Crossroads June 2005
Crossroads: Why did you call this DVD "Farewell 1" tour?
Timothy B. Schmit : This was Donís idea. I was not part of the decision process. I believe he thought it would be funny to call it that since we never stop doing farewell tours ! But donít take it too seriously, as nobody knows how long the Eagles will keep going.
Crossroads : You were so busy during the 2001 european tour.
TBS : Indeed ! We have a huge fan base. For the 2004 tour, nearly all the venues were sold out. Do you realise that we did 10 shows in LA, 5 in Melbourn (3 of them were recorded for this DVD), and 5 in Sydney! Thatís amazing, I do agree with you, and it would be a shame to stop. I can tell you that such a decision would never come from me.
Crossroads : Is there hope for a new studio album ?
TBS : Yes, but I donít know what chances there are. Many times in the last few years, we met for this purpose. Some quite productive recording sessions happened. For a while I had the feeling that we were really progressing. But the trouble is that we are scattered in so many side projects. I have the feeling that if we really want to progress in the creative process of a new album, everybody in the group should refuse any other activity. We have to take the time to record and devote all our attention towards this goal, otherwise this will never happen. The real trouble is our solo careers, and all kinds of side projects. I am not speaking of any specific member of the band, regarding solo projects (editorís note : Schmit looks a bit embarrassed saying that). After all, we are all responsable for this dispersion on a personal level. But, for my part, I do my best for the recording to continue. I believe that it would be a shame for the Eagles not to have a new album and even worse, to split up at a time when we are more popular than ever.
(Editorís note : this critic could be addressed to Don Henley, by far the most productiv of all the 4 members, and whose last solo effort, the wonderful ę Inside Job Ľ, published in 2000 was followed by a long solo tour, but also towards Glenn Frey who, before the summer 2001 european tour, claimed that the Eagles plan was to write new songs and record a new album in September (2001). According to Glenn Frey, the Eagles fully believed that the best way to capture a creative feeling was to spend the whole summer long playing live, and living together as a band. But after 4 more years we are still waiting for a new album, in spite of one single ę Hole in the world Ľ released in order to boost sales of a sixth greatest hits, and the two new songs appearing on the DVD live in Melbourne ęOne day at a time Ľ and ęNo more coudy days Ľ).
Crossroads : You couldnít please a hardcore fan like me more. There are millions of us waiting for this album.
TBS : Yes, but itís only my opinion, just the opinion of one member of the band (sad smile).
Crossroads : You give the impression of somebody who knows what he wants. If no fan anywhere in the world has power to change anything for the Eagles, you could do something, couldnít you ?
TBS (embarassed) Well, we will see. There is a kind of hierarchy in the band, especially in terms of decision making. Donít get me wrong, I am not saying that it is like ę Sit down and shut your mouth Ľ. A good idea is always a good idea. If you manage to convey your idea to the Eagles mix, itís fine. But really, there are things that I have no control of. I do only what I can.
Crossroads : To be competely honest, I thought (and I am not the only one) that ęHole in the worldĽ wasnít a great song. For the first time in my life I didnít enjoy an Eagles songÖ
TBS : Hmm !
(A silence even more cruel if we consider the instrumental extracts put on the third disc box selected works, extracted from the Long run sessions. The listener, avid for new Eagles songs can discover wonderful melodies, and one can wonder why the band hasnít chosen to go further and add some lyrics.)
Crossroads : How do you explain your success and above all your longevity ? Your harmonies ? your ability to write good songs ? Or were you just the right guys at the right time ?
TBS : I believe that the reason why we still have so much success today, and why so many young people come to our concerts is the same : everything comes from the songs themselves. You see, everytime somebody ask me this question, I try to answer openly, with sincerity : You can always be a very talented singer, a showman, a musician with genius, this talent will always come behind the very quality of the song. And I believe that the Eagles have been able to write very many quality songs. First because of Don and Glennís individual talents, and, on a lower level, for other membersí talents. This concept of a ę good song Ľ may seems simplistic or reductive but I deeply believe it. I believe in the power of well crafted song, which can touch lots of people. If it was not the case for our songs, you would not see that many people coming to our shows. You would only see people older than us and soon you would see nobody at all. That is why we still have such success, such a large following, and thatís why we continue having them. Even if we only have two new songs to offer, beyond the two that were included on the DVD, the Eagles machine still goes at full belt. And itís going to continue this way because people love our songs.
Crossroads : You are a talented writer and recognized as such. In my opinion, we owe you the best song on the album ę The long run Ľ, with ę I canít tell you why Ľ.
