***This is the second part of my experiences with Tora Tora and their 25 year anniversary. Part #1 includes a history of the band and my personal review of their 25th anniversary show. This second part includes a telephone conversation/interview with lead vocalist Anthony Corder***
By a strange twist of fate back in November I had the opportunity to travel from Toronto Canada to Memphis Tennessee to catch the 25th Anniversary concert of Tora Tora, a band that I have been following since I was sixteen, but had never seen play live. The experience was overwhelming and Tora Tora put on an excellent show that night, not disappointing me on any level. I was able to meet all of the band, they made me feel welcome and allowed me to celebrate with them for this milestone occasion. Here’s the link to part #1 of “25 Years of Tora Tora-Meister in Memphis”: http://steeletech.us/decibelgeek/?p=705. After some arranging to co-ordinate our busy schedules vocalist Anthony Corder and I were able to hook up for a phone conversation/interview last week in which he shared with me some of the past, present and future of Anthony Corder and Tora Tora.
Anthony: Hey this is Anthony!
Meister: Hello from Canada!
Anthony: Hey, how you doing man? Glad to hear from you.
Meister: I’m good. Finally we get our schedules together to chat!
Anthony: Yeah, sorry about that man. It’s been kinda nuts around here with the holidays and everything.
Anthony: Man, that’s OK. We all have things going on, don’t even sweat it. Man, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you coming down to Memphis, man, and hanging with us and writing a really nice review. Real great of you.
Meister: That was awesome man! I’ve been wanting to see you guys since…..since Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, since I first heard Dancing With A Gypsy, so it was just such a thrill for me to be able to go down and catch you guys live and hang out with you guys for a little bit too.
Anthony: Oh yeah, we love Memphis. Man, it’s always such a fun time to go down there and hang out.
Meister: It was my first time there too, so I took the next day and saw a little bit of the city and stuff like that, so…….
Anthony: Oh, cool, so did you go by Graceland and all that stuff?
Meister: No, I didn’t go to Graceland. I was thinking to, but just didn’t have the time and plus it was absolutely pouring rain on the Sunday, so I didn’t feel like trekking out there in the rain, so I just hung out in the blues clubs on Beale Street.
Anthony: Yeah, we had…..we had, uh…….down in Memphis they have these severe thunderstorms and tornado watches that happen and sometimes when they happen, the tornado alarm goes off, you know, like a big siren. We actually got trapped in Graceland, in the basement of Graceland with one of our managers back in the day. A guy from New York and we ended up sitting in the basement of Graceland for about 45 minutes while they let the storm roll over. It was funny. It was pretty hilarious, our manager was a guy, your normal kinda New Yorker, Brooklyn kinda guy and he was in the middle and there was like 30 people on the tour or whatever, he proceeds to reach in his pocket and pull out a pack of cigarettes and go over and sit down on one of the stools at the bar. We’re like “Ahhhhhh!” We’re like “it’s Elvis’s house, you can’t go over there and sit down and spark a cigarette up!”
Meister: Yeah (laughs), He wasn’t quite getting it?
Anthony: Yeah, it was pretty awesome (laughs). Yeah it was funny, he was a great guy. But anyway man, it was just so fun and it always brings back a lot of memories for us to go there. We’ve played that venue since, I think I was probably 16, the first time I went in there and played with the band.
Meister: At The New Daisy?
Anthony: Yeah. Same guy, same promoter, I’ve known that guy my whole life man!
Meister: Oh really? That’s great that you can have a long standing relationship like that, 25 years later here you guys all are together, like the original four members is kind of unusual, but now you’ve got the promoter that you’ve been working with for that long too……
Anthony: Yeah and that venue has been there, I mean, forever and back in the day that place, when we came along there was probably, I don’t know, probably 12 or 15 rock bands, they were all getting label interest and we had all the A&R folks and all the biggest guys were coming to Memphis, it was just a really great….we all kinda blossomed about the same time and I mean it was a good rock scene.
Meister: Right. Did you guys have any sort of rivalries back then with any of those other bands?
Anthony: There was definitely rivalries, but it was like a good competitive spirit, like we were all kinda rooting for each other because if one person got attention then it kinda helped everybody, you know.
Meister: You’re all kinda pushing each other to do better in yourselves at the same time.
