It’s been a year since Newtopia’s interview with Nitebob. I’ve interviewed a presidential candidate and former governor, famous filmmakers, the great John Trudell, and who’s more well known than Marianne Williamson? But Nitebob is by far the most popular interview I’ve ever done. Bob is out on tour with Steely Dan again, but he graciously found time to answer more questions.
Don’t know Nitebob? He toured with Iggy and the Stooges and the New York Dolls in the ’70s, has done sound for a who’s who of rock stars in every decade since, and he’s the guy they all turn to when they can’t remember what they were playing, where they were, or what happened. He’s seen rock and roll history from bands like The Doors and MC5 live to being there when the notorious bootleg Metallic K.O. was recorded at an Iggy and the Stooges show. He took Steven Tyler to see Spinal Tap. Bob jammed with Bon Scott’s AC/DC in a hotel bar. He’s the high priest of all things rock and has performed countless good deeds and miracles in service of it.
You can read Newtopia’s first interview with Bob with a biographical introduction here. Now to go in depth with Bob.
NITEBOB: You lose touch with people over the years, the landline goes away, they move. The Internet and Facebook made it easy to re connect. I started contacting people from my past, most of whom were influential in my life. It can be awkward and uncomfortable for some people when you meet up, uncomfortable for them. I am used to it haha. I have found that people don’t change all that much. The same personality traits that were present a long time ago are usually still there. Their lives have changed along with their goals. Some are happy, some are not. It’s like a rock and roll high school reunion.
NEWTOPIA. Your art form is sound, what is it you’re after when you’re mixing and what have you had to change to adapt from the old analog boards of the ’70s to today’s digital systems?
NITEBOB: I want to present the music to an audience in a form that is enjoyable. I feel that the experience of a group of like-minded people gathering to experience live music is one of the most primal experiences. You participate. For me it never gets old. Tiny club, nice theater, Arena or 100,000+ festival. You can’t download it, you have to be there. YouTube is musical voyeurism. When a show ends, it exists in your memory, positive or negative experience. I remember some shows like it was yesterday, others I don’t remember at all. The really great shows are artistically satisfying, but sometimes the really bad ones just will not go away. I love what I do, and consider myself lucky to have this career for over 40 years. Adapting to digital consoles has been easy. If you are computer fluent, the learning curve is fast. It is very convenient; the sound is a different story. I prefer an analog desk because it sounds better to me
NEWTOPIA: Last time we met you played me a recording of the Stooges in rehearsal that you said changed your life. When and where was that and how did it change your life?
NITEBOB: The rehearsal was in the summer of 1973 at CBS Studios in NYC. I was hired to help them with their shows at Max’s Kansas City. I went to the rehearsal to meet them and to be prepared for those shows. I couldn’t believe the fury and intensity of the music. When they were not playing they returned to being cool laid-back guys from Detroit. I was not prepared. At one point Iggy was dancing on top of a grand piano naked. I was sitting next to a union CBS engineer, with a white shirt and tie, in the control room. He turned to me and said, “Does he do this all the time?” Half of the songs they were playing were new, post Raw Power. They were moving forward. You can hear some of the rehearsals and a Max’s gig from the summer of 1973 on the Easy Action Heavy Liquid box set.
NEWTOPIA. One of your own bands was inspired by the MC5 and played the Catholic High School Circuit. Please tell our readers about how you got a sing along going that almost always got the plug pulled on the gig.
NITEBOB: I had a band around 1970 that played a circuit of Catholic high schools in New Jersey. They were great gigs of anywhere from 200 to a 1000 kids a show. They paid great, and you could play every Friday and Saturday. We were influenced by The Yardbirds, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Motown, and the MC5. We would start our third set with Kick Out The Jams by the MC5. We had a really good PA and nobody missed the word motherfucker in the opening of the song. Word got around, and we were told that we could not use that word. Our singer would announce that we were going to play it but had been told we could not use that word…but the audience could…we would say Kick Out The Jams, and the audience would scream motherfucker…sometimes we got away with it, but most times they would pull the plug on the power. We eventually replaced it with a crazy version of “I Want To Take You Higher”
NEWTOPIA: Tell us about your dad who worked on the lunar module and your mom the photojournalist war correspondent. How did they influence your own work?
NITEBOB: My father was an engineer and worked for a company called Kearfott that designed flight guidance systems for the government. Influential on a tech level for me because I was introduced to high tech equipment. My dad was also a big fan of music. My Mom was in the photography department of the Navy in WWII. There were cameras around all the time. She loved country music. After the war she worked at RCA making tubes. My house growing up was filled with music, technology and photographs.
NEWTOPIA: What was so fun about the New York Dolls? What was the reaction like to them in the nether regions of America?
NITEBOB: In the early NYC days it was really fun scene. Crazy gigs, hanging at Max’s, lots of girls around. It was like a gang of equals having a good time. To be honest, sometimes the nether region shows were better than the big cities. People letting go, having a good time, it was out. It was special. It was fun. Just listen to Personality Crisis. Now taking The Dolls thru an airport in Knoxville, Tennessee…people would stop and stare at them, like they were from another planet.
NEWTOPIA: You’ve seen sweeping change in this world. You saw band after band ruling the world, music important and valuable, sex, drugs and rock and roll took over the world and now blare out at us from every car commercial and ad for booze. Yet the rock culture seems to be rapidly disappearing. Do you have a theory about what happened?