TBS : I donít underestimate my contribution to the band. I believe that beyond our songs there is an alchemy, and indeed, I am fully a part of it. Believe me there are strong characters in this band and it is not always easy. And this is not my sole point of view. Life within the band is not an easy game for anyone. Regarding your acknowledgment on my part in the band, I appreciate it, thanks, but it is just your opinion.The only thing I can say about ę I canít tell you why Ľ is that itís a good song, in the way that I mentioned earlier. It represents the man sitting here opposite you : it is a simple and direct song, soft but firm (laughing !). Letís say that I try to get along with everybody and try to avoid creating trouble.
Crossroads :The four musicians, on this DVD, seem to have fun. Yet one canít forget tensions, hatred, that ruled the band when you decided to split, in 1980. Are you really in peaceful terms with each other today ? What is the situation today ?
TBS : In many ways things havenít changed ! What has changed is that we donít see each other much except when we are touring. We are on good terms with each other, but we only get together to work. Thank God, we still experience that intense goose bump feeling on stage which was the reason that we always wanted-as kids-to do this job, especially on such a scale ! But for sure, there are still some tensions between us.
Crossroads : Do you have any regrets not to be able to see each other more often, beyond the shows and the rehearsals ?
TBS : I have no regrets, maybe just that there could be more straight, direct, honest communication between us. But thatís just the way it is !
Crossroads : It is funny to know that the Eagles are so closely associated with California rock, when you are the only one with a Californian background and roots. (TBS is born in 1947 in Oakland)
TBS : Yes, you are right, it is quite ironic. One from Texas (Don Henley), one from Detroit (Glenn Frey) and another one from Cleveland in Ohio (Joe Walsh). And former band members were not born in California either.
Crossroads : How did you become involved with the Eagles ? You joined the band at a time when the Eagles reached an immense commercial success with Hotel California, and three years later, the whole band spit up ? How did you experience this split, yourself coming from the successful band ę Poco Ľ ?
TBS : That is not exactly right : at that time, it became obvious to me that in spite of relative success, Poco was not that popular in the States. If we were heading the show in New York (concerts at the Fillmore East), on the other hand, in Illinois for example, we were just the opening act (support band). People talk to me often about Poco in Europe, more than in the States. In many respects, I realize now that the band was much more famous and appreciated in Europe than in America.
But in 1976, I was feeling that Poco was starting to stagnate, that less and less people were coming to our shows, that less and less money was coming in. I was getting tired. I was not spending anymore time with those guys, beyond the concerts and the rehearsals. It was not that I did not like them any longer, but there was something missing in the band, especially since Richie Furay had left. When Richie was still in the band, he was a great source of inspiration for me and a dear friend. This friendship still goes on today, and I actually sing on his last solo record. But at that time, I was starting to be dishearted, and I had decided to be available for new offers. I actually asked Irving Azoff if he knew if Steely Dan - from whom he was also the manager - needed a singer for the forthcoming tour. I was ready to jump on any opportunity to have fun again. I was clearly ready for something new. So itís Irving who explained to the Eagles that I was ready to leave Poco. Randy Meisner had just left the band. So I was a logical choice : I was available, I was the bass player, able to sing high notes, I was writing material, and above all, a man easy to deal with, easier at least than the other members. That is why one day, Glenn called me to ask me if I wanted to be part of the band. To be honest, I was expecting his call. At that time, my neighbour was J.D. Souther, and Souther had spoken about my availability to the Eagles, and had told me secretly that the Eagles were ready to give me the job but I had to wait to receive an official call. When Glenn called me, I had a Poco tour going on. I stood on this tour, without saying a word with the others, but still keeping the link with Azoff and the Eagles. When I came back to L.A, I decided to annouced my departure officially to the Poco members. I couldnít keep it to myself any longer. That was too hard. I finally asked the Eagles the right to tell my ex-partners that I was leaving them, and I went to Rusty Young, Paul Cotton and George Grantham that I was quitting. This is exactly what happened and how I joined the Eagles.
Crossroads : How could you describe yourself ?
