An Exclusive Interview With:

Randy Pratt is the bass player with The Lizards, a New York based classic rock influenced band which also boasts former Sir Lord Baltimore singer [and drummer] John Garner, as well former Rainbow, Black Sabbath and [current] Blue Oyster Cult drummer Bobby Rondinelli, as well as featuring guitarist Patrick Klein.

‘Rule’ is the band’s 2nd album [the first to feature Roninelli] available on Hyperspace Records – a label run by Pratt and Klein as well. Hyperspace Records was formed to resurrect old bands and thus far the label has put together [or are in the process] releases by such bands as Vanilla Fudge, Randy Holden, Sir Lord Baltimore, the Vagrants [feat original singer], Cactus [14 new songs that will feature different singers], Mark Stein [Fudge guitarist] solo and Vinny Martell solo. 

The band also has a forthcoming live DVD recorded at BB King’s Club in New York City last year.

Here Randy gives us all the details on The Lizards as well as the new CD ‘Rule’.

For more info check out   

K - What other projects have you done?

Randy - The last band I was in was called 'Star People'. We had a prog-rock band with a science-fiction theme to it, and we toured around for about 6 years. We toured with Ozric Tentacles and Dream Theater and Dixie Dregs, and stuff like that. The Lizards grew out of that. The drummer from Star People and I were on the first Lizards album. We actually started The Lizards as a project to kind of work on his drumming with him a little bit [ha ha]. And we did a good album with him

I met Bobby here at a session I was doing with Mark Stein from Vanilla Fudge, the original keyboard/singer - who's not in the new Vanilla Fudge, but I was doing a solo album with him here and Bobby was picked by Jimmy Haslop - the bass player, for the drummer for the album. I knew Bob growing up here in Long Island; he was kind of local legend here before he made it big. I knew that he was aussum and we had just parted ways with our other drummer and I asked Bobby to play on some of the tracks and I knew the material was right up his alley, and I was so happily shocked when he told me he wanted to join the band, so at that point - he lives near us, so we were able to get together and rehearse ... a lot. It's been great.

K - So, you're right in the same age bracket as Bobby?

R - Yeah, actually I’m a year older than Bobby. Bobby's brother is in the Vanilla Fudge now and he's a couple years younger than Bobby.

K - What was that [Long Island] scene like back in the 70s?

R - It was great. It's an interesting [to me] sad - interesting. Long Island in the 60s up until the mid 70s [I can't remember the exact year] was maybe the best scene in the world - just for a local scene. Every's a big suburb of Manhattan; you know Queens in part of Long Island and it goes all the way out to the country. It's a hundred miles long and there's millions of people living here and they're real close to New York City. The music scene here was just aussum. Every town here had a good club with a good system, and bands came from all over the world just to play bars. You could make more money out here than a touring band with a record deal. The scene was fantastic. A lot of bands grew out of that scene - the Vanilla Fudge, the Young Rascals, Billy Joel, Zebra, Sir Lord Baltimore. And a lot of bands that didn’t make it real big that were great too, like The Illusion and the Vagrants [Leslie West's first band]. But after the Vietnam War they raised the drinking age to 21 and then disco came in and they stopped hiring bands and started putting DJs in. And in the interim of all that happening there's a booking agency on Long Island that is literally Satanic, it is so evil! They have a stranglehold on all the clubs on Long Island that you could not book any bands unless you booked their bands. They’re called 'Omni Pop'. And basically you're allowed to play 40 songs - the exact top 40, and if you play one original they turn your sound off. And only their bands can play these clubs. So it's gone from the best scene in the country to probably the worst scene in the world. I've toured the whole country with the Star People and The Lizards, now, and Kansas is hipper than Long Island right now. There’s no place less to play than Long Island; it's a terrible scene right now. But still a lot of great musicians here because it's near New York.

K - How did you hook up with John?

R - The way I started this whole project of looking for these old rock guys, these proto-metal guys from the late 60s-early 70s was I’ve been writing a book with this guy for 10 years now, on that period - the beginnings of heavy rock. And we did detective work. This guy Randy Holden and I have been behaving like detectives for years, looking for him [John]. He had no address, and he was living on a boat and I found him. And at that point I realized it's amazing out of what [?] 6 billion people on this planet that you can find one [ha ha] and I didn't even use the internet for it. I just talked to everybody who might've known him and anybody who ever had anything to do with him, and we just kept pushing and we located him. And then we started to get really aggressive about finding every roadie and every manager and accountant and ex bandmember from all these bands like Spooky Tooth, Trapeze, the Vagrants, the Illusion, Sir Lord Baltimore, Captain Beyond, Boomerang, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer... and we just dig and dig and dig. And the same thing with photographers from old rock magazines. We’ve gotten like 4 runs off every old magazine from the most obscure ones up to Rolling Stone and Circus. We just find the photographer’s names and we look and look and get bandmembers to go up and look in their grandmother's attic and push them and keep harassing them until they go up and get this 1 photograph [ha ha]. So that's what we've been doing as historians, ya know! And the turning point with Randy Holden, I got a recording studio in the same period and started recording them. We've done albums by a lot of these guys, and then the next step was when I met John Garner I realized - that that was my favorite kind of singing voice. It's almost like a Brooklyn born Italian Glenn Hughes; slightly operatic but rich and soulful, like a gospel singer. And I thought 'I've got to start a band with this guy!'

