In a career filled with dizzying highs and horrific lows, Cheap Trick is on a high again. Long considered one of the best Midwestern power-pop groups, the Trick is back on tour with Aerosmith, promoting their new DVD and celebrating more than 25 years in the music business.
We talked with guitarist and frontman Rick Nielsen to get a quick update on the band. The commissioner of the Dream Police, despite a cold, was in good spirits and happy to talk about the group.
NUVO: It seems like you guys are always on tour. Do you ever take a break?
RICK NIELSEN: We just have never stopped. This is the truth. I’ve never even unpacked my luggage since Budokan. I just bought more luggage. Back then, we didn’t celebrate because we were No. 1. We just kept playing. We’ve never stopped to celebrate anything. We’ve had ups, we’ve had downs, but we’ve always just played. I tell people that if we only toured when we had a hit record, we never would have toured.
NUVO: Your success in Japan, which led to your successes in America, apparently took people by surprise at the time, didn’t they?
NIELSEN: It was unexpected. We always thought we were a good band, but it was like, ‘Now a lot of other people have figured it out.’ And they figured it out for a while. We’ve always maintained our hard-core fans, but trying to be the flavor of the month or the next big thing, you only get that once. We never went to radio. We always wanted radio to come to us. It’s been difficult, but we never started wearing our mother’s makeup or getting keyboards or learned to dance. Those things maybe could have helped us for a week and we would probably have done it poorly, anyway. We’ve just tried to stay true to what our roots were. We make albums, we don’t really make singles. We try to make 30 minutes to an hour of continual music, as opposed to three minutes followed by 12 minutes of ‘I wish I didn’t have to hear this.’
NUVO: Your albums, even your first ones, still hold up remarkably well.
NIELSEN: There are some duds in there but, for the most part, publishing and recording over 200 songs is pretty cool. There’s some oddball stuff that I wish we were still playing today, there’s some stuff that never got any recognition and there’s some stuff we still play today that we’ve been playing for over 20 years. Our first album was produced by Jack Douglas and it was pretty raw. They said we’d never get any airplay with that kind of stuff. But we did in Japan. For our second, third and fourth records, we worked with Tom Werman, who really kind of toned us down and made us not as heavy as we were. We even tried, on our One on One album, to get some New York dance-mix guy to do a dance version for us. We spent some time on it. And our Epic guy took it to Studio 54 and had the DJ play it. It cleared the dance floor. That was our attempt to be the flavor of the month and do what’s popular. We fell flat. That’s why we stay to what we do best.