Interview with Rhett May
The music of singer/songwriter Rhett May is a labor of love, he has brought his unique blend of Eastern and Western music to the mainstream rock genre whilst conveying a message of peace and cultural equality. One of the many projects May has in the works, including a book of his over 200 written poems and another full-length LP to be released later, Creatures of the Night is a collection of 13 diverse tracks that feature May’s proficiency on vocals, sitar, and guitar.
I’m here with Grammy nominated artist Rhett May; Hi Rhett, I must admit I love your latest album, especially your single Creature of The Night.
About the Single/ Album
The single Creatures of The Night, what was the inspiration behind the track?
I’ve always been interested in the supernatural. I’ve also been extremely inquisitive and questioning about why humans believe Earth is the only planet in the galaxy…no…solar system…that is inhabited.
I’m an avid reader and observer of all things that are not of this world…and firmly feel that life as we know it is far more complex than we are led to believe.
“Don’t dare look over your shoulder, when you’re walking home at night”…was a line I had running through my head for a long, long time…so I decided to combine the supernatural and the UFO/Alien theme….although the song started out as an intuitive and thought provoking observation on one’s personal fears and insecurities, it soon took a different turn because of my interests. Hence the ‘twist’ at the ending of the music video….watch it and ENJOY !
You album has 13 tracks all ranging from melodic power ballads to hard rock, do you have a favorite track?
There are a number of varying genre amongst these 13 tracks…so depending on the mood…I do have a few favourites…but if I were to pick one that is my best groove track it would have to be ‘Kiss Your Mama With That Mouth’.
From listening to some of the rock that’s out, I would consider your music to be quit unique (in its own right), I find your music a little vintage in nature yet cool, is this something you have in mind when it comes to laying down a song eg: do you think “does this fit the Rhett May brand” or just go where the guitar takes you (so to speak) without trying to fit a song in the brand box?
I guess I do what I feel….I’ve never tried to write SIMPLY because it’s the current trend of what’s around today…or what is most current on the radio and television. In fact I think that most of the music generated is just that….mechanically created to a formula and soulless.
Music as an art form has lost it’s groove, it’s feel, it’s spontaneity. I’ve often heard from so called industry experts that my music is not current. I have to laugh…and it makes me angry…not because they won’t play my songs on commercial radio…but because the kids of today are growing up listening to stuff that is no longer art…being fed computer generated sounds manipulated by engineers and marketed by businessmen and women…and are sadly missing out on some of the best musicians and songs ever created.
What I write/create is from the heart and is genuine art….what I feel, how I feel…the melody, lyric, groove and message is what comes from deep down and is sometimes very raw….but it is not contrived or plastic….I go wherever my mood…my feelings…and my guitar take me.
What’s the ‘Rhett May’ formula for writing a good song?
I don’t have a set formula. I write a lyric, get the feel of the message and set about strumming different chord progressions to see what fits the mood….sometimes I already have a melody running through my head and then work on the tempo/genre/groove to compliment.
I also write poetry and have volumes of lyric sitting around that I work with.
If I’m in a certain mood….have something that makes me happy, sad, emotional, angry about something that’s happened in the world….I’ll get out my lyrics and search for a poem…a phrase…a couple of verses…and match them to the mood I’m in.
I work with my buddy Jimbo…whom I’ve known since we were 15 years of age….we argue about stuff like crazy. He’ll say “where did that chord come from…it’s not part of the progression…you can’t use that there, it doesn’t fit ?“
And I’d tell him that I don’t care if it’s not part of a progression….that’s the way I feel it….and we’re off on another discussion…he’s a perfectionist and everything with him has to be done a certain way…I’m totally different….I go off on a tangent and have some crazy ideas…it’s all good fun.
My idea of writing is to do whatever comes to you…write it…record it…weird and crazy as it sounds…we all have a uniqueness about how we think and interpret life….THEN SHAPE IT….
Don’t listen to the critics around you…because everyone will try to mould you to their taste and way of thinking…NO….we are all unique…and being DIFFERENT is what sets us apart from the average….do not change what you believe in your heart…be different…
This is my philosophy !!
Tell us more about your musical influence?
Six decades of music later…my formative years were filled with music on the streets in Calcutta…and all the Western music we could read about and listen to. Elvis, Fabian, Cliff Richard, The Ink Spots, Jim Reeves, etc….then came the Beatles, Monkeys, Rolling Stones, Dave Clarke Five, Hollies, Crosby Stills and Nash, Animals….progressing into Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Deep Purple, Queen, David Bowie, Budgie, etc, ….and amongst them were hundreds of other English and American bands.
What’s your take on music that out there today compared to music from yesteryear?
Oh dear….I think I covered this question with a bit of a rant in an earlier answer….hehe
You were heavily involved in the music industry (back in the day) and took over running Bill Joseph’s booking firm, you booked shows for bands such as Little River Band, Midnight Oil, Sex Pistols, Australian Crawl etc, what was it like being a band booker back in the 70’s / 80’s era?
Very interesting days….
We ran around 8 to 10 venues at any given time….I booked the bands…signed the contracts…promoted the bands….organised the ‘door’ person….made certain that the bands requests were met and catered for. We sometimes had to pay the band managers on the night…so I’d be travelling around picking up the proceeds of the ticket sales and carrying around $70k in cash over the weekend.