Anthony: But I mean there was definitely the competitive part, of like you know, we really want to write good songs and crowd wise, when we pull a crowd is a bigger staple. You know, we came along it was probably, Roxy Blue, Every Mother’s Nightmare, let me think, who else was there. There was a band called Thrust that was out that we played with a lot. Who else did we play with…..I know I’m blanking here, a million people ’cause we just played so much. There was a group called (Dykes/Dives?) that we actually opened up for that later became Johnny Gray they were really good friends of ours. There was the Eric Gales Band, I don’t know if you remember Eric Gales but he was awesome.
Meister: I have the Picture Of A Thousand Faces album actually. I haven’t heard that in a long time actually.
Oh Yeah? We actually were in Ardent Studios kinda at the same time, all of us kinda came along at the same time. And so we eventually, like on the Wild America record, we were sharing a practice area with him at an old studio that still had all the glass up for separating the rooms and all that. That we could kinda do our pre-production in and we had one area of the building and he had another area, so we got to know them really well. Trying to think who else…..the guys in (Dykes/Dives?), they gave us our first gig, opening gig there at the Daisy and we became really good friends with them. That band eventually turned into a group called Johnny Gray, oh, there was another band called T & A, they were big, they were really big a few of their guys ended up, I’m trying to think….I think….I know for sure the guitar player, he ended up in Saliva, remember that band?
Meister: Oh OK, yeah, I actually have one of their albums too.
Anthony: Yeah, he ended up in that band, and they were in a band, before it was Saliva they were called (Blackbone?) and we used to play with those guys. So, we all knew each other and we were all kinda rooting for each other….
Meister: That’s actually great when you have an atmosphere like that where everybody helps each other out and kinda supports each other.
Anthony: It was funny, you know back in the day at that point there was a rock station called rock 98 that was in Memphis and there was a DJ named Malcolm Ryker. He started this locals only 30 minute or hour long home grown music show and at that venue, that you were at (The New Daisy Theatre), they would do a Tuesday night jam that was sponsored by a local music store that would provide the back line and everything and you could run out and do like 15 minutes or three songs whatever lasted longer, and it was just hilarious. I mean back then when we very first got together, like our first time we ever really cranked up we were playing like 2112 and doing Temples of the Syrinx. Oh man it was so funny, like the band, the Tora Tora band had been a group before I joined and it was a band called (Blackenthroat?), kinda like Iron Maiden there were two duelling guitars and a really good singer and John was the drummer and there was a different bass player. Keith and Patrick had known each other since, like grade school, so when that band started disbanding they kinda got together and Keith was like, you know we ought to start doing something with this drummer I was working with and they were together, the three of them. Patrick, the bass player and I went to high school together and I was kinda trying to learn how to sing or whatever with some old garage band in our local neighbourhood. We had some, little bit of success not a lot, but like for us at that age we were playing like Battle of the Bands or the local talent gigs or whatever. Some of our friends would come out and see us and that’s when Patrick kinda approached me and said “Why don’t you come to this thing and you know, come audition for us”. It was really funny ’cause I was so nervous, I was like scared to death, they were a couple years older than me, like they were seniors or right outta high school and I was like tenth grade or something, so I was scared to death. And I walk in and they were playing like I Want You To Want Me, …..Bad Company’s Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love……what else did they play…..oh, they played like ZZ Top, like a lot of just classic things, easy things just to see if it was gonna work. But I think that we just kinda felt the very first time we got together, we’re like wow this might actually….you know……
Anthony: Yeah, it was funny, I remember going to The Daisy and the first time that we played there, I like walked out on stage and I could feel my heart just beating in my chest like it was about to come out of my chest, I was scared!
Meister: That’s a huge thing at that age to be up there in front of so many people.
Anthony: See, when that local station was promoting it on the air that building would be packed to the brim because people that were under age didn’t really have anywhere to go see concerts, so when they would do that it was an all ages thing where under age musicians could play. I mean it would mix all the high schools from all over Memphis would come there and support their local band.
Meister: Great opportunity for a young band. I hated that when I was under age and couldn’t get into the bar to see my favourite band play.
Anthony: Yeah, it was awesome and it was good for the bands you know, we get to see each other and see what other people were doing. I think the competitive thing was really with the high schools, like Keith and John in our band went to one high school and Patrick and I went to another one, so we kinda mashed our two groups together and so we automatically kinda had a bigger following. But it was really fun and that thing led to the opening shows and eventually we got the support where we could try to do our own shows.
Meister: Now I’ve heard and let me know if this is true, but I heard that originally you were going to call the band “Free Beer”?
