Editor’s Note: It was a tremendous honor to be chatting with the legendary drummer of Mr. Big, Pat Torpey. On July 7th, Mr. Big will be releasing “Defying Gravity” via Frontiers Music! This will include a deluxe version of the album that includes a bonus DVD which will give Mr. Big fans a behind the scenes look at the new album. With the original lineup in tow, Mr. Big brought in producer Kevin Elson, who was behind the engineering boards for their previous records, including the 1989 self-titled debut, 1991’s “Lean Into It”, and 1993’s “Bump Ahead”. Check out Mr. Big on tour starting Wednesday, May 31st in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and they will be wrapping up this current leg of the tour on Saturday, June 24th at The Rose in Pasadena, California. Without further delay, here is my conversation with Pat Torpey, drummer of Mr. Big.
M.T.C.: What’s been going out in the world of Mr. Big as of late, “Defying Gravity” is coming out July 7th! Let’s talk about that!
Pat: Obviously, we are done recording and mixing through a flurry of activity from last month, from getting it mixed to doing background vocals, and recording. We did it pretty quickly as new albums go, we had some deadlines, and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make them, so we decided, “let’s give it a shot” and see what we can come up with, and it worked out. I’m real happy with it, it’s kind of a throwback, it’s just us playing and singing, there’s no tricks, no loops, no tapes, it’s just us, and last week, we were getting together rehearsing to come out and start doing some shows, it’s always fun to have some new music to play, as well as the old songs that people expect us to hear from us, like “Green Tinted Sixties Mind”, “To Be With You”, and “Addicted To That Rush”. We’re all excited about getting out and playing, so that’s kind of where my head is at. I went to a Dodgers game last night and that was fun!
M.T.C.: Are you a Dodgers fan?
Pat: Yeah, kind of. I’m a baseball fan and I happen to live in Los Angeles, so I like the Dodgers. I like the Indians and the Mets. I follow the Dodgers more than anyone else. You know who Gregg Bissonette is?
M.T.C.: Unfortunately, I don’t.
Pat: That’s okay, he’s the current drummer in Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. He was also the drummer for David Lee Roth, when David Lee Roth went solo back in the 80’s, Gregg was the drummer. He’s a good player and a good guy. We went to the game. Enough about baseball, let’s talk about rock-n-roll.
M.T.C.: Kind of a segue into rock-n-roll, if you could create a walkup song for any baseball player through Mr. Big’s catalog, what song would you pick and what player would it be for?
Pat: One song that we really get into when we play is called “My Kinda Woman”. It’s just one of those songs. I love the way the drums sound on it, it’s kind of heavy, its got a little bit of a mysterious vibe to it, so that’s the first song that comes to mind.
M.T.C: Who would come up to the plate with that song?
Pat: Does it have to be an old guy or a new guy?
M.T.C.: It can be anybody that you want to.
Pat: I’m enamored with Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers. He’s a rookie, he’s played like 30 games. He has an amazing hit ratio, he’s got like nine homeruns in a decent amount of at-bats. That’s my answer, Cody Bellinger!
M.T.C.: Back to rock-n-roll, what can fans ultimately expect from “Defying Gravity”?
Pat: I don’t know yet. We kind of make it up as we go, as things develop. One thing that we do in our shows in the encores is that we switch instruments, that’s something that we have been doing for awhile. We have a couple of songs and we usually do a cover tune, I’m not sure which one we are going to do yet, but it’s going to be a surprise to us as well. It’s always fun to do, we started making it into a thing. We’ve done Judas Priest, we’ve done The Rolling Stones songs, we did David Bowie, just all different stuff.
M.T.C.: Speaking of other artists, we are all mourning the loss of Chris Cornell. Do you have any memories of Chris Cornell or stories about him?
Pat: I do have a little anecdote. About 10 or 12 years ago, I was a big fan of Audioslave. I love that first album that they did. I was a fan of Soundgarden as well. I was playing by myself. I used to go into North Hollywood, I was just in this room, playing by myself, just working on stuff, I would spend hours doing that, and as I came out, there was this little bench right outside the door, outside in the parking lot, and there’s Chris Cornell just sitting there. He was just kind of sitting there having a smoke, I think he might have been reading a book, so I said hello to him and I told him about a Mr. Big song on “What If”(released in 2010), the song is called “Once Upon A Time”, it was inspired by Soundgarden’s song “My Wave”, and I told him about it. He was really cool and we just had a really cool conversation, I told him how much I liked his music, and what he does. He was just a great guy, and when I heard he died, and I thought, “what a loss”. I always feel that when somebody takes their own life, I always feel really bad for their family, it leaves such a void. I’m going to miss him because he’s really talented, and I’m sorry to see that he’s gone.
