I N T
E R V I E W
: HIRSH GARDNER
(by Jelle Jansen /
August 15, 2017)
September 15, 2017 Cherry Red Records
will release (Vinnie Vincent’s)
WARRIOR album, which contains the original
finished 1982 studio recordings, as well as 5 instrumental versions,
plus 5 rehearsal tracks featuring Fergie Frederikson on lead vocals
instead of Vinnie Vincent himself.
WARRIOR story starts in 1982 with the Boston
NEW ENGLAND, featuring keyboard player Jimmy
Waldo, bassist Gary Shea and drummer Hirsh Gardner, and how their plans
to record their fourth album with Todd Rundgren were scuppered when
their guitarist, John Fannon, unexpectedly quit the group.
They put the word out that they required a new singer, and as they
shared AUCOIN management with KISS, Gene Simmons recommended an unknown
Vinnie Cusano, who was then helping KISS with their “Creatures Of The
NEW ENGLAND was formed in the mid 70’s, but it
took some years the band finally got signed to a major label. Their 1979
debut album was produced by
PAUL STANLEY and their first single, "Don't
Ever Wanna Lose Ya" received heavy radio exposure on Album-oriented rock
(AOR) stations and reached #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1979.
Prior the WARRIOR release, drummer Hirsh
Gardner will release his second solo album “My Brain Needs A Holiday” on
KRR : When did Bill Aucoin discovered the band
and was he responsible the band got signed at Infinity Records …, and if
yes, why Casablanca (Neil Bogart) was not interested (probably because
they were more into disco at the time, and already had ANGEL ?)
HIRSH GARDNER: …… well the answer to your question is yes Bill Aucoin was
very instrumental in hooking us up with Infinity Records.
Ron Alexenburg was formerly the head of CBS records and was given an
of money to start his own independent label distributed by MCA. But the
story goes a little further than just auditioning for Ron and getting
the deal with Infinity Records. We had a rehearsal studio just a little
south of Boston where we initially auditioned for Bill Aucoin. Bill
started bringing record labels to our small studio to audition the band.
Neil Bogart of Casablanca was not one of those who came to the studio
but I'm sure Bill had had conversations with him about signing the band.
Chris Wright from Chrysalis records came
to the studio and basically offered us a huge bag of money to sign with
him. Clive Davis,
the music mogul that we all know and love, also pulled up in his limo
and sat through a
very loud one hour audition. He also loved the band and offered us a
deal. There were several others including my good friend Lenny Petze who
was with Epic Records that came
to see the band but we chose to go with Infinity records.
KRR : to me it’s interesting that from the moment
Paul Stanley did his 1978 solo record, in
a very short time he seems to be involved with other artists , ALESSI
Bros, Desmond Child and Rouge, New England …
New England’s debut was produced by Paul Stanley and Mike Stone, who
also produced Stanley’s 1978 solo album. I guess Bill Aucoin
suggested Paul Stanley as a producer.
What were your thoughts on that suggestion or decision ??
HIRSH GARDNER: Yes Bill did make that suggestion. We basically had the
choice of any producer that we wanted at that time. Names that I recall
mentioned were Gus Dudgeon,
Todd Rundgren, Roy Thomas Baker and Robert John Mutt Lange. Of course
Mike Stone was also in that list and when Bill suggested working with
Paul Stanley we knew what we would get from a audio standpoint with Mike
and we thought it would be pretty cool working with the likes of Paul
Stanley which turned out to be one hundred percent correct. He was great
to work with in the studio.
Can you imagine recording your very first album and having him at the
control panel and you're out there doing a drum track?
Hahaha... he was very intimidating but also very inspirational. I mean
your working with one of the greatest rock stars in the business.
KRR : was there any reason why Paul Stanley was
not credited for his backing vocals on "Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya" ?
GARDNER: It's funny you should ask but that really was never an issue at
the time and of course it was never brought up by Paul or anyone else.