Anthony: I mean I’m sure that everybody in the world thinks of this, but we were trying to think of a way to get people to show up, you know, we were like surely if we stick that outside somebody’s gonna come! I think that’s one of the first gigs that we played as a group, we played a place called College Inn that was a place that would hold maybe 30 people, I don’t know or 40 people and they paid us with a keg and guaranteed us some kinda money and we went and set up the night before and got to drink some beer and we thought that was just freakin’ top of the world you know.
Meister: How old were you then?
Anthony: We were 16 or 17, we were little (laughs). But we packed the place out with all of our buddies and it was such a wild ride, man. It was so fun because we got to do it together and we were such good friends. We got lucky, I mean it was like getting hit by lightening.
Meister: It’s just being in the right place at the right time and having someone “push that button” at the record company.
Anthony: Yeah, and we were lucky with Ardent you know, we got involved with them. We had won some recording time at their studio, we had kinda already started at our little independent studio, you know smaller place working on the EP (To Rock To Roll) and we’d won some time through a Battle of the Bands to go into Ardent and that’s when Paul Ebersold heard us and he was just starting out producing at Ardent. He came up to us and approached us and said hey maybe we could…..he heard us do a couple of tracks, he actually played piano on Phantom Rider, the original version of it and he said you know, maybe there’s a way we can work out a deal where we could do some kinda production deal with you all. We were all for it of course, we didn’t know anything, we were little and were just like “Man, yeah, tie me up and do this all the time! This is what I wanna do”. So they were really nice and he and John Fry were amazing and Joe Hardy of course came in on the project to do it and I mean to this day
John Fry, the owner of Ardent is still one of my mentors, I mean I still, you know, I don’t talk to him every day, but we still stay in touch, we’re pretty close and I think our friendship has meant more to me the older that I’ve gotten because I’ve realised he was kinda like a father figure to our band. We were little, we were kinda rowdy he would bring us into a conference room and draw a big pie and take one little sliver out and he’d look at the big portion and go “OK, you see this….this is everybody else and this little piece right here, that’s you all.” and we’re like “Great! sign us up! How do we get the press and get outta here?” He was kinda like you know, he would really take time to sit down and explain things to us.
Meister: That’s great that you had someone like that. I don’t think a lot of young bands get that.
Anthony: He’s still such a great friend and we laugh man. He’ll call me and I’ll tell him what I’m working on and stuff and then I’ll think about back then and I’ll be like “Man you know, do you remember being at the studio and like Greg Allman was there and the Lynyrd Skynyrd people?” I mean just all these people. We’d walk around and we kinda just took it all with a grain of salt, we were kinda like “Man, well this is my life now” and all these people were in and out of there. Stevie Ray Vaughan was cutting in there and these obviously like huge people and I still laugh to this day, Tom (Dowd?) was there for ever, he did all the Eric Clapton stuff and the Allman Brothers and all that. He was actually there working with Allman Brothers, but he was one of the most famous producers in the world, but we would be sitting there having a cup of coffee and we’d be talking to him about fishing and just all these kinda random things, we weren’t talking to him about what everybody else would want to know like his miking techniques and stuff.
Meister: Just talking to him about real everyday stuff.
