End of Summer Bash
Tags Summer Stage
Big Flats, NY
Saturday September 21
By: Joseph Suto
Saturday Septemeber 21, Tags Summer Stage in Big Flats, NY will welcome Ratt along with Warrant, FireHouse and Kix. The show will put the exclamation point on the summer of 2019. This is exactly the type of show to close out the outdoor concert season before we embrace on another long cold winter in upstate New York. We were able to talk to FireHouse guitarist Bill Leverty as the bands prepare for the big show. Check out as he updates us on FireHouse as well as what else he is currently up to.
Rock Show Critique: The last time we did an interview was 2011, so it’s been eight years. It’s been a long, long time. So let’s start off with the first question that’s probably on a lot of FireHouse fans minds. Prime Time is the last studio album of all new material. Will there be a new album in the near future and why has it taken so long between albums?
Bill Leverty: We hope to do one. You know, we’ve been really busy touring and we wanna make sure the next time we put out a Firehouse song or especially an album, we want to make sure that it’s a good, high quality album. You know, life starts to go and you start doing a lot of things in your life. We tour so much. Last year we did almost 60 shows and we’re flying all of them. So when we come home, we’re wanting to spend time with our families and we’re going to need a little time to recover. Then you get a little time with your family, then you got to take a day to get ready to fly out. We’re busy with stuff, we all wanna do it and we hope to do it, so I would just say stay tuned.
RSC: Okay. so I’ve seen you guys a bunch of times over the years and it seems like every time I see you guys play live you really come up with a really good set list. You’re always changing something in the set. How do you guys arrive at what to play for the set? Especially when you’re the headliner.
BL: When we’re headlining, we get to do a full show and we can kind of fill in the blanks of the alternate songs in our playlist or whatever. But when we open up sometimes we get 45 minutes or an hour or whatever. If we just play the songs that everybody knows us by that’s almost an hour. So we can’t go out there and not play “Reach for the Sky” or “All She Wrote” or “Love of a Lifetime” or “When I look into Your Eyes” or “Don’t Treat Me Bad” or blah, blah, blah you know, we got to do those. So it gets back to the more time we get to play in our set list, the more we can go into playing deep cuts and we love them all. I mean we love all the songs and it’s really exciting to all of us just to get up and play these songs. I got to keep in mind that there are a lot of people that are out there that are seeing us for the first time, but they might’ve heard a song or two. When we get to play a headlining show there’s a lot more room for improvisation and a lot more room for playing some of these other songs that our hardcore fans know, but maybe the fan that knows us for our singles might not know. We just sit down and we go, hey, what songs should we put in a set list that’ll make this different? And we argue about it for about 10 minutes and then we come up with the answer. (laughs)
RSC: So you guys pretty much have everything down then you, I mean, have you ever had to go back and relearn any particular songs?
BL: Oh yeah, yeah. I have to refresh all the time. the songs that I’ve been playing as singles. Just because when you go out and play, let’s say Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, and you go home Sunday, you got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before you fly out to the next show, you haven’t played in four days. You can tend to get a little bit dusty. So I gotta practice everything a lot, all the time. I would say that the other guys probably don’t have to, because they got it together a little better than I do. As far as going back into the catalog and playing songs that we haven’t played ever, or in 10, 15 years or whatever, I definitely have to go back and do my homework. We’re doing a couple of songs lately in our headlining set that we hadn’t played until we had just recently added them in there. A song called “Get In Touch”, which is off our second record, that was a lot of fun to do cause pulling that one out we hadn’t really played it. I don’t know why we didn’t play it when the record came out. It’s probably because of the scenario I described earlier, which was we were opening up for let’s say Poison or whatever. We had 45 minutes to play and there just wasn’t room for it. Now that we’re getting to do more headlining shows, there is room and we like to put it in there it’s a fun song.
RSC: Well like you’ve mentioned you opened for Poison on that tour which also included the Damn Yankees, which was a pretty big major tour. That was the first show we ever had at our Darien Lake Amphitheater out here when it first opened up. Out of all the tours that you’ve been a part of do you have a favorite one or one that sticks out maybe per se, a little bit more than others?