That just happens to be a very true story that I've told many times of
me trying to sing my background parts with Paul at the board. He was
like "Hey Hirsh can you try it again?" Or hey "Hirsh your singing a
little bit flat, can you try to sing it a little bit more in tune."
After quite some time of me trying to nail these parts I said "hey Paul
can you come out and sing it and let me see what you want me to do?" So
we just kept his parts and we used them...hahaha.
KRR : I’ve always wondered if it was known at the
time that Paul Stanley did produce the album.
Meaning, was his name mentioned in promo letters and album reviews, did
it get any attention ?
HIRSH GARDNER: oh it was definitely mentioned at the time. As a matter
fact there's a photo of Paul and
the band that was in Billboard Magazine as we recorded the album. We
actually may have caught a little bit
of flack from that from some of those naysayers out there but we just
let the music do the talking.
KRR : During July - August 1979 New England opened
for KISS at their Dynasty Tour ?
What do you remember of this tour, and did it help sell the album ?
HIRSH GARDNER: There are way too many stories to tell about this
particular tour. I think that would be a separate interview all by
itself. But it definitely helped promote the band and got us in front of
hundreds of thousands of people. If you were to look on YouTube and any
of the social media sites there are so many wonderful comments from
folks who saw the Dynasty tour with New England opening that are very
KRR : New England released two more albums
“Explorer Suite” (1980) and “Walking Wild”(1981).
Both were released by Elektra Records, which is a bigger label compared
to Infinity Records.
If I’m right these albums didn’t do that well compared to the debut
album ? What’s your thoughts on that ?
HIRSH GARDNER: I truly believe that Elektra records blew it for
us. Their distribution and promotion was nonexistent. I remember one of
the executives, I think his name was Bert, and he did absolutely nothing
to help the band. I'll give you an example. We played in Birmingham
Alabama with Blue Oyster Cult. The day of the concert we went to the
four major record stores in the city and none of them had our current
album which was then Explorer Suite. We were all so very disappointed.
Of the 20,000 people that were at the concert if only 100 of them had
gone out and been able to buy the album it would have helped our chart
success and therefore would have garnered us more airplay. But that did
not happen for pretty much the entire tour and the album simply died.
KRR : KISS “Creatures Of the Night” was recorded
at the Record Plant Studio’s, Los Angeles during July - September 1982…
I guess it’s around that time that Gene Simmons recommended Vinnie
Cusano. Where you guys in the same studio as KISS ?
And did you Bill Aucoin still managed New England, which are now close
to rename the band WARRIOR ?
HIRSH GARDNER: Jimmy, Gary and I flew to Los Angeles and met up
with Vinnie around that time. We were rehearsing at SIR Studios on
Sunset and KISS was rehearsing in the room next to us. Gene and Paul
would quite often come in and watch us play. Vinnie at the time was also
writing with Gene and Paul for the Creatures album. I can't help but
think that Paul and Gene must have said this guy might work out on stage
even though he's too short hahaha. Well I guess it worked out for a
little while anyway.
KRR : What where your thoughts when you first met
Vinnie Cusano, as a person, as a musician, and especially as a
HIRSH GARDNER: I was absolutely blown away. His songs were just amazing,
he was a fantastic guitar player and an even better singer. We all got
along extremely well. Partied together at the Rainbow almost every night
and we're quickly becoming the most talked-about unsigned band in LA.
KRR : Did you guys all agreed at once with having
Vinnie in that band ?
HIRSH GARDNER: I think about 5 minutes after we started playing
with him we knew that it was the right fit.
KRR : In New England John Fannon was the main
songwriter, and now that band was renamed WARRIOR, Vinnie Vincent became
the main songwriter … Wasn’t there any input from you, Gary Shea and/or
Jimmy Waldo to record some of your own penned songs ?
HIRSH GARDNER: … not really as I think the band was short-lived
enough where Jimmy, Gary and myself never had the opportunity to
contribute to the mix. We worked on the 10 or 12 song ideas that Vinnie
had and tried to work them up to a point where we'd be able to audition
for a record company and record our first album.