Anthony: (laughs) Yeah, I think he got a real kick out of it because we were just kinda oblivious. It was kinda like we just treated him like somebody else at work, but it was awesome, we got to talk to him and hang out and there was a guy named Joe Gaines that produced a bunch of stuff and he was always great. When I think about it now, it’s just like somebody else’s life. Man that was just the craziest time of my life, but it was kinda like just riding lightening man. We were really busy and for about six years we just talked to A&M and we said “Hey, if you’ll keep us on the road and give us support we don’t wanna go home. We’ll just stay out here.” So we stayed really busy from about 1989 to 1994 and then we started kinda winding down, you know. The end of that Revolution Day was kind of a weird period for us and I had talked to Steve (Lockett at FnA Records) about this before when we were putting together our out takes records and all that because it was kinda…we knew when our A&R guy, he got offered a deal, really lucrative contract with another company and when he kinda stepped out of the picture it was kinda like your champion’s gone you know. And at the time, I mean we knew something was going on because we were friends with him and he was up front with us that he was gonna switch out, but we weren’t exactly sure of the impact it was gonna have on us and our career, you know, with what was gonna happen. I think in like hindsight, like man everything was kinda lined up you know perfectly like it should have been. Keith was getting ready to have a son and he was kinda on the fence, he was like “I definitely want to do the record, but I don’t know if I want to do, you know go back on tour for two years” or whatever we were gonna do. We were in the kinda frame of mind at the time, it was like hey, why don’t we just put it down for a minute and then we’ll get back together, you know when everybody gets ready to go again we’ll just ramp up and pick up. Man it took like 7 or 8 years before we even, you know played together again once we had eventually called it quits with each other. Patrick and I kept playing, he played in a couple local Memphis bands and I did too and I remember the day that we were deciding all this stuff I went down to Beale Street where there’s a place called Rum Boogie Cafe on the corner and there was a guy singing that night named James (Govan?) and he was the guy I went to see. I used to go down there and drink all the time, I just loved him, man, he could sing like Otis Redding and Al Green and all these songs, man he was awesome. He was real soul, he started out as a drummer and then he became the front guy for this group. His timing and his cadence and everything, just his singing in general I was a big fan. But I remember I went to see him and I was down there having a drink in the corner of that bar with him and I was like “Man, what am I gonna do man? My band’s gonna…..we’re gonna end up getting shelved on A&M, I’m not sure if we’re gonna keep going on the road.” and he just said, “Man you’re a singer, you’re just gonna keep singing. You’ll find a new buddy to play guitar with.” You know, that’s kinda when I bumped into Hal McCormack and we just kinda started doing our stuff.
Anthony: Yeah, we did a lot of stuff. We did, we had a couple of different versions of the band where it almost got kinda really fluid. Like we would play the same songs, but we would never kinda play ’em the same way. One night we’d have a B3 player with us, or there was a guy named Joe Boogie that played with us for a long time, that played keys and I mean they’d take off on solos he and Hal and sometimes the song would be like ten or fifteen minutes with a solo in there.
Meister: Just a kind of jam session each time you’re on stage?
Anthony: Yeah, so that part of it was kinda fun, we got to stretch ourselves out a little more as writers and players and I became better playing because I started to do a lot more.
Meister: You didn’t really play much in Tora Tora?
Anthony: No I didn’t. I think they gave me a guitar and I played into an amp one time and I just fell to my knees and just started like screeching and they’re like “Maybe we shouldn’t do that any more”. I wanted to do Jimi Hendrix or something there I guess and I didn’t have very good chops. But it was funny, with Keith and I it was really funny because he was kinda like the full on kick-ass heavy metal guitar player and I was like from the background of acoustic kinda stuff. My uncle and aunts had taught me how to play and they listen to like James Taylor and Neil Young. I mean they listen to everything, they’re huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fans and rock and roll stuff, but my family had more influence on me than I ever realised when I was growing up because they were all like really musical and I just thought that everybody’s family was like that, you know. Every time we got together we played records, people would play pia
nos and get out some guitars and singing.
Meister: So it was always around you even though you didn’t see it so much, you were always involved in music?
Anthony: Yeah, even to this day we still do it and what was funny was when I was growing up and kinda getting into it people would come with me to my grandmother’s or whatever and they’d be “Oh, you’re family’s playing a thing.” and I’d be like, “Man, c’mon let’s go jump in the car and get outta here, they’re jammin’, let’s go get into something.” And I didn’t realise how cool it was until I got older and I realised my uncle can do like some really great delta blues finger pickin’ and he was influenced by Mississippi John Hurt, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that guy?
Meister: No I haven’t.
Anthony: You oughta go check him out. He’s really cool, he’s really different. And I think he’s in some kinda open (teaming?) but when my uncle and aunt were learning to play guitar my granddad made him play a new standard so what they’re doing is really incredible what they’re pulling off and I didn’t realise it until I started playing myself and got further along in my picking I was like “Wow that’s really a cool technique that they’re doing.” They were a huge influence and we just have the best times, you know, now with technology and stuff I can pull a notepad out and get a voice memo or something, get ’em on tape and I’m trying to remember to do that more often now.
Meister: That way you’ve always got it to listen back to for memories and to cherish forever.
Anthony: Yeah, definitely man. And they’re doing some real old traditional songs and stuff, it’s just a lot of fun really.