BL: You know they all stick out in a positive way for different reasons. The first tour that we did that was a big amphitheater, huge venue tour was with Warrant in 1991. That was awesome for so many reasons, you know, not the least of which was that it was our first big tour. So being out playing big audiences like that and you know, with the big pa and it was sold out everywhere. We got along great with the Warrant guys and with Trixter who was also on that tour. We’re still friends with those bands to this day. And that was just exciting cause it was, it was all so new to us. And then we went straight back into the studio to record our second record. And before the record was even mixed, we were out on the road with Tesla and that was supposed to be for three months. The tour was so successful that we were out on the road for nine months. And you know, that was so memorable and wonderful cause the guys were so cool to us and their crew was so cool to us and we got to play a little longer set and they just did so many things that just made life so easy for us. Where it was just so well routed or there weren’t like these 600 mile drives between gigs and so that was fantastic. And then like you said, the Poison/Damn Yankees tour going out there every gig was sold out. You know, Ted Nugent who was the guitarist for Damn Yankees, is one of my biggest influences, I got to eat dinner with him every night and just the coolest guy in the world. And that the cool thing is like all these bands, we’re still friendly with and it’s really nice over the years to still be able to see somebody and have them remember. Like when we saw Ted Nugent a couple of years ago at Sturgis and he remembered me and we talked for a little bit. It’s just a great feeling. You know, you kind of have to pinch yourself and think you’re not dreaming. But that was a great tour. One of the tours that we don’t talk about enough because nobody has heard of the band here in the states was in the winter of 92 when we went to Europe and we toured with a band called Status Quo. Status Quo at that time had sold over 111 million records. They were as big as the Stones over there. Nobody really knows about them over here because they never really had a single, and they never toured over here because they were doing so well over there. They didn’t want to come over here and play smaller venues and open up for people or anything. So they just stayed over there where they are from. But that was an awesome tour. I mean, they sold out Wembley three nights in a row. And we were their support band. I mean they sold out the NEC two nights in a row. We got to play all these countries and places in Europe that was just a wonderful experience for us to be over there touring at that level with a band that’s that huge you know, as kind of a, a band that was just being introduced to Europe. So that was a great experience. And there are many more. I mean every time we’ve done a tour, there’ve been challenges, but we’ve walked away going, wow, you know, that was really a lot of fun.
RSC: Well, all the touring and everything, are you guys releasing a live DVD anytime in the future?
BL: What would love to, I don’t have any plans of it, that I know of, but but we, we would certainly love to.
RSC: Yeah. Cause I don’t think commercially there’s anything available out there right now.
BL: Well, Rock on the Road, which was our first time we went to Japan, I don’t know if Sony’s put that out on DVD, I’d be surprised if they didn’t. because it’s, you know. That’s our live video that we’ve done. We did it in the early part of our career, but that’s about it at this point.
RSC: It looks like this bill that we got coming up here outside in Big Flats in New York on the 21st. We got Ratt and Warrant and you guys and Kix sounds like it’s going to be an awesome show. You got four bands that can still really bring it live. And it should be a whale of a time. What can the fans expect?
BL: I think they can expect a hell of a lot of fun and a little trip back down memory lane of what the good old days were like and how the good old days are still here. We’ve done a lot of shows with Ratt and when you get to hear all the songs that they had that were hits that are really part of our DNA, one after the other, what an amazing catalog they have. Warrant, they sound better than ever. I mean they are just a remarkable, great time rock and roll, powerful band. And Kix, Oh my God. I mean they’re just such an amazing band. And the cool thing is that everybody in all of these bands are just really cool. I mean, we all get along really well and we all try to make it so we can put on the best show as a team. We’re all on the same team. We want to make sure that the people who buy a ticket have the best experience. Tags has always been such a wonderful venue to play. He’s a big part of making the experience really good for the fans. He’s been doing it for a long time and he knows how to make it so when you come out to one of his shows, cause it is his show, that the fans are going to be treated right. And so it’s going to be great to get back to that part of New York again and rock that house.
RSC: Well before we go, just a quick update on what else have you been working on. Throughout the last few years you always seem to be releasing some solo stuff online and stuff like that. What else have you got going on?
BL: Yeah. So every time I write a song that fits my voice, I put it out myself and I just release it as a single and you can go check them out at my website, www.leverty.com. Once I get another group of 10 together, I’ll press up some cds and make them available. I’m working on my 10th Song of my fifth batch, so this will be my fifth solo album that I’m going to be putting out here. I’m about to start my 10th song. So I’ve already released nine of these and they’re on iTunes and all that, but I’d rather people get them from my website because that way Apple doesn’t get their 40 cents for the song. People are going to pay 99 cents on iTunes, or they can come to my website and buy two songs for 99 cents. I kinda like doing it that way. I keep writing and recording and I’ve been doing some other projects with other people where they’ll hire me as a guitar player to play a solo or something. And that’s been fun. I do a bit of mixing for artists and I love mixing songs and albums and you know, just making music. It’s what I do full time and I’m really blessed to be able to still keep it going.