TBS : (after a long silence). I would say that I am a human work in progress. There is one part of me that is very shy, but on the other hand, I have a strong understanding of what is right and what is wrong, and I would always act upon what I believe to be right. I am not saying that I never harmed anybody or that I never made some questionable decisions, but I really try to learn to what is right and to communicate with othersÖ(after a while).. You are asking a difficult question (still thinking). Yes, I try to act fairly, according to principles that I also try to teach my children. In another way, I believe that it is important to behave well, and to realise that we are all in the same boat. I hate lies. If you happen to be in a difficult situation, you have to tell the truth, whatever the price, even if the truth has a high price, and hurts. From a professional point of vue, I feel that I am a better songwriter than I used to be, and also that I have improved as a singer. I really believe that I am more creative that I ever been. And naturally, but it may sound obvious, I try to take care of my family, my children, and dedicate as much time as possible. I donít know what I could add. I try to do my best. I may sound a bit strange saying that but this really what I want to say. I have a strong sense of morality.
Crossroads : When I listen to your last solo album (ę Feed the fire Ľ), I was surprised to realise that all your songs were love songs. Do you have plans to release another album and would it be in the same style ?
TBS : I have very good songs ready. The record wonít be released soon though, Iím afraid, but I will complete it. I donít care if it wonít sell much ; even if itís only 20 copies, because I have the luxury to be able to do what I like, with nothing to prove to anybody. I donít have any instructions to respect, I owe nothing to any music company. Recording is just a healing process for me. It is a good thing for me to keep on writing even if often, the first attempt isnít that good. But thatís it. It is often necessary to get out your first trial, which can be disapointing, even embarassing, before being able to reach something acceptable. People often ask me who are my favorite musicians. They associate my music with some kind of soft rock, aerial, based on sweet harmonies, when the artists I appreciate the most have nothing to do with this style : I like Tom Waits, for example. I like Paul Rodgers (the historic singer in Free, Bad Company, the Firm, with Jimmy Page, and now Queen). I love ZZ top. I love black music. I love, I mean I really love old time bluegrass ! And this is to explain that, quite often, I spend days trying to write songs and nothing comes out. Till the day that the begining of a an idea pops out suddenly, and I leave it growing with other ideas, before putting them together, when I feel that the result could be worthwile. And even if I donít write for the Eagles, I recently offered them a song that could fit the Eagles format. I threw this demo to them, in the same way that I would have thrown a frisbee to see if somebody will catch it.
Crossroads : When you feel that you are holding a good song, do you keep it for yourself or do you submit it to the band ?
TBS : (long silence) It is not because I think I wrote a good song that everybody would feel the same ! I have brought a lot of new material in the past, many songs-completed from start to finish- that I brought to the Eagles, but they have all been rejected, to say the least. I got over it. I can adjust. But it happened that a year later, listening to this or that song again, I finally realised that it wasnít that good ! Often you are just lacking distance. That it is the reason why it is important to have somebody next to you who can judge your work and share his opinion. You can be the only person on earth that believes that you are a good songwriter !
Crossroads : Do you have the ability to communicate with your fans, to seek advice from people who listen to your music ?
TBS : On a personal level, I have a very devoted fan base, that is very involved in what I am recording. But often we forget that the word ęfan Ľ, on the first degree, means ę fanatic Ľ, which means that the people that like you are ready to like anything you do. So I am a bit sceptical of those jugements. The music that I am writing today and that I was talking about earlier pleases me a lot. If people donít get it, well, too bad ! Tough luck !
Crossroads : Is your family the first to hear your work when you are writing new material ?
TBS : of course !
Crossroads : You are an excellent bass player. Do you still practice a lot ?
TBS : No, not at all. I seldom play the bass when I am not touring with the Eagles or recording my own solo albums. Besides, bass guitar is very physical. I know what I am talking about, I Ďve been playing the instrument for the last forty years, more or less ! Yet, when I get myself ready to go on tour, I take up the instrument for few weeks, to train, on a physical sense ! Playing the bass is so physical that it affects my muscles. I have, by the way, developed chronic tendinitis for having played the bass so much!
Crossroads : Letís go back to the Eagles, if you donít mind. We already know the bandís interest in black music. Are you as much a fan as Don Henley and Glenn Frey of that music ?
TBS : Certainly ! I have a 13 year old son, who loves music. When the Funk Brothers came down to play in Los Angeles, I took him with me and he was stunned, amazed, like everybody in the audience by the way. I was pleased because it shows his open mind regarding music. And I am proud that he knows who was James Jamerson.
(PS : the Funk Brothers were studio musicians who played on most of the classic Motown records in the í60s and í70s. James Jamerson, their bassist, was called ę the hook Ľ, for he always played with the same finger. He died in 1983).
I am also proud that my son likes Stevie Wonder bass lines, which are phenomenal, that he knows Gladys Knight. But yes, to go back to your question, I am a black music fan., even more than when soul music was fashionable. It is, I believe, because I am a better musician now and that I can understand to which point this music was rich and complexe.