NITEBOB: The Internet and personal computers have dissipated the rock culture. It was youth culture. Now the youth culture is Instagram and Facebook. Kids are isolated, staring at a laptop screen or a Smartphone. You can watch a band on YouTube from the comfort of your home. By doing that you miss the energy of being in a room with a band playing so loud you can’t think of anything else. Hip Hop seemed more dangerous than Slayer. Look at the popularity of EDM, no band just a DJ and his computer. Shows are too expensive, and young people can’t get into any shows that sell alcohol, so they look elsewhere.
NEWTOPIA: What inspires you to try every day to help cats survive kill shelters and injuries?
NITEBOB: What inspires me? The fact that the simple act of sharing a cat on the euth list on Facebook can help that cat get rescued or adopted, somebody might see it and step up. It’s a positive action that can actually help.
NEWTOPIA. The most unlikely rise you witnessed in the music business and the most tragic fall.
NITEBOB: Rise: Laurie Anderson having a hit single in the UK with Oh Superman. Fall: Record companies ignoring file sharing, which resulted in the destruction of record companies, record store, the concept of an album, tour support, artist development.
NEWTOPIA. You’ve done some work on the definitive B.C. Rich book soon to be published. Tell us a little about what made B.C Rich different from say Fender or Gibson.
NITEBOB: The early BC Rich guitars were the ultimate Southern California guitar of the early 70’s, in my opinion.. Handmade by super skilled craftsmen from Mexico in East LA. Totally hand made, no CNC machines, they even made their own tools. Each one was slightly different. They listened to what the players wanted and incorporated a neck thru design and custom electronics.
NEWTOPIA: Tell us story about your pals The Ramones.
NITEBOB: I was on the Ramones Farewell tour, which was Lollapalooza 1996. I was mixing Psychotica. Our dressing room was always next to the Ramones’ dressing room. The Ramones would run through their songs everyday and fight, everyday. I would go and see them at CB’s because they were fun with short catchy songs, leather jackets and Chuck Taylor sneakers. I never mixed a Ramones show. I did do some projects with Joey and Dee Dee after the Farewell tour.
NEWTOPIA: Did the rock critic Lester Bangs get Metallic K.O. right in his classic reports on Iggy for Creem magazine? You were there. Did Iggy really go to war with that biker in the audience? What actually happened?
NITEBOB: I was there for the Oct 3rd show at the Michigan Palace, which makes up half of Metallic K.O. Just about every Stooges show was about war…audience conflict. At the end of Search and Destroy, if he didn’t come back to the stage, I had to go into the audience and find him by following the microphone cable, and had to carry him back to the stage. There is a detailed description in Paul Trykna’s book Open Up and Bleed.
NEWTOPIA: Now that you’ve helped him with his book, do you think Joe Perry might teach you how to relate to horses?
NITEBOB: Haha, All I did with Joe’s book was submit some photos and clear up some guitar info. I look forward to reading it when it comes out.
NITEBOB: In the mid 70s there were no vintage guitar stores, guitar dealers would come by shows, bringing their guitars to sell. Pete Alenoff of St Paul, MN was one of those guys with a lot of style. Pete would show up in a metallic red 59 Cadillac loaded with rare vintage guitars and a couple of scantily clad gals to help him bring the guitars in. If you had a day off, Pete would come and pick you up and a night of chaos, girls, and bars would follow. These were different times. We liked to have some fun on our days off, which were few and far between.
NEWTOPIA: You appear in and you recently attended the premier in NYC of the new Johnny Thunder’s documentary. How’s the film and what was it like to see your friends from the days of the Dolls reunited?
NITEBOB: Ah. Looking For Johnny, very moving, very fair look at Johnny Thunders. Danny Garcia made an excellent documentary. I spent time with Johnny during the New York Dolls and the early days of the Heartbreakers…then our paths diverged. The documentary filled in a lot of blanks for me of his early life and the post Heartbreakers years. Johnny was the guy with the big hair and the too small clothes that you saw at the Fillmore. When I started touring with the dolls, I roomed with JT. That didn’t last long, hahaha. The last third of the movie made me feel really sad. And that sadness pervaded for a couple of weeks after I saw the doc. You cant put your arms around a memory. People like Peter Jordan, Bob Gruen, Lenny Kaye, Walter Lure, Cynthia Ross, Phyllis Stein are still here and still making music…
NEWTOPIA: What gives you hope these days?
NITEBOB: NYC bands like Fraulein, Tempt and The Indecent give me hope for a better musical future. Eddie from Detroit and his band The Sights give me hope. James Williamson and Ginger Wildheart give me hope. Lucid Nation gives me hope.
Article written by Tamra Spivey
Newtopia staff writer TAMRA SPIVEY is a founding member and primary singer of Lucid Nation, executive producer of the documentaries Rap is War and Exile Nation, and associate producer of The Gits documentary. She was art editor and west coast editor of Newtopia Magazine in its former incarnation, collaborating on in depth interviews with whistle blower Michael Ruppert, ACLU and record business honcho Danny Goldberg, and grassroots political strategist Larry Tramutola. Follow her on twitter @MongrelPatriot.