It was a busy time but very interesting to see how live music venues evolved into discotheques with DJs and perspex dancefloors and the law required every patron to be served some form of supper around 10.00pm.
And of course we were held to ‘ransom’ by some of the promoters who handled the bands and brought them to Australia….can’t have these guys unless you also book those guys etc…etc.
Opening for one of the world’s biggest ever rock act ‘Queen’ is a dream for many artists and you got that gig, what was it like? Was the crowd back then accommodating?
It was tremendously exciting…we were a very popular band in Perth around that time and were working between 10 and 13 gigs a week…so I guess our popularity and following made us the perfect opening act for someone like Queen. Another reason being that we did have a similar sounding presence and repertoire with the hard/raunchy guitar sound and five guys who could sing pretty well too….in fact we used to do a couple of Queen cover versions…(not while opening for them though).
Yeah the crowd was awesome…I remember sliding and somersaulting across the front of the stage during our session/appearance…and nearly ending up in the laps of the front row…I guess those were the days before the moshpit became the rage…haha….we did get the encores that made it HUGE for us !!
Brings me to a true story….I was doing a similar thing on stage in a concert hall down south in Albany, Western Australia….when I feel into the orchestra pit…but I didn’t miss a note or a beat….I think the song we were doing was a Stone’s cover ‘Brown Sugar’ or one of my songs called ‘Girl Crazy’….but the crowd went nuts after that.
Your old band was invited by George Harrison from The Beatles in aim to be signed to Apple Records (back in the day), how did this come about? Did you get signed? What happened?
Wow…this was so long ago…late Sixties…and we’d recorded our first single ‘Happy By My Side’
The guys who ran a youth music/culture magazine called the Junior Statesman (the main newspaper in Calcutta was called ‘The Statesman’) absolutely loved us….they had us in print almost every week…front cover, back cover, centre-spread…in the letters columns…it was madness….we had girls chasing us….sitting outside our front doors at night and camping out till my parents shooed them away in the mornings…. everywhere we went we were mobbed.
ANYWAY….these guys had connections with Apple Records and sent them our single. George Harrison wrote to us asking that we come and record in London. Unfortunately arranging passports and permission to leave India was not an easy task…we were 17 and 18 years old….also we as a family, were in the process of migrating to Australia….so the timing was not conducive…the moon and the stars were not aligned.
I don’t think there are too many artists out and about that can say they had ACDC open for them, can you tell us more?
It was a gig at Tramps Nightclub.
We’d done a gig at the Booragoon Hotel in Perth from 7.30pm to 10.00pm. We were booked to start at 11.00pm…..we rocked up to see this Eastern States band called AC/DC. It must have been one of their real early performances but they were awful. I remember that the consensus within our group was that we need to get to Melbourne and show the punters what a real rock band sounded like. Not sure whether it was an ‘off’ night for them, but it just didn’t sound right and the crowd was left wondering as to what they were listening to ??
But that was forty years ago…and history shows that they were obviously on the right track to success and fame…WOW !!
You toured/ opened for Ray Charles, I can imagine this must have been an amazing experience, tell us more about how it came to be and what it was like meeting RC?
It was a gig at the Entertainment Centre in Perth Western Australia.
We were chosen to open and were absolutely blown away by this legend of a man. He had everyone in the audience in the palm of his hand…. mesmerized. He sang and he played and his energy and passion, hidden behind those dark glasses, just burned through and captured your heart and imagination.
I’ve been privileged to meet and be in the company of some notable and legendary people…but Ray Charles certainly was an inspiration for me.
So what can we expect from you next? Tour?
I’ve recorded another 13 songs that I’m hoping to release as my next album.
It’s an album of passion and emotion….back to my simple roots of rock and melody.
Love, inspiration, anger, sex, sensuality, hate, suicide….some of the guitar work is in my opinion immesureably brilliant…and it’s not mine. I’m lucky to have my childhood buddy in Jimbo Payne who is a genius on guitar…and you have to hear some of the solos on this album….SWEET….BRILLIANT !!
I feel that once again…the quality of songwriting and structure will blow most discerning audiences…and artists…away completely….I’m truly in love with a number of songs and I keep listening to them in my car and going “MAAAN that sounds so awesome !!
No tours at this point in time….I’m too busy with life in general…my family and with my business interests….perhaps if I can get commercial radio to start playing my music…I’ll have no option but to tour….until then I’m content to spend my time writing, creating, recording and jamming with my friends.
Is there another single to be released from the album?
‘Creatures of the Night’ is the third single from the album of the same name.
I’d like to release at least another four or five singles from this album:
‘Sandy Sweet As Candy’ ‘Kiss Your Mama With That Mouth’ ‘Lexxi McCoy’ ‘Somebody’s Watching You’ ‘Bella My Baby’ ‘Space Between Breaths’
However, I’m running out of patience as I have so very many songs that I’d like to release…and each single needs at least 3, 4, 5 months to click and have an impact.
I have enough songs for two albums a year for the next five years and my creative juices keeping flowing and my mind keeps coming up with ideas and melodies that I can’t hold back…CRAZY STUFF !!
Thanks a million for your interest in my songs and some of the escapades I’ve been through…very kind and I hope that you and your readers enjoy and have a laugh !!