Interview Riff West by John Molet
Hi, As you know in France, and especially on "Road to Jacksonville" our southern rock website, we were happy when we learned about Gator Country Band foundation and I wanted to ask you some questions for the French and the world fans about these great Molly Hatchet musicians?
RTJ : First, I want to tell you that all the real Molly Hatchet fans dream about Gator Country line-up. Can you tell us how did you get the idea to meet and come back with Bruce, Duane, Jimmy, Steve and you ?
RIFF: Thank you and all the fans, so much for your continued support and interest in our new band. The idea behind Gator Country was that we've all been gigging individually, a couple of us together, or several like Southern Rock Allstars; so we thought why not give this a go all being together again!! All of our other bands will still continue to play as we'll only do occasional GCB gigs.
RTJ : I've read that this reunion was only to get a good time for special shows and events. Don't you think you could come back as a top southern band ?
RIFF: Yes, that's pretty much correct about special shows and events. We really just want to have some fun again. No heavy touring, no BS, no bickering, no record company pressure, or anything like that. Just the good times of playing, like in the early days.
RTJ : Sometimes we dream about a new cd or dvd ?
RIFF: We do have plans to record; as all of have songs we've written over the years. Jimmy gave me some new tune recordings a while back that are awesome....we'll probably have one in the set pretty soon.
RTJ : By the way, if it does happen (a cd or a dvd), do you think your music will have the same sound as Molly Hatchet ?
RIFF: Hmmm....like which Hatchet? Just kidding !!
RTJ : Sometimes musicians go in a different musical way, there is an evolution. What about you ? Are some of you guys that now are no more or less in the Molly Hatchet spirit ?
RIFF: I think we'll always be in the "Hatchet spirit"....most of us spent the better part of our formative musical years of adult life with the band. Hopefully, we all progress some and pick up new ideas, guitar/bass licks, and musical influences.
RTJ : So, unconsciously, I see that I only talk about Molly Hatchet, and this band is still alive without you for a long time now. I've read the letter you wrote about Gator Country Band creation, and your will not to make problems with Bobby Ingram band. I think it is really honourable, but don't you really think, deeply in you, that you can bring the fans in a kind of trouble ? Because you are the real legitimate Molly Hatchet !!
RIFF: I appreciate the kind words. That letter was from my heart - I have never had any ill will towards anyone that's ever been in MHB....or, actually, anyone period. What we did as MHB was a long time ago; we're all still proud of the accomplishments and just want to do a little of it again....but this time as Gator Country. Also, no problems should ever arise with the 2 bands now playing some of the same songs; certainly not from our side as we'll do everything in a forthright and legal manner as requested. You ask about BI: I credit his determination for what he has done for so many years. I don't begrudge anyone for trying to keep a band going and making a living for himself, but I don't totally agree with certain things that took place in the past....as there's such a fine line between what's the friendship / camaraderie side and the business side. But it's no big deal, we've discussed it; that's just my feelings and I'm not asking for anyone to agree or disagree. So please, no more controversies, ok? The world goes on, doesn't it?
RTJ : What did you feel when you heard about Dave Hlubeck' come back in the band ?
RIFF: Pleased for David - disappointed for us, of course. But, I didn't then and do not now, have any problems with it at all. It's no big secret that it was a financial situation. We knew what was going to happen....as he certainly wasn't the only one asked to join MH after we posted GCB was definitely together as a band. Sorta coincidental, as no one was ever asked before. I was amazed by the "behind the scenes" transactions going on, but once again, that's the business side of the music world. David and I have been close friends for a very, very long time and that won't change because we're not in the same band right now at this point. I do look forward to him jamming with us at times, tho. We talk quite a bit.... as recently as the night before last when he was home in Florida. I wish him well - nothing but the best.
RTJ : In Europe, we didn't really enjoy the last tour without Dave. He was in the same time on tour with Mike Estes and Skinny Molly. Isn't it a problem for Southern Rock to be in different bands in the same time ?
RIFF: Yeah, that was odd wasn't it. But, I won't comment anymore than that as I'm certainly not privy to anymore than what we all read. But, a lot of rockers sometimes play in different bands at the same time. Gator Country has too many to count!!
RTJ : Can you still earn your living with Southern Rock in the United States nowadays ?