Meister: That’s one of the things that I really enjoyed when I was down there as well, was walking up and down Beale Street was just walking into, on that Sunday night I just kept going into different places, the Rum Boogie was one and I don’t remember all the names of the places, but I just kept going into different ones and there was a different style of music in each one, you know, some soul or some blues or whatever and I’ve never experienced something like that before, a setting like that. It was just mesmerising each place I walked in to you were just mesmerised. It was a really cool experience for me too!
Anthony: It’s a really great melting pot of….it’s really eclectic musically like Nashville, the two cities remind me a lot of each other. It’s just that up here in Nashville they have more of a corporate infrastructure, they have like the PRO’s the BMI’s. It’s just much easier to get kinda plugged in to that corporate setting you know, in Memphis it’s a little bit tougher, people are kinda in their own little bubble. It’s a good thing creatively, but sometimes it works against you, sometimes you need that support with each other to get around other people, that survival mode sometimes is a deficit to you to kinda make it in the business side of things. It’s really weird they’re only like 200 miles apart and I’ve talked to my wife about this, if we ever got this close to home, we always just went home. We’d be like “Oh man, we can shoot right down 40 and be at home in like 3 hours or whatever.” We only played in Nashville something like maybe 4 times or something our whole career, which was pretty weird. And I didn’t know a lot about the music (row?) and all that stuff that I’m involved with now I’m kinda more on the country side with the company I’m with, their roots are more in the country genre it’s kinda funny.
Anthony: I’m their general manager, but I’m kinda their head of creative. I do, like, (song?) plugging, I’ll go and meet with managers and artists and record labels and all that and try to get songs placed on the radio.
Meister: So you’re still in the game, just from a different side of it?
Anthony: Yeah, a different side of it. We have 5 staff writers and I work with them every day when they’re all in there and trying to be creative. It was funny too man, when I first flip flopped and came up here I went to work at the labels for Sony and in marketing and that was a huge shock to the system man after being like a singer for a rock band and going into like a corporate culture, it was crazy. And I’m not kidding, I had an identity crisis one day and I got up out of my office and, like, took off and went to BMI and there was a security guy sitting there, I said “Hey, I just need to talk to somebody.” And he goes “Well what do you need to do?” “I’m a writer for BMI,” and he goes “Well, they have an open day today it just so happens, you can go talk to…..” whoever it was and I went in and told the guy “Hey, I’m a singer man and I’m sitting at a big desk with this computer and I don’t know what’s going on.” He said “Man, you’re in the right place ’cause everybody here is just like you.” He goes, “As long as you kick ass at your job,” he goes, “What you do on your own time is your own business.” I played him some music and we talked and it just made me feel like, man I was like, I just landed in the right city. But doing the gig I’m doing now I ended up bumping out into publishing a few years back and I meet with artists and song writers all the time and I’m always looking for new people to co-write and all this kinda stuff and the people walking in, they automatically see me behind the desk and they make this call, you know, of like who this guy is and I know they’re sitting there going, like, “I know this guy’s a desk jockey, he doesn’t have a clue. I’m like struggling, I’m waiting tables,” whatever their story is. They’re all trying to get plugged in to taking off and playing their music for people.
Meister: That’s a part of human nature, I think. We all judge a book by it’s cover more often than we should and most times we don’t even know we’re doing it.
Anthony: Yeah, and eventually through getting to know them and stuff, it’ll come up, you know, I’ll mention something about playing or something and kinda organically let it come up in the conversation and they’re like “Oh man, you used to play?” And I’m like “Yeah, I used to be in a heavy metal band.” and they can’t believe it, they like that, it’s fun, it’s just crazy. I still love it, I mean as much as I did when I was just starting out. I still keep guitars laying around the house all the time and I have three of my boys now so you know, I’m hoping that at some point they’ll get interested, I’m trying not to push them into that direction.
Meister: I don’t have kids myself, but I know with friends of mine that have kids, anything they’ve tried to push them into the kids usually turn away from, so I’m sure it’s better if they find it on their own.
Anthony: Yeah, the sweetest music in the world is when I hear my kid’s keyboard, now a days with all the technology the way it is, like with garage bands and all that they’ll be in there messing around with beats and stuff and I’m like, man that’s so awesome. I remember being little like that and trying to figure stuff out, they’re way beyond me, they have a lot cooler toys than I had way back when.
Meister: Technology sure has made a change in the whole music landscape everywhe
re, when I was a kid we were buying things on vinyl and then it went to cassettes and now you can’t find cassettes any more and CD’s are starting to get less and less, everything’s moving towards downloads and yet vinyl’s coming back around. Very strange trends.