Crossroads : Why did you decide to release this DVD ? Did you really want to do it or was just to pay your taxes ?
TBS : To be very honest, on a personal level, I havenít decided anything. The idea came from Glenn, maybe encouraged by our producer Irving Azoff. I didnít know if this DVD idea was a good one or not, even if it wouldnít do us any harm. But still, what could we include on it ? Edit a new live, repackage old songs ? What did I know about it ? I am never part of those decisions. Whatever, when this DVD came out, it immediately became number one in the States.
Crossroads : Considering the marketing done here in France to promote this DVD, it seems that it will go the same way here ! Itís a fact, the Eagles are more popular today than ever.
TBS : Sincerely, I believe so. It is a fact that amazes us all. And the most incredible thing about it is that we do not know why we are so popular, other than the theory that we spoke about earlier, regarding the quality of the songsÖ Indeed, I feel deep within me that the only valid reason, the only logical explanation is the quality of our songs. It is still something that strikes us all. Do you realise that during our last tour, all our concerts were sold out ! And everytime, I say to myself, wow ! Whatís happening, itís incredible ! (TBS gets lively) We are bigger than ever. And we are all in our fifties ! thatís really cool ! So, I really canít complain, I am a very lucky man !
Crossroads : On a personal level, I am crazy about sound. The 5.1 system, for example, is an invention that amazes me. Are you too obsessed with recording studio ? After all, your last album was recorded using the HDCD system ?
TBS : I am really not a technician. I still record my songs on an old tape recorder that I Ďve been using since the seventies. I use it as a note-pad to gather my ideas, and this is only later that I go to the studio with my sound engineer. Of course, I love it when the songs sound as good as possible, but I also like a certain kind of roughness. The sound of my new album will certainly be less produced than the previous ones. There is one song, for example, that I recorded live with my guitar and a microphone that will sound really rough. The bass rhythm comes from my hand tapping on my leg. The rhythm that replaces the high drum comes from fingertips on my guitar. It is quite experimental.
Crossroads : The sound on the DVD ďFarewell 1Ē is just jaw dropping.
TBS: It was recorded and mixed by Elliott Scheiner. He is the best in this 5.1 field. I know that the ďHell freezes OverĒ DVD used to be the demonstration material for Home cinema salesmen. And it is Eliott who also did itÖ
Crossroads : What kind of music do you listen to?
TBS: I listen to a lot of music, all different styles, thanks to my kids, who listen to a lot of stuff. The eldest is 21 year old, the second 13, as I told you, and they have taken me to many concerts. Thatís how I Ďve been able to see Queens of the Stone Age, the Killers, Jimmy Eat World, Audioslave, many new bands! I took my son with me to see System of Down in Amsterdam, one free evening during our tour. Do I like those groups? Not really! I know them because I heard their songs on the radio. They offer us the best seats, they invite us backstage and are really nice with us. It is one of the great perks of my business: I am lucky to be offered all those benefits, and my son is delighted to be able to meet the musicians he adores. Anyway, I am open to anything. Itís true I donít like to listen to their Cds right to the end, but I enjoy hearing one song on the radio from time to time. Basically, I try to be aware of new releases, to be kept informed. Ah, I nearly forgot : I am a great ACDC fan. Their music is excellent, and also sounds great. Al those guys are great musicians.
Crossroads : Are there any musicians youíd like to play with, except the Eagles?
TBS: Among the people I would easily call, there is Keb Moí, that I really like. I wonder if he would accept to play one or two songs for me. I think I am going to ask him. And then there is Jennifer Warnes who is a great singer, a bit under rated. I know her and I think she would accept to sing for me. You know there is so much talent around us: it is really hard to choose. And then I am going to hear James Brown in a few days. I first saw him back in 1964. I was the only white man in the audience at that time. And even though I know that he is getting old and that his performance wonít equal what he could do in the past, I still encourage everybody to go and see him live. What a showman!
So spoke TBS, a courteous man, very calm, and so aware of his good luck and his advantages. He is aware that his power within one of the greatest rock bands of our time is extremely reduced, not to say negligeable. Whether he adjusts to it, or just pretends to adjust to it, he clearly doesnít want to quit the band. That is so obvious. If the band splits again, it will not be because of him, as he clearly said. Schmit gives me the impression of a musician frustrated not to be able to take more advantage of his luck, like writing songs for the Eagles. So why is this band of geniuses unable to go back to the studio? TBS is ready, he told us so. We sensed that he became extremely lively and enthousiastic when we mentioned a new studio album.