You may have remembered him as the charasmatic lead singer of the glam band Silverhead, the voice behind hard rockers Detective, or briefly fronting pop sensations The Power Station. Perhaps you saw him in films or on television, or know of his stormy relationship with ex-wife and famed rock 'n' roll groupie Pamela Des Barres. The important fact is that legendary vocalist Michael Des Barres is back, and back with a vengeance, with a hot new band and rocking new album called Carnaby Street. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo had the honor of catching some time with Des Barres to talk about his storied career and this next phase in his musical life.
SoT: Carnaby Street, for many fans, has been a long time coming. What prompted you to get a new band together and get back into the studio?
Michael: Rock and Roll was always the most meaningful and fulfilling part of my life. After the excesses of my youth culminating in the private plane world of the Power Station. I wanted to return to acting...3 years ago I realised that I wanted to play rock 'n' roll music live! I felt compelled to revisit those rockin' bluesy bands that made an indeligible imprint on me in the '60s London...a magical time! I was in Austin and had written a lot of simple, to the point lyrics and was influenced by the great authentic musicians who lived there. I wrote songs with Jesse Dayton, who is a brilliant performer himself, and came back to Los Angeles and put a band together. God knows I've done that a few times! That became Carnaby Street.
SoT: Much of the music on Carnaby Street is rooted in late '60 and early '70s rock, soul, pop and funk. Can you talk about some of your musical influences, and how those influences helped shape the vision of the new band and the songs that wound up on the album?
Michael: When I was a kid in London every night was a rock and roll revelation. My influences were the raspy soul singers of the day. Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and the Blues Giants like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf...and always Elvis and Little Richard!
SoT: You've gotten some very talented musicians to work with you in this latest group-can you talk a little bit about their backgrounds and how you came into contact with them?
Michael: My collaborator in all this is Paul Ill, a magnificent chap, crazy cool bass player and afficionado of the music I descibe here. He assembled my band, who are all accomplished session musicians who love to play the kind of rock and roll you so kindly reviewed.
SoT: Let's go back in time a bit; Silverhead was the first name band you were in. How do you think that group fits into the glam/hard rock portion of rock n roll history?
Michael: I think it can only sound horribly pompous if I place Silverhead in the pantheon of rock and roll. We were five skinny, decadent, English boys who wanted to get laid and play rock and roll music. We are more popular now than then, which probably is the most interesting and illustrative thing about us!
SoT: On to Detective, a fabulous band that I believe never got the success it should have. What was it like working with those musicians, as well as rubbing elbows with Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, and the folks at Swan Song?
Michael: I had been rubbing elbows with the mighty Zeppelin since Silverhead days. It was an amazingly debauched, unspeakable, and magnificent time. I have the deepest respect for them to this day.
SoT: In your opinion, why did Detective not last and not achieve the fame that Zeppelin and Bad Company did? The quality of the material seemed to be there, and the band itself had the look and swagger...
Michael: Drugs basically!
SoT: After Detective, you jumped into acting, as well as briefly fronted Power Station. What was that period in your life like?
Michael: The Power Station was the culmination of every 'rock star' fantasy...topless teenage girls and huge crowds! Duran at their peak! Live Aid was a trult surreal and hilarious day, and since we all stayed at the same hotel, a helluva night!
I started acting as a child and was always fulfilled by it. Slipping into someone else could be written on my tombstone. Please forgive the double entendre!
SoT: Your ex wife Pamela has written two books, of which you are a big part of. Any interest in writing a book of your own?
SoT: Back to the Michael Des Barres Band-you've obviously played some live shows in recent times. How has that been, getting back in front of audiences again?
Michael: Playing live is the single most exhilarating form of self-expression for me, plain and simple.
SoT: There are a lot of younger bands coming out now who are creating music that is rooted in the '70s, influenced by acts such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Humble Pie, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, The Rolling Stones, Bad COmpany, Grand Funk Railroad, Free, The Faces, etc.. What do you think about the younger generation grabbing a liking to those classic sounds and trying to recreate that style for younger listeners today, as well to satisfy us older folks who remember those classic bands well?
Michael: The key to your terrific question is 'recreating'...the difference for me is, I am privileged to be one of those left standing who played a part in 'creating' it.
SoT: Now that the new CD is out, how have reviews been, from both the critics and fans alike?
Michael: Reviews have been gratifing and wonderful, from both critics and rock and roll lovers. Ninety percent of which acknowledge my debt to the past while remaining contemporary. Essentially I just want people to feel the joy and carnality of a groove which is in danger of extinction.
Our audience is surprisingly young people in their 20s with the occasional curious older ones who sneak out of the house when their spouse is asleep!
SoT: Look into your crystal ball-what's next for you, as well as the new band?
Michael: I have never looked to the future and am not interested in one's past dubious accomplishments. My crystal ball reflects what is happening now! Thanks again, so much, for your embracing our album. You have a front row seat waiting for you!
(Click here to read our review of Carnaby Street)