Interview with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen

This interview with guitarist Rick Nielsen took place before a Cheap Trick concert in the summer of 1995, backstage at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom. The band was still signed to Warner Music, and touring in support of their record Woke Up With a Monster.

Cheap Trick pickThe interview setting was extremely relaxed, with Rick lying back on a tired looking little sofa as if he was in a therapy session. During the whole interview drummer Bun E. Carlos sat across from me, minding his own business buried in a comic book. The original interview was 35 minutes, and it has been edited down to 16 minutes.

Nielsen was extremely candid about working with major labels and producers, their lack of success in the later part of their career and some of the reasons for it. Rick was more guarded when asked about Cheap Trick's (now ex-)manager, Ken Adamany. I asked a quick question about his family, whether he had kids in the music business. It was quickly obvious the subject of family was off limits, and we quickly moved on to another topic.

Cheap Trick set list, foot scuffs provided by bassist Tom Petersson
Cheap Trick 2000 Tour set list

At the time of this interview, Cheap Trick had not released their boxed set – Sex, America, Cheap Trick – nor had they recorded with Steve Albini or released a single on SubPop Records. At the time of this interview, it is clear the band was looking for direction. Rick suggested twice in the interview that I take on the role of reviving their career. "Why don't you do it?" he asked towards the end of our conversation.

Ultimately I did not take on this role for the band, but it's possible that our conversation may have been a catalyst for change, or at least an affirmation of what the band was already thinking. We talk about working with hot producers like Butch Vig and Steve Albini. We talk about Jonathon Poneman, Cheap Trick fan and founder of SubPop Records. We talk about putting out a compilation disk with rare tracks. We talk about releasing more live records. Almost 2 years later Cheap Trick released a box set jammed with rare tracks. They released another live CD. They recorded a song with Steve Albini (released on SubPop) and their newest CD will have Albini as producer. We discussed Urge Overkill, and in summer 2000 Urge frontman Nash Kato toured with the group.

The good news is after they left Warner, Cheap Trick finally made a record the way they wanted to – Cheap Trick (1997). If you ever liked this band, I suggest you pick it up and visit their extensive website at www.cheaptrick.com.