M.T.C.: It seems like nobody ever has anything bad to say about Chris.
Pat: Yeah, he was great. We also had a mutual friend that shared a rehearsal space in North Hollywood, a friend of mine that I’ve known for 30 years. We spoke about it the other day, and we were just shocked, saddened, and it seems like such a waste. I’m just really sorry to see him go.
M.T.C.: Will there be any sort of tribute to Soundgarden?
Pat: Well, probably not, first shows are always trying to get it together. I don’t know though, that’s a good question. I just watched a live show of theirs that they did a couple of years ago on this MTV channel that I have, and they were great, they have so many great songs, “Spoonman”, “My Wave”, and “Black Hole Sun”, ones that everybody knows, they’re so great.
M.T.C.: You have played with The Knack, you’ve toured with Robert Plant, what is one memory that is not related to Mr. Big that sticks out to you right now?
Pat: I’ve got a lot of different things with Robert Plant, that was an amazing time in my life because just out of the blue, I got a phone call from my manager, and he said, “You gotta go to Chicago to play with Robert Plant”, and I was like, “What?”, and it just blew my mind because I was just a huge Led Zeppelin fan, I mean everybody is a Led Zeppelin fan, there are not too many people who aren’t, and it was like a dream come true. I’m not sure if you know the story, but the drummer that he had, Chris Blackwell, broke his ribs, and they were in the middle of their tour, and they just started the second leg of their tour, they were on the second date, so they didn’t want to cancel the tour, just through their manager knowing my manager, he called him and said, “Here, I know a guy that can do the gig”, “okay, send him out”. I was on a plane, flew into Chicago, I got picked up at the airport, went to this little rehearsal arena that they had rented. I might as well have known Robert Plant as the President of the United States, I was walking on air, I could’t believe that I was actually in the same room as Robert Plant, he’s actually talking to me. So, I auditioned, played for about 15 to 20 minutes, played some blues stuff, and he’s like, “okay, you sound great, you want the gig?”, and I was like, “YEAH, SURE”! I was blown away. That day that I auditioned, we went back to the hotel and they had limos to take everybody back. I piled into one of the limos and Robert got in with me, so it was just Robert and me. He asked me about how much of a fan I was of John Bonham, then I told him that I was. He was telling me about when and how John Bonham passed away, he told me the story of what happened, I couldn’t believe it! I was actually talking to Robert Plant, all of this happened in a 24-hour period, it was just an amazing time of my life, it was one of the most exciting, scary, anxiety, but it was one of the most super uplifting experiences I have ever had. Robert Plant is a great guy, he treated me like I have been there forever, but I was the only American on the whole tour, they treated me great though.
M.T.C.: Finish this sentence for me, the moment that you realized that Mr. Big was going to make it was when…
Pat: It’s kind of hard to pinpoint. The one thing that I can tell you, “To Be With You” was starting to go up the charts, we were just excited that it was actually on the charts, we just never thought that it was going to hit number one, and we were in Florida playing in a club, that day we were setting up for soundcheck, and we got a phone call from our manager and he let us know that Billboard has us at number one, and we were playing clubs. We had the number one music video on MTV and all this stuff, and it was just like any other day. We got a bottle of champagne, popped it, and had it and it was amazing, then we went right back to work. To me, “making it” is kind of a fuzzy term, is it doing a tour, is it making money, is it having a hit, is it being a successful musician, there’s a lot of different things. I’m just glad that I found three other guys that kind of wanted the same thing that I did. That’s so important in keeping the band together. We’ve been together coming on 30 years, give a year or two. It’s pretty remarkable.
M.T.C.: Congratulations on that milestone! I want to give you the floor to say what you want to say about Mr. Big, the “Defying Gravity” album, and a message to the fans.
Pat: Anytime that you have a new CD or download or whatever way you listen to music, it’s always an exciting time. It’s really fun to go to the studio and start out with nothing and end up with a collection of songs to play live, and if anything, we always keep our fans in mind when we are coming up with material, because we’ve got to play it live in front of a crowd. We always imagine what songs are going to stand out live. Our success is especially as a live act. I can’t wait to get out there and play, to play some new songs, and some of the old stuff that is always fun as well, it’s just always a rush to go out and play, and I want to say thanks to all of our fans, because we wouldn’t be here without you. It’s a two-way street here, we need each other.
M.T.C.: I want to thank you so much for taking the time for my little corner of the web, it is so appreciated.
Pat: Well thank you, and it’s always very nice to hear someone that is interested. I’m excited to talk about it.
And there you have it! Go pick up a copy of “Defying Gravity”, which is available July 7th via Frontiers Music. Here are the tour dates listed below!