K - Was he still singing when you found him?

R - He was singing in a church, and he had done wedding bands for years which is what he had quit doing and he was pulling away from the church too when we met him. So he's secular again, so it's aussum. Yes his voice is in great shape. He doesn't play the drums consistently, but he's still a great drummer. He'll sit down on the drums and Bobby will go 'Wow!' He played on a couple of songs on that album but we didn't even write it on there, it was just a mistake that we didn't put it on there. He played on a couple of simple ones; he plays on 'The Battle Rages on' and 'The Rats and Us'.

K - I liked the Battle Rages On - that's one of my favorites.

R - Cool! That was written pretty much exclusively by John on the acoustic guitar. John has now, on the new album that we're doing now, he's playing guitar, not on every song, but he plays acoustic 12-string and we have some songs that Pat can play mandolin and John plays acoustic guitar or electric guitar and it's got a lot of nice lush quality in there, so there's a couple of new songs that we'll start playing live too.

K - What's the time frame for the recording of Rule?

R - A lot of Rule was written with the old drummer. Bobby kinda came in and plugged in to those songs. We wrote the 2nd half of it with him.

K - You guys all contribute to the songwriting!?

R - We do. I have a great relationship with the band in songwriting. You could say I write most of the lyrics, but on every song somebody will do something to improve my lyrics and on some of the songs somebody else will write the lyrics. So, even though Pat and I this fantastic relationship where the second I come up with a lyric he'll come up with a riff. It's amazing how we learn each other's stuff; the stuff almost comes out like jam sessions, it's very quick that way. And Bobby's now involved in the songwriting, everything from lyrics to the riffing and his arrangement ideas and stuff are in the big arena market. So he's got his dynamics together for us now.

K - What usually comes first, the music or the lyrics?

R - It can happen both ways. Sometimes lyrics will be written ahead of time. There’s no set way of doing it. I would say a lot of the songs come out of jam sessions. Ya know, just start winging it. We have a little tape recorder running all the time; I never let us jam without it because stuff just starts flying the minute we start playing together. And that's what I love about the band, the creativity is very automatic.

K - Some of the lyrics have environmental or political issues in there.

R - It sounded like early stuff to me in a way. My wife is very involved with animals and stuff like that, and I've become vegetarian. The world breaks my heart everyday, definitely.

K - There's 2 or 3 songs that touch on the shape of the world these days.

R - Yes, it's a sad affair.

K - There's a good variety on the album, you've got some really good classic metal type approach, and you've got some blues and some funky stuff that kind of reminded me of Glenn Hughes...

R - Glenn's one of my main idols and because of that the band Trapeze is to me. Now everyone in the band has slightly different influences. Pat's younger then us, and I turned him on to bands like Free and Trapeze and stuff like that. Some of his influences are later stuff but he's totally absorbed all of the older stuff. For me Trapeze is a real role model. I like to jokingly say 'my goal is to be where that spot that Black Sabbath and James Brown meet'. I thought Trapeze might've been that spot for a brief moment there. It's one thing to say you're funky but to be really funky you've got to live on that James Brown stuff.

K - What are some of your favorites on the new album? Do you guys got anything you're really pushing as far as radio or anything like that?

R - No. You know, I'm a firm believer that a lot of times bands don't know what their best songs are. I mean, one of my favorite songs on the record is 'Pay The Band' and yet we never even play it live. A lot of people are coming up to us and telling us 'Grip of Love' is their favorite song, but the lyrics on that song are kind of 'throw away'. So I'd leave that up to somebody else to tell me what the best song is. I mean, we like all of them, and the ones we do live are.... It’s an interesting way that choice process goes down, because I don't always with it but I go with what the guys decide to work live. Maybe the most direct ones to play live are the ones that easier to play live or something. We do Grip Of Love, Hard Luck Messiah, Wheel of Fortune, and we do a lot of stuff from the first album, which are much better with Bobby playing drums on them. We have a live album coming out and a DVD coming out for this European tour. That's coming out soon.

K - You guys also have the cover of 'Kingdom Come' on here...

R - We haven't done that live yet, but there's so much interest in John and Sir Lord Baltimore in Europe that we're going to actually do that one on this next tour.

K - It suits nicely on the album.