: Now the WARRIOR recordings gets a proper release at Cherry Red
Records, I’m wondering who decided the time is right. Except for the
Fergie Frederikson (RIP) rehearsals, after the tape trading circuit
(80’s/90’s), all songs circulate on the internet for years … So I think
it’s interesting to know who’s responsible that the WARRIOR recordings
finally will be released officially … Did the label contact you ? Or did
one of you did contact Cherry Red Records … Or is it Vinnie Vincent
himself who decided the time is right ? Are you still in contact with
HIRSH GARDNER: I really did not have anything to do with the
release of the Cherry Red recordings.
KRR : To me it’s very cool that Fergie Frederikson
is involved too … I’m sure most of us didn’t know that.
After Trillion, Frderikson signed with Casablanca Records, and released
an album under the alias of David London. In 1981 he worked with Gregg
Giuffria in hopes of a possible new ANGEL album under a new line-up.
Probably Bill Aucoin suggested to bring in Fergie Frederikson to allow
Vinnie to concentrate more on guitar ??
HIRSH GARDNER: … actually we did not have anything to do with
Bill Aucoin at that time. We had parted ways with Bill Aucoin in the
midst of our third New England album, "Walking Wild". While we were
WARRIOR in LA we had several singers including
Fergie, Robert Fleischman among others audition for the band. I kept
telling Vinnie over and over and over again, dude, none of these people
can sing your songs as well as you can. Thus begins the stubbornness
that surrounds the Vinnie Vincent story that we've all heard about. A
couple years later when Vinnie and I started working together again in
Boston, which was the beginnings of the
INVASION project, it was the same thing. I was
deeply involved with the engineering and production of that record and
pleaded with him to forget about finding a new lead singer who could
sing higher and higher. The songs in my opinion did not need that and
once again Vinnie's vocal performance on all of those productions was
stellar. When The
INVASION album came out I was only able to
listen to the first 30 seconds of it.
KRR : During the first half of the 80’s it became
regular that new bands released an EP first, before releasing a full
Were there serious plans at the time to release the WARRIOR EP, was
there any interest from a record label ?
HIRSH GARDNER: We had done about six or eight demos at the Record Plant
in LA. They were to be played for CBS records and we were about to sign
with them when Vinnie got the offer from KISS. It was at that point that
the project ended and I returned back home to Boston to continue with my
producing career which was flourishing at the time.
: after WARRIOR, Gary Shea, Jimmy Waldo formed ALCATRAZZ
with Rainbow singer Graham Bonnet and Steeler’s guitarplayer Yngwie
Malmsteen in 1983.
Why wasn’t you involved joining the band as a drummer ?
HIRSH GARDNER: I had left Los Angeles immediately upon The Break-Up
WARRIOR. Gary and Jimmy stayed in LA and it
was several months later that they put together their new band.
KRR : In 2002 you released your first solo album
Broken Hearts” (MTM music), with probably means that you was out
the music business for 20 years. What have you done in between ?
What have made you decide to make a comeback ?
On that album you’re singing lead, as well as playing keyboards, besides
the drums. You sing pretty well, and sometimes it reminds me to ANGEL’s
Frank DiMino (“She Is Love”) …
HIRSH GARDNER: When I returned to Boston after the Warrior experience I
continued with my producing career and was able to do quite well with
that. I also played in several bands just to keep my
chops together and have some fun. I recorded the Wasteland album in 2002
and have continued to be involved in the music since then producing,
engineering and writing songs. As far back as I can remember I've always
been a lead singer or background vocalist in any band that I played in
so the singing part of it is not new at all. I have my home studio and
also what I call my real studio in Cambridge Massachusetts. I've been
continually writing and recording song ideas for many years. As I was
putting together some of these songs I had asked a couple of my
extremely talented friends like Jimmy Waldo, guitarist extraordinaire
Joe Feloni, Jon Butcher and of course Ron Bumblefoot Thal to join ranks
with me and play on my songs. It just seemed to make sense at this point
to put an album together and release it. Thanks to New England there are
still many fans out there that I thought would be interested in hearing
some new music from me. I had just finished mixing the New England CD
"NEW ENGLAND Live at the Regent Theater" so it only seemed to make sense
that I should put out my own solo album.