Anthony: Yeah, you know the guy down at Ardent, there was a band out of Memphis called Big Star, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them?
Meister: No, I’ve never heard of them either.
Anthony: Man, you need to look them up, they’re pretty cool, they influenced a lot of the new rock kinda stuff, big influences on R.E.M. and the Pixies and people like that. But they’ve pressed some vinyl recently, the company Ardent has, actually I remember calling down there one day and John Fry, the guy that I was telling you that owns it, is pretty laid back, pretty mellow guy and when I called him, I could tell he was just like kinda hyped up, you know. I said, “Man, what is going on down there?” and he said “Man, we’re pressing vinyl!” and I was like “I’ll just call you back.” Man, he was on like cloud nine, you know. So it is making a comeback, you know it really is.
Meister: I don’t know really what the reason for that would be, but I personally prefer the vinyl. I think you get a much better sound out of it, it’s a lot cleaner on digital, but there’s something that’s missing, right?
Anthony: I don’t know, I think it’s just the warmth of it, man. It’s so compressed down and everything with MP3’s and stuff that I think you miss, like the full spectrum of everything that you’re supposed to be hearing, the bottom end and everything.
Meister: It’s more than the sound, if you buy something on I-tunes you don’t get any liner notes, you don’t get the cover artwork or any of that stuff. I’m a guy who likes to read all that and see who the band thanked and see who produced the record and all that kinda stuff.
Anthony: Exactly! And just to have that tangible piece of product.
Meister: Back when I was a kid buying stuff, like an album cover was almost more important than the music, not more important, but it was important what the record looked like and nice big pictures of the band on it too. Now you just download it and I don’t find the covers are very exciting any more either.
Anthony: Yeah, yeah, you can tell for sure. But anyway, it’s been an adventure man, I been doing this for twenty five years and I can’t believe I’m able to say that, we made it, we’re OK and everybody’s here.
Anthony: Oh man, we don’t take it for granted man, ’cause we don’t get to do it that often.
Meister: I was wondering, how often do you guys get to play together?
Anthony: We usually do, maybe one or two shows down in Memphis. We did a couple in 2008, we did the Rocklahoma festival, we had done a warm up gig in Memphis just to see if we could get through it and that very first one was really fun ’cause it was like the first time in 20 years that a lot of people had got to see us, you know where we did something big. But, we played a couple last year, we played with Whitesnake and Lynyrd Skynyrd on a Wounded Warriors Tour, so we don’t get to do them that much. Everybody’s….we all have children, we’re all kinda rock and roll dad’s so we’re all really interested in being present for our children’s lives right now and that was a big part of me making the leap from doing the singing thing into the corporate end, labels and all that. When I met my wife and we had our son and I was working on a record album out in California and, I was kinda burnt out anyway I’d been honky-tonking or playing a lot of club gigs and honky-tonking and I went out there to do this project. The people I was doing the project with wanted to party and hang out and I was like “Man, I do that all the time I just wanna work on being creative and all that.” I was gone for two weeks and man, I just had one of those moments of clarity. I was sitting on a beach and the boats were going by and the wind was blowing and I was writing for a record and I was like, man this is it I mean it doesn’t get any better than this, this is exactly what I want to do. But in the back of my mind I thought about it and I was like you know what, I’m not sharing it with my wife and my little boy and I don’t know if it was something about the trip that made me think, when I went back I told them, “You know what, if I’m not travelling with you all going with me then I just want to go ahead and take a break for a minute,” and I said “I don’t really know what I wanna do,” I’ve been a singer for however long you know 15 or 20 years, whatever it was when we met and we were sitting there talking. I took some odds and end jobs and I figured out real quick I didn’t want to do those for the rest of my life, I was like man, I gotta get a plan together. So I had left high school when I was with Tora Tora, I left to sign that production deal so I ended up going back to the University in Memphis and I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree. When I was doing that I had stayed in touch with my first manager from Surprise Attack and he had actually left management and went into the label side. He was running RCA New York and he wrote some letters of recommendation for me for my Masters and I told him, “Man you know, I want to stay involved in music and I think that intellectual property might be where I’m going, I might do some kind of legal stuff so I can help artists like me.” And he just kinda mentioned in passing in one of our emails or something “Well, if you ever get interested in the label side I could definitely help you do that”. So the opportunity came up, my family and my sister had all moved up to Nashville and so I wrote him back and said, “Man, you’re never gonna believe that this rock and roll dude wants to move to Nashville, I’m trying to figure out where I’m gonna land.” I told him I had applied to some law schools and stuff and I asked him for letters of recommendation again and he said, “You know, if you want to meet with Sony,” he goes, “I can get you a meeting in with them.” He mentioned an opportunity where I could come in and learn label operations and it was a worldwide thing for BMG for RCA. And what you did is you went in for 18 months and you could pick anywhere in the whole world, I mean any country that they had a part of the company in and I told him “It’s a no-brainer for me, I want to move to Nashville.” And he said, “OK, I’ll get you in the door and then you have to sell them on bringing you into this program.” And so that’s what we did. I came up here and met those people, I guess it was just supposed to happen, you never know where it’s gonna come from. I had known that guy for probably, I don’t know 15 or 17 years and every time he came through Memphis we’d always go meet and have drinks and I’d tell him what I was doing and it was just kinda crazy, but it was the best decision in the world man. We live in a great city up here and the boys are really happy and I kinda got long winded about the kids, but that’s kinda where we are, all of us.
