Speaking to Joe Walsh

I've mentioned it a couple of times here already without going into specifics - but a couple of weeks ago I interviewed Joe Walsh. It was for a story that will appear in The Dominion Post - I'll share a link here when the full interview is posted. Ostensibly the interview was to promote Walsh's new album, Analog Man. But we got to talk about his career - the myth and madness, the mirth and music. We spoke about his role with The Eagles and before that The James Gang. His solo career - and the time he joined Kiwi band Herbs.

Joe Walsh is a legend - one of the great rock stars. And it was one of my favourite interviews; always nice to get a good chat from a hero, someone whose music you love/respect.

I got hooked on Walsh's solo/early band material when my brother brought home The Best of Joe Walsh, a short, sharp set of his early/mid-70s hits - only nine tracks (our version missed Life's Been Good), but I like that it just has what's necessary, the essentials. One of the best Best Ofs I know. No filler.

Around this time I was checking out his more recent albums - 1991's Ordinary Average Guy and the following year's Songs for a Dying Planet. I'd first heard him via the 1985 record, The Confessor. And of course his contributions to The Eagles - he was always my favourite element of that band.

My brother introduced me to the Eagles Live album - worth it for Walsh's version of Life's Been Good with the introduction where he explains he is running for president, announcing Life's Been Good as an industrial love song. I always loved that idea - Industrial Love Songs was destined to be a book of poetry I would write. A book of very bad poetry.

Later I found out that what I thought was just ludicrous stage-banter was in fact the truth - Walsh had entered the presidential race in 1980, even if only half-seriously. He was offering free gas.

The idea of Joe Walsh as rock star seemed as important as the music - it was certainly important for the music (and to the music). But if the wild shenanigans, the booze and drugs, the madness and heartbreak has informed the music, Walsh is a survivor. He has lasted. And he can still play.

The rock-star madness was an early part of the hook, the allure - but it's that guitar tone that keeps me coming back. Those sounds he coaxes. The guy can play.

Keith Richards is really just an actor-type. Joe Walsh is my idea of an archetype.

So, he has a new solo album - his first in 20 years and he's nearly 20 years sober too. He got distracted/got comfortable with all the Eagles reunion gigs - a sweet gig to have on the side. And then he thought it was time to release a new album. It won't replace the great albums he's made - The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get and But Seriously, Folks - but it's a new Joe Walsh album. It's as good as a Joe Walsh album in 2012 could sound. It comes out in a week or so. I like the title track. And I like the album - but then, I'm a fan.

And I got to talk with him.

One of my heroes.

Every now and then it's nice to have a reminder of the perks of this gig - sitting outside on a Wellington morning a couple of weeks ago, talking to Joe Walsh about his epiphany when visiting a marae in New Zealand. The moment of clarity, the wakeup call that it was time to quit the drink and drugs.

Talking also about how Ringo Starr is now his brother-in-law. And about a lifetime of music. His voice has that slur permanently attached, the booze, the drugs, a teenager who might never grow up.

I said "Joe, it was a great pleasure to speak with you about your life and career - thank you so much for being honest and thanks so much for your time. I've listened to your music since I was nine years old - you are one of my absolute heroes."

He said "Thanks Simon, it's been a pleasure. And New Zealand was so good to me and it's in my heart and it was great to chat, man. Great. Just great. And I'll hope to see you real soon."

We will never meet, of course - but for 20 minutes I connected with the guy who played one of the most important lead breaks in rock music; the guy who still tears out an amazing version of Funk # 49.

And a guy who appears to have found peace after a long time running - full speed - in the opposite direction.