KRR :“Wasteland For Broken Hearts” contains a sort
of New England reunion with “More Than You’ll Ever Know” with all
members involved Is there a story behind the reunion / song ?
HIRSH GARDNER: We had not played together as a band back in 2002 since we
broke up in the early 80's. I remember sending the track to Jimmy and he
laid down all his keyboard parts. It just started me thinking that all
four of us should really be playing together so I asked Gary and John if
they want to contribute and they were happy to join the party. I have to
say I'm a pretty lucky guy to have been able to play with three of the
most talented musicians in the world...John Jimmy and Gary. I consider
them brothers, after all we've now known each other since our early and
mid twenties. So hooking up with them back them may have been a bit of a
catalyst for the band to start getting together a few years later and
doing our yearly reunion shows. Good God when we get together we have
KRR : Last year New England released a live album
“Live At The Regent Theatre”, which was recorded in Arlington, MA August
How often does New England tour, ... what size of venues (seats) ?
HIRSH GARDNER: We do get together once a year or so and do gigs.
It's difficult because we're all spread out throughout the USA and each
of us has much different agendas. We've done shows where there have been
several thousand people and also as few as a couple of hundred. As a
matter of fact on October 7 we're playing a very small venue in Los
Angeles called Grand Oaks Live. Anyone out there should look this gig up
and come and see the band. It's a very up-close-and-personal show that
will really blow you away. We are also playing the following week here
in the New England area, one gig is at the Spire Center for Performing
Arts in Plymouth Massachusetts I believe Friday October 14th and then
we're also playing The Bull Run Music Theater in Shirley Massachusetts
the next night.
: What can we expect of your new album “My Brain Needs A Holiday"
(release date August 25, 2017) ?
HIRSH GARDNER: I think this album really shows a lot of diversity
in my Productions. There are kick ass rockers like Do Me Do Me and My
Brain Needs A Holiday and then I do a complete left turn with a song
like Diamond Moon. I have a lot of very eclectic influences. For
instance one of my favorite all-time singers is the country singer Vince
Gill whom I worship as a lead vocalist. At the same time I have a song
like Git It Back which feature is Ron Bumblefoot Thal on guitar that is
very industrial in nature. It's actually me playing live drums but I'm
using the track as a loop also combining some synthesizer bass Loops as
well. And then there is Love Is which the first three quarters of that
song are an acapella performance with me singing about 60 tracks of
vocals. But the bottom line is it's definitely a rock album that anyone
that enjoys AOR melodic rock will probably love... I hope!!!!
KRR : What are your thoughts of the current music
business and scene ? Spotify ?
illegal downloads ? Is rock dead ? The way of recording ?
HIRSH GARDNER: Well it's certainly different than it used to be and that
goes without saying. The hope that I have for my album is that the fans
will support the artist and the artists that I have playing on the
record, will not only buy the digital downloads but order the actual CD
and help us to continue to be able to produce great music for the
future. In Europe the album is available on
Escape-Music and they've come up with a
brilliant plan of releasing MY BRAIN NEEDS A HOLIDAY and including my
first solo album Wasteland for Broken Hearts.
KRR : What’s the first album you bought ?
HIRSH GARDNER: "Love Me Tender" Elvis Presley.
KRR : Who / which band influenced you to become a musician / drummer ?
HIRSH GARDNER: Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, of course the Beatles and many of
the English prog bands like King Crimson, yes, and in later years Steve
Winwood and Peter Gabriel.
KRR : What’s the latest CD you bought yourself ?
HIRSH GARDNER: Actually I ordered an album online this afternoon... It's
called "" My Brain Needs A Holiday" by Hirsh Gardner.
HIRSH GARDNER official website : www.hirshgardner.com
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