Meister: Well it’s important for sure. you can’t
be gone on the road for 6 months at a time you’d never get to see your family.
Anthony: Yeah, it was real important for me. When my dad worked for a mail line when I was growing up and we’re originally from down in the delta in Mississippi and we moved to South Dakota and Houston, Texas and then down in southern Mississippi and then we landed in Memphis for 20 years and that’s where I met my band and everything, but I think after doing that and then doing the touring thing with bands for 15 years when I met my wife and we were having my son, I was kinda like man I just wanna go home.
Meister: Time for a different stage in life, right. Everyone goes through that in one way or another from when they were younger, maturing I think it’s called… (laughs).
Anthony: For sure. I’m kind getting the best of both worlds now, in that we can do a few one offs a year and I can kinda go and be rock and roll with the guys and be selective on the gigs that we’re doing.
Meister: Yeah, just do the ones that you want to do?
Anthony: Yeah, do the ones that we want to do. The boys get together sometimes and then if we want some adult time and go kick our heels up for a minute, it’s a lot of fun but I totally, totally miss the being on stage part. I mean, that was a huge thing for me and as far as the creative side I still write all the time but when I started working at that record label that’s when I got worried man, this has been such a big part of my life I can’t just turn it off you know. There was a friend of mine that worked at that company and he was in the promotions department and he travelled with some of the artists and played guitar with them when they’d do a radio tour or whatever and we happened to bump into each other one day in the hall. He knew I was new and we had talked about my band and stuff and he goes, “Man, give yourself about six months and you’re gonna start freaking out.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And he goes “I can’t explain it, but I’ve done it long enough that I can just tell from talking to you.” I was kinda new in the system, just being in a corporate setting and all that, I was kinda trying to figure that all out, he goes, “Once you get over the initial shock of this you’re gonna start wanting to write and all that stuff again.” Sure enough he was right! That was about the time, you know the story I told you when I went over to the BMI place and that. But now I’ve become fans of people up here that I’ve watched playing at write-arounds and at shows and stuff like that. I wanted to meet everybody right away when I walked in, but it’s kinda happened organically I’ve kinda gotten to know people and I’ve found people where it’s kinda come up like, “Hey after work we ought to get some beers sometime and get the guitars out.” In that sense it’s really exciting and I still feel like a student from the writing stand point and from our side of it, from the Tora (Tora) side we were really guitar riff oriented and have big hooks and all that and up here it’s kinda more singer/song writer and it’s real lyric driven where the people want to hear the story of their life told back to them so from that side it’s a different approach so I’ve been enjoying that the past few years being up here.
Meister: It’s good that you’re enjoying that side too. I always say that in life if you enjoy it, then you’re gonna do well at it. All these people that take a job just because it’s got a big pay cheque behind it they hate their jobs and that spills over into their personal life.
Anthony: Man, this is so weird! I had a conversation with a writer in my office, I mean we had the exact same conversation, it’s so funny that you just said that cause he was talking about the same exact thing, he was talking about getting the regular jobs and that and he goes, “I’ve done it all,” he was in all kinds of different businesses and he goes, “It’s just we’re all here because this is our passion.”
Meister: That’s exactly it!
Anthony: I mean, we’re still excited, we’re excited about getting together, tell you what, I think we’re gonna try to do a couple of shows in 2013, we’ve kinda already started talking about that.