R - Thank you. That was a last minute decision and I was happily surprised that we pulled it off as well as we did because that's one of those bands that almost can't be copied because they're so extreme. It's not that it's technically impossible to play what they played but it's almost technically impossible to wind up that much angst [ha ha], especially the guitar playing and the vocal. Even John couldn't do the same vocal style that he did. He told me that he did 18 takes on that and 18 shots of Chabosse - one for each take until he didn't know which take it was but he was just collapsing back after that. I am talking about the original one; we don't drink any more! [ha ha]

K - It's interesting because, I don't think if you knew it was a cover... I think a lot of times covers on an album stick out like a sore thumb, so putting it at the end there, it flowed greatly after the slower things in front of it.

R - You're aware there's another Sir Lord Baltimore album!?

K - Yeah, I’ve only got the one album...

R - The 2nd one is worth getting too. There was a third album they were preparing in 1975 when they broke up. They got like 7 songs done and I’ve been re-recording that stuff with the guitarist and John, John [also] playing drums. And for years we're still poking around on it. We've got Tony Franklin on bass on a lot of the stuff.

K - Is the plan to release the old and the new?

R - Yeah, it will be released. My plan is just to do it for history's sake. I'm not sure what they will do with it, but they are going to finish it.

K - Any other stories as far as the new songs go?

R – We have performed them all live, even The Rats And Us, which for us one of the things I’m trying to get more serious about is my harmonica playing because you can’t really take the bass out of the music, so I’ve done all kinds of tricks to play that better. Like a Pat a left-handed double-neck bass and guitar so he can play bass while I play harmonica and John playing guitar – stuff like that. So we could do all those songs. We try and mix it up a little bit; I’m not sure what we’re doing on this upcoming tour. By the way, Bobby – who’s also in Blue Oyster Cult, is not going to do this tour with us in Europe. We have Vinny Appice to do it.

K – Is Bobby going out with BOC a temp thing or is going to be back with the band?

R – Yeah, Bobby’s the drummer of the band as a matter of fact.

K – The blues stuff I like on there, and you guys have a widely appealing album. It can appeal to the ‘classic’ metal crowd...

R – You know there was a period when heavy music first started to come in where bands wouldn’t do a whole heavy album. They felt like they had to be diverse because it was tasteless to do a whole album of heavy material, except for like Blue Cheer and stuff like that – one of the first bands to not bother with that. And as the metal scene started to develop bands realized that people who wanted to hear that music really didn’t need to have all those other frills, just give them the heavy stuff! But, at the same time a band like Zeppelin comes or even Hendrix or Free where they could appeal to a heavy rock audience with something that was a little diverse as well. I guess Zeppelin is the eternal role model for a heavy rock band to be able to do that – where you can not lose your heavy rock audience but mix in folky elements and stuff like that. Soulfully that is really heavy, even if it is acoustic.

K – What sort of audience, apart from the metal types... do you get a lot of blues people coming out?

R – We have primarily toured as an opening band for classic rock bands. I couldn’t say what our audience is like to a degree, but I’m starting to get a feel in Europe. I think when we get reviews they talk about the bluesy stuff. And I grew up in a time when Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple were called ‘heavy metal’ bands, and you listen to that now and they sound like blues compared to what they call heavy metal now. I think Van Halen was the first band, sort of the beginning of a period where rock didn’t touch the blues anymore. We’re from the period from before that! And I don’t care if people call us a heavy metal band or if they call us a blues band. That’s almost a compliment with all the heavy riffing that we do and stuff. I just want us to be soulful, clever and cool, you know!?  I think it’s pretty uncontrived what we do. We just play what comes out of us at jam sessions and then put it together in song.

K – Who’s some of the biggest names or bands you’ve opened for?

R – We’re toured a lot with the Vanilla Fudge because I’m kind of in a vague kind of management position with them. We toured Frank Marino – that’s when we played in Canada. That was nice. Unfortunately, he’s having trouble getting the touring situation that he wants. We’re in touch and we would love to tour with him again. That’s most of the touring we’ve done. We’ve done about 50 gigs at this point and most of them have been with the Fudge. And we’ve signed on with a booking agent who’s going to put us on with lots of classic rock acts as well. I think there seems to be potential for us to do better in Europe and at some point we’d get to pick the opening act and have a hopefully little more control over our situation.

K – Do you do many gigs in the US?

R – Like I said at this point we’ve done about 50 gigs and 16 or 17 of them were in Europe late last year. So the rest have been here and a few in Canada with Marino. But when we’d signed up with this booking agent we’re just going to play all over the place.

You pay – we’ll play. We’ll play anywhere! [ha ha]

K – Who are some of your favorite bass players?

R – Glenn Hughes, Tim Bogert is #1 – he’s my favorite bass player. And right next to Tim Bogert would be Andy Fraser from Free. I like a lot of bass players from that period. The guy from Grand Funk is aussum, Felix Pappalardi, and then the funk guys – like the guy from Earth Wind And Fire, the guy from a band called Slave. I love the Ohio Players, Bootsie Collins...

Interview  © Kevin J. Julie / Universal Wheels, Feb. 2004