RIFF: That I haven't any idea - you'll need to ask the guys doing it fulltime for a living. I would certainly think you could.
RTJ : We think that Bobby Ingram (and we already told him) did a great job to let the Molly Hatchet legend still alive. What do you think about that ?
RIFF: He's very tenacious businessman, and no doubt he's a great musician. I do feel the band "name" Molly Hatchet has been kept alive - I just hesitate to say the "legend" has. To me personally, the Danny Joe Brown era was the "legendary part" of the bands history, he was person highlighted in the golden years. Now don't get me wrong....hey, we weren't exactly setting the world on fire even with Danny at the end in '90, so I can't say anything would be different if all of us continued. The entire music scene is so different than 15-20 years ago. It's very bittersweet to be honest....anyone can take that however they wish, but nothing derogatory is intended at all.
RTJ : You have seen that Molly Hatchet was getting worse and worse in the mid-nineties. Could you imagine at this moment that ten years later could be still alive and well now ?
RIFF: I disagree the band was "getting worse and worse" (I think that may be language misinterpretation); but, yes I'm amazed with the duration and longevity with so many members coming and going. But, they've all been outstanding musicians. The present band is great-Tim is one of my favorite bassist and, come on, you can't go wrong with Dave Hlubek back. I've said many times - our biggest mistake in the early days was losing him.
RTJ : Are you surprised that Molly Hatchet is always on the road now, and that they always have a great success ?
RIFF: I actually do not know how much time they spend on the road or the success ratio of their gigs. I do know from my experiences that the road's hard and some nights are really good and some just aren't....it's always been that way.
RTJ : Always just to try to know, without wanting to make any problem, we just have listened to the new album, Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge, and we are surprised in the heavy way the band seems nom to play. Do you enjoy such a musical way, and do you think it could be the same if you were still in the band ?
RIFF: I have the new album and agree it's pretty heavy compared to others in the past - older and newer editions. Am I surprised? No. BI has always leaned a little more that way than some of us. Certainly nothing wrong with that and let's give credit where due- he's the one that's still recording, right?
RTJ : So I stop to make some comparisons, but I think you must understand that every fan has such questions in his mind, mustn't you ?
RIFF: Of course I understand you need to ask these type questions. But, I also realize that some of my answers are going to misconstrued by some and spin-doctored as needed by others. The past several years have taught me many lessons, so I try to be honest as possible without upsetting anyone!!
RTJ : I now want to talk about a sad subject, I mean the lost of Danny. Many tears have come in the fans' eyes, and march the 10th is a bad day forever ! You were very close from Danny, can you tell us some words about this wonderful guy ?
RIFF: This is a question I won't hold back on. Everyone in the world knows about him as a singer - but, Danny was a very unique "person". When he liked you, you were his friend forever and he would give you the shirt off his back. His battles with "partying" are well documented, but there was a wonderfully kind and spiritual side of him that very few people saw and experienced - an incredibly kind soul. I'm so fortunate to have been his band mate and, mostly, his dear friend. Not a day goes by that I don't think of Danny and miss him dearly. Please let me add: while it saddens me that he was abandoned by some in his time of need; I would like to say Phil McCormack stayed in touch with him and that was very sincerely appreciated by Danny, his family, myself, and the others that stood by him.... Phil is a man respected. Thank you, my friend - you rock.
RTJ : So, with the bad news, Jakson Spires is also gone. Did you know well him ?
RIFF: Another great guy we all miss. I knew him for over 20 years as we toured many, many times together. Never could you meet a more sincere person. Jak was always the first person there if you needed anything.
RTJ : If we think about it, with all the great southern rockers that are now gone, don't you feel that Southern Rock is born under a bad sign ?
RIFF: No, no, no.... it's just a part of life, I guess. I'm sure all those guys enjoyed, and are thankful for, every minute they had in the Southern Rock era. Sadly, we lose people we admire everyday - you just hope everyone lived their life to the fullest!
RTJ : So, let's go back to Gator Country. Will you often play together ?
RIFF: No, probably not very often.... maybe a few times each month - if that. We're not out to constantly tour and be "stars". We just want to go and have a good time! When I get on stage with these guys I just smile....and to be part of a rhythm section with Bruce again is simply awesome.