Meister: Any in Canada? (laughs)
Anthony: (laughing) Man, we’ve actually been talking to Steve (FnA Records) about this rock club there, I was gonna ask you about it.
Meister: Yeah, I know the promoter and I hooked him up with Steve, so, you have me to blame for that one (laughing).
Anthony: Oh really! That’s awesome, no I’m so excited and it’s in Toronto right?
Meister: Yep, in a suburb of Toronto called Etobicoke.
Meister: It’s called The Rockpile Bar & Nightclub. I’ll send you a link to the website if you want to check it out.
Anthony: Cool, I’ll definitely look it up, yeah we’re totally in. I talked to John, the drummer, at the first of the week and he was like, “Man, I’m all about it” we just have to plan logistically with our families, so we’ll see what happens. We think it would be great to go somewhere totally different, we did the Rocklahoma thing and it was really fun. We got to see a bunch of fans that we hadn’t seen in a long time and it was just crazy. We hadn’t played out in so long and we saw people with t-shirts on and we’re like, “Oh my God!”
Meister: That must be a huge feeling when you see something like that as an artist, especially when you’ve been gone for so long and you see people still wearing your shirts, I couldn’t imagine that.
Anthony: Man, it’s just amazing. I can’t even describe it, it’s just incredible.
Meister: Well as a fan, I enjoy what you guys do and thank you for doing it. Just glad that I had the opportunity to come down and see you guys.
Anthony: Man, let’s please stay in touch with each other, I’ll keep you in the loop on any Tora (Tora) stuff.
Meister: That would be awesome.
Anthony: Keith and I still laugh, we’ve got music and stuff that we still talk about at rehearsals and stuff that we’ll run through at some point we’ll get something together.
Meister: You guys must still have a ton songs or old demos hanging around probably, ’cause those two albums that FnA released are all demos from the Surprise Attack and Wild America sessions. I’m thinking there’s gotta be a whole bunch from Revolution Day too, you guys write so many songs for an album.
Anthony: Man, yeah. We’re gonna go through ’em. We’ve got some different takes like there was a song called Nowhere To Go But Down that was on Wild America and we’ve got a version of that with the Memphis horns playing
at the end, we’ll for sure have something put together eventually.
Meister: Well, I guess I’ll let you go, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time.
Anthony: Hey, thank you so much for your time and thanks for the nice review, man.
Meister: No worries, I appreciate all you guys making me feel welcome when I came down there too.
Anthony: We’ll stay in touch. Man, I loved what you said in the review about my voice, I don’t really get to use it that much.
Meister: It’s actually, it’s not as high pitched I noticed as it was from back then, but I think it’s better.
Anthony: Oh, thank-you. For a long time I listened to……, I kinda got away from Tora Tora when we first broke up I really went into a lot of blues stuff. I started listening to like, Etta James and a lot of these female ladies, ’cause I loved Janis Joplin when I was younger and I started listening to them. I was telling you about my friend James (Govan??) the kinda soul guy and I always talk about how I just wish that my voice would mellow out, get some bottom end to it and stuff and I think it’s just kind of a natural progression of time.
Meister: Like you say, you were 16 or 17 then right so….
Anthony: I was laughing, a friend of mine called me the other night and his brother was in a band called The Breaks that were out of Memphis, but they were kind of a half a generation before us and they were signed to somebody out of New York, I can’t remember, might have been RCA, but anyway his brother’s still touring, like all the time. He’s like man, he can still….he doesn’t tour under that band name any more he’s like a solo artist or some kinda entertainer, but he was telling me that he can still hit all these notes. I was like well man, if you don’t stop, I mean if you always keep using it you never lose it. I’m at the point where I play a few acoustic gigs, like around here in Nashville and then I ramp it up for Keith and them before we head out. We all get together for a month or something and rehearse and I come down and do a few rehearsals with them so, but it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy it and I’m really happy that you got to come down here.
Anthony: Awesome, killer man stay in touch.
Meister: Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.
Anthony Corder also has a solo album entitled Tales From the Rock & Roll Rodeo which is available along with Corder/McCormack along with the Tora Tora releases at www.fnarecords.net
I’d like to send out a big thank-you to Anthony, Patrick, Keith and John for making this ole Canadian boy feel right at home with them in Memphis. All of the Tora Tora guys are down to earth and generally just great guys.
Cheers to another 25 boys!