An Interview with Colin Gawel From Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? - Ricki C.

Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? will be playing their final show ay Ace of Cups Friday April 8th. Teenage Fanclub Fanclub opens the show at 6pm. FREE. Click here for details.


Ricki: How did the whole "Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?" project come about?

Colin: My son is big into basketball, so I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in gyms during the winter months. At one point during halftime somewhere, I think maybe Olentangy Orange Middle school, I got to thinking about how it's total bullshit that Cheap Trick isn't in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I used to have that thought a lot. Somehow, the idea of starting a band that was actually called "Why isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?" popped into my brain. I looked up the date of that year's induction ceremony, e-mailed the good folks at the Beachland Ballroom and pitched the idea. I had the whole thing booked by the end of the game. Of course, I had no plan or band, but I figured i could work that out later. 

Thankfully, the guys from The Lonely Bones were game with helping on the project. I'm proud to say we have come a long way since that first year. 

Ricki: Do you think you guys actually made an impact and helped Cheap Trick get into the Rock hall this year?

Colin: Obviously, Cheap Trick did all the heavy lifting by being Cheap Trick, but I think overall, the passion of their fan base pushed them over the top. I think we helped in a fun way and certainly our little band got lots of press in The Onion, Rolling Stone and Salon - among others - Andy Gray at the Youngstown Trib jumps to mind- so It was just a way to keep the idea alive and drink beer while doing so. But Cheap Trick has a huge network of dedicated fans working for this cause. Numerous fan pages and petitions were circulating. Ken Mills did a nice job on the subject in his podcast and DJ's like Lou Brutus, Howard Stern and Brian Phillips have been banging the Cheap Trick drum for years. 

It just goes to show what an impact Cheap Trick has made on so many people. As much as people champion other bands for the Rock Hall on Facebook, nobody actually does anything to make it happen. Cheap Trick fans were active and engaged in the cause and that says a lot about their relationship with their fans. So if you want the MC5 or Journey in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, get off your ass and organize. It can be done. Cheap Trick is living proof of that.

Ricki: Many people hate the idea of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and say it's better to not be inducted.

Colin: I know. That's not my opinion. There are all sorts of museums. Why not have one for rock n roll? A hall of fame is supposed to encourage conversation and debate. (see: Steroids and the Baseball Hall of Fame.) I'm all for anything that keeps rock n roll alive and the rock hall serves this purpose. Even when bands like Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments dis the hall, if validates it all the same. I mean, they care enough to write a song about blowing it up. The worst thing that could happen would be indifference. That isn't happening. People have very strong opinions about the institution itself and who should be included. I could post something about Mott the Hoople and the rock hall right now and get 20 comments in sixty seconds. Also, I know a few of the folks at the rock hall and they are good people. Fans like you and me. I mean, who is cooler than Lisa V.? Umm, nobody. That is the rock and roll hall of fame.

And I suppose it makes me a homer but I like that it's in Cleveland. If we can't get a sports title at least I can stare at Keith Moon's drum kit when I feel like it. My son and I visit every year and we always have a great time. Once again, what's not to like? Lighten up people. It's only rock and roll. 

Ricki: Watershed - when they were still a full-blown touring band entity - once did a show playing all Cheap Trick covers, kind of a precursor to Why Isn' t Cheap Trick In the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? What was the story on that?

Colin: If you have read the book Hitless Wonder you know Watershed only exists because of Cheap Trick. We cut our teeth growing up trying to play Cheap Trick covers so at some point we just decided to string them all together and do a free show. I think we did it at Skully's the same day the record Rockford came out. Not my favorite record, by the way. Click here to check out my complete Cheap Trick song rankings.

Trying to be like Cheap Trick helped Watershed become unique because nobody can be as good as Cheap Trick. It's just not possible. So we found our own little niche. Bands that aspire to sound like REM, U2, RHCP or even The Replacements just turn into half-assed versions of those bands. It's too easy. 

Ricki: Most of the Robin Zander lead vocals on Cheap Trick tunes are pitched in your old bandmate Joe Oestreich's vocal range. How do you pull those vocals off now?  

Colin: Before I answer that, let me say that  drums, bass and guitar all have their challenges to do these songs justice. Herb needs to ride the snare, Dan has to get close to Tom's sound and Rick has to play all those quirky Rick licks. As far as vocals go, about two weeks before the first Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? gig I thought I better get it together on vocals or this shit could go viral in a bad way. For the first time in my life I started doing vocal exercises and stuff like that. I can do it, but I have to be in good shape to pull it off. I think it has helped my singing overall, though.

Ricki: What was the first Cheap Trick song you learned to play all the way through? And how old were you when you learned it?

Colin: The quick answer would be "Hello There," but as for a more proper song I would guess "Downed." Both from the soundtrack to Over the Edge. Probably 6th or 7th grade?

Ricki: What's the most difficult Cheap Trick song to play? And what is the easiest?

Colin: For us, they are all challenging. I mean, in theory a song like "Surrender" shouldn't be very difficult but it's hard to do right without being Cheap Trick. Try it with your band and it won't sound good the first 20 times you play it. It may never sound good.  

Rick's writing is very quirky. Even the simple stuff suddenly drops in an A# just for the hell of it. "I Want You to Want Me" is pretty easy for me because it's basically a drum part and guitar solo with one guy singing over top. Rick and Herb have the hard work on that one. Vocally "Tonight It's You" is very challenging. And for songs like "Speak Now" and "Gonna Raise Hell" Dan has to have his bass sound locked in or it just sounds like over cooked pasta.

Ricki: Were there any Cheap Trick tunes you started to rehearse and then realized, "Damn, we're not good enough to do justice to this."?

We were doing "It's Only Love" from The Doctor for a while but it's a pain in the ass and nobody really liked it anyway, so we dropped it.

Ricki: These have always been free shows. It's obviously a lot of work to promote and perform. Why no cover charge?

It just wouldn't be a good fit for this project. We aren't trying to profit from the cause or from Cheap Trick's music. We have sold a decent amount of Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll hall of Fame? t-shirts but we plow the money back into advertising for the cause. We usually pass the hat at the end of shows and that helps us cover gas, beer and babysitters. Click here to read 'Your Shirt Sucks' a Cheap Trick recap. 

Ricki: You guys promised to disband when Cheap Trick got the nod, what are you guys going to do now?

For me, I need to spend the rest of the year getting a new Watershed record together. And I'm shooting a video for my solo track "Dad Can't Help You Now" in the near future. With Pencilstorm, the coffee shop and coaching little league, my plate is pretty full. I'm sure we will show up sometime under a new name. I mean, it's just too much fun playing these songs: maybe, I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends - A Tribute to Cheap Trick. Yeah, something like that may work.