RTJ : We have some ideas about the songs you're gonna play, but can you tell us more about this set-list ?
RIFF: Right now it's (in no particular order): Bounty Hunter, All Over Now, Gator Country, Bloody Reunion, Beatin' the Odds, Whiskey Man, Dreams (w/Danny's tribute every show), Rambler, Boogie No More, Long Tall Sally, Flirtin' with Disaster,...and more we'll be adding.
RTJ : I think you still work in the same time. What do you do in life, do you work, and do the other musicians work do ? Do you play with other bands ?
RIFF: Ha - oh yes, here in the real world. I (w/ a business partner) have a digital recording studio and a production company that works with lot's of bands. I do some stuff with my buddy and Orlando neighbor Pat Travers; a great musician, friend, and wonder person who is another animal lover that's always assisting me with my yearly Animal Benefits....for which I have my benefit band "Riff West & Friends". Plus, I've been teaching/lecturing in the music department at Rollins College in Orlando for the past 4-5 years. My life with my family, my work, and the new band GCB is very fulfilling....I haven't any complaints what so ever. My sincere thanks to God up above for all he's presented to me!!
RTJ : What do you think about the Southern bands today ? Do you know the new southern groups ? Do you still enjoy Skynyrd, 38 Special, etc… ?
RIFF: To me, a lot of the new country music is Southern Rock and I love it! Sure, I still enjoy the older bands you mentioned, too. The kinda newer one like Raging Slab, Gov. Mule always rocked and I've also been a fan of Lizard for many years. I consider Southern Rock Allstars a "new" southern band - they just have veteran players. Their new music is fantastic. A lot of great musicians are keeping Southern Rock alive!!
RTJ : Have you ever seen on stage Jeff Carlisi, Ed King, Dean Doughtry's Deep South ? RIFF: Yes, I've seen all these guys.... all excellent players.
RTJ : Hughie Thomasson leaves Skynyrd to join the new Outlaws… it's an example that shows that Southern Rock will never die, don't you think ?
RIFF: No, it never will die. Funny - just talking about Huey and Henry Paul this afternoon. Now there's a reunion of a fantastic band. They just played here in central Florida and really kicked ass. I'm happy for all those guys!!
RTJ : I've seen pictures on Kieran Keegan website, with the first album logo behind you. It really moved me, and I think the audience must have felt it too, mustn't it ?
RIFF: That backdrop was a surprise to us too!! It was a present from Universal Studios as a "welcome back" gift. We also had a new Gator Country backdrop made - so we'll proudly use both!! Yeah, the audience went wild when that was uncovered at the gig.
RTJ : I don't want to take too much of your precious time, but I'd like that you say hello from all the fans around the world and especially in France to Duane, Jimmy, Bruce, Steve, for the true passion you gave us with the great Rock n' Roll band Molly Hatchet. If you want to say some words to the French fans here on our website, don't hesitate to do it now !
RIFF: Thank you so much for the opportunity to do your interview. We look forward to seeing you all and thanking you for the support when we tour France. We, as GATOR COUNTRY, are proud to help carry on the history and music of MHB. I'm just honored to have even been a small part of it. I join many others in remembering, giving thanks and admiration to Danny Joe Brown, Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland, Steve Holland, Bruce Crump, and Banner Thomas for creating it. Job well done guys.... damn well done !!
RTJ : Last question, like for every interview on Road to Jacksonville, we'd like to know if you had to go on a desert island for the end of your life, which would be the 5 or 6 albums you take with you ? (if you know tell us about Duane, Jimmy, Bruce and Steve's choice).
RIFF: Wow....only 5 or 6, that's hard - there's many. Ok....Meet the Beatles, Zeppelin II, Deep Purple's In Rock, Prince's Purple Rain, Eagles Hell Freezes Over/Greatest Hits (is that fair?) and Molly Hatchet's Double Trouble Live.... hey sorry, I'm vain Thank you again Riff, it's a real pleasure to know you are still alive and well, because you and your music are forever in our heads and in our souls !!
RIFF: My thanks to you, John.
Hopefully, we can gig with your band CALIBRE 12 when we come to France!! Take care and keep rockin' !! Keep on Rockin' John Molet