now. Communication in a band relationship (and any other life relationship) is always key. From the get go – Tony and Wally were not interested in pushing forward with a group of people who didn’t actually care about each other – and the band. We are a family in every sense – and I think it shows.
I’m a firm believer that every guy in the band fills a vital position outside of just playing their instrument. For me, I do a lot of the publicity and the media for 3D In Your Face. In The Babys what is your roll outside of singing and playing the bass?
JB: We have a core team that helps us all keep ‘the machine’ going. We’ve got a growing team of management, public relations and booking folk pushing to keep us out there. I wear many hats, though – call me the glue. Or the little dutch boy if you know what I mean. I believe I am involved in virtually every facet of what we do to keep moving forward.
I always love sitting around and listening to old war stories on the bus about old gigs and tours that the guys went on back in the day. We always end up talking about crazy girls, angry club owners, and intoxicated band members. You don’t have to go into too much detail to protect the innocent but please if you could imagine we are on the tour bus cruising down the highway somewhere near Chicago. What old war story would you tell me that would leave me picking my jaw up off the ground?
JB: I’ve listened to some GREAT stories that Tony and Wally have had through the years. The stories all seem to come out after a gig as we are winding down, or on a bus between shows. Everyone has the crazy girl story. I’ll opt for one that even Tony and Wally had never experienced before. It’s ‘G’ rated – so sorry about that! I’ll give you some ‘X’ rated ones offline. (Just kidding Holly!) So last year – we had a stretch of shows through the Midwest and into PA. We had a 7am call because the next town was about 6-8 hours away. It was 7:01 and I had our luggage and was walking out towards the bus when it started to leave. I was beat from the night before (I think we were like 3 shows into 5 shows in 5 nights across 5 states – FUN!) so I wasn’t about to run and pound on the bus to stop. I just took the luggage and started walking towards the lobby where we were all to meet anyway. So I get to the lobby, and the whole band is there! And we see the bus leave the parking lot and take off! Then we notice our lead tech (Johnny – our son) is NOT with us! I call the bus driver after 5 minutes or so – because we are thinking he may be getting gas or something – and I check my find iPhone app for my son – only to see he is on the freeway and about 10 miles out. The bus driver (Chuck) answers his cell – and says yes Sir – how are you? I asked him if he was getting gas – he replied no – he was enroute to the next stop! I said – Chuck – the entire band and I are still in the lobby waiting for you! Long story – he had seen Johnny’s foot outside his bunk and figured we were all asleep in our bunks as well. You’ve heard the stories where someone in the band was left behind – but the ENTIRE band? Come on Chuck!!!
As kind of a gear junkie could you give me a rig rundown? What bass’ are you playing? What amps and cabinets are you into? What is the key to your sound? One piece of “can’t go on stage without” equipment?
JB: I’ve been very lucky to have some great support from some great companies! Italia makes my basses. I am lucky enough to get at least one new custom bass every year. Right now I am playing a Rimini custom, but soon will be receiving a new Imola bass from them – which will be my go to. Ampeg has been my go to amp for quite awhile. I play an SVT-VR out on the road, and in our studio, but also travel with an SVT-Pro head just in case. An 8x10 cabinet and I am good to go. No real effects – the bass sound is vintage, and I try to keep to that. Besides the bass and rig, I can’t go on without my wireless for the bass (I like to move around a lot when I am not singing, and hate tripping around with cables), as well as my in-ear monitors. They literally save your voice. How many times do singers have to over sing just to hear themselves in the wedges? No more of that for me!
Thank you so much John for doing this interview. I would like to wish you luck with the new songs and video. I think The Babys are a great rock n roll band keep up the great work. I hope that someday soon we get the chance to work together. If you are ever in Nebraska or Iowa you are more than welcome to crash on my couch.
JB! Thank you Sam! I just may do that!!! Appreciate the opportunity – great questions! All the best to you.