(This interview was originally published February 13, 2011 on the now-retired Kickin’ it Old School blog. It is one installment in an incredible series of interviews we are republishing on Rediscover the ’80s for posterity and your enjoyment. These are more than just interviews in a way; they are more like ’80s timelines or oral histories on their respective subject matters. Please keep in mind the original date because some content could be specific to the time of the interview, though the majority should be timeless and totally rad.)
When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the ’80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.
This time that awesomeness is Eric Bazilian. He is best known as co-founder along with Rob Hyman of rock band The Hooters. In 1985, The Hooters had a multi-platinum album, but even before that, Bazilian and Hyman had helped write, arrange and play on the debut album of Cyndi Lauper. You’ll find out more about working on Cyndi Lauper’s album, The Hooters’ own hit album and more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Eric Bazilian…
Eric: We originally met in an electronic music class at the University of Pennsylvania [in 1971]. I was sitting on the floor playing an acoustic guitar. We went upstairs after the class to a piano and starting jamming. It clicked from the start.
Eric: The band name came from a friend who was engineering our first demo sessions. I had borrowed a melodica from some friends and the engineer started calling it a hooter. We liked it and decided to name the band after it. Unfortunately the band name has been confused more often than not with the anatomy. Had this usage already been in the vernacular in 1980 we probably would have kept looking.
Q: What were your goals/intentions when you were first starting out?
Eric: Our goals starting out were pretty common… to make some great music, entertain people, make a living, and, of course, world domination.
Q: How would you describe the musical influences on The Hooters sound?
Eric: Our influences are quite wide-ranging. Rob and I both grew up listening to British Invasion rock, blues, Motown, the popular music of the ’60s and ’70s. Rob turned me on to reggae and in the beginning we played a very heavily Ska and Reggae influenced form of rock music. The folk music influence came in later on, in the mid-80s.
Eric: Rick Chertoff was the drummer in the band Rob had at Penn [Baby Grand] that I joined when I met them. He had gone on to work as a staff producer at Columbia records. He brought us in to work with Cyndi on her first album. It was both challenging and inspiring working with her… she is brilliantly talented and exceptionally demanding.
Eric: Rob and Cyndi started writing “Time After Time” during the latter phase of recording She’s So Unusual. I know that Cyndi had come to Rob with the title and they had written the first draft of the song fairly quickly. I played the guitars and came up with the melodic introduction line. I knew from the first time they played me the chorus that the song was going to become a classic.
Q: Could you have ever anticipated the immediate popularity of She’s So Unusual and Cyndi Lauper? How did that album’s success and popularity impact The Hooters?
Eric: Neither Rob nor I had any idea that the album would achieve the kind of success it did. Of course its popularity brought us a lot of attention that proved most beneficial to our career with The Hooters.
Q: Your 1985 album Nervous Night was a huge worldwide success. The album would go multi-platinum and include four singles which charted on the Billboard Hot 100. When did you feel like you finally really made it?
Eric: I’m still waiting.
On July 13, 1985, The Hooters were a part of one of the most iconic pop culture events of the decade. The Philadelphia natives were the opening band at the segment of Live Aid held in JFK Stadium. This internationally televised event introduced the band to a global audience for the first time and that exposure subsequently translated to increased commercial success.
Eric: Our performance at Live Aid felt like it was over before it began. Ten minutes that changed our world. I keep a picture from that show in my studio as a constant reminder.
Here is a video of The Hooters performing at Live Aid in 1985…
Q: When you have mega hit songs like those, do you (or did you) ever get sick of playing them?
Eric: Actually, with one or two exceptions (which will absolutely remain unnamed), I love playing our hits.
Q: Your videos received frequent airplay on MTV at that time. This certainly helped to increase exposure and popularity. What are your thoughts on the impact that MTV had on music in the ’80s?
Eric: I think that MTV was a mixed blessing. I’m grateful that it helped launch our career.
Q: As the ’80s came to an end, The Hooters’ success was on the decline in the United States, but was on the rise in Europe. Other than changing musical tastes, is there any explanation for the decreasing popularity in the U.S.?
Eric: I’ve come up with various theories over the years on this. The truth is I wish I knew.
Q: Please take us through the circumstances surrounding The Hooters’ temporary break-up or hiatus in 1995.
Eric: I think that after 15 years of nonstop work with the Hooters we were ready to take a break. Rob and Rick had their concept for the Largo record and I was pursuing opportunities that presented themselves on the heels of the success of “One Of Us”. It was a good time for a break, though I don’t think that any of us thought it would last as long as it did.
Q: During the hiatus, you worked with Joan Osborne and wrote the hit song “One of Us.” Though not an ’80s song, it is certainly something I want to recognize. I am also curious about how the idea of the song originated. It was an interesting song topic, what inspired it? What was your intended message behind the song? Were you surprised at all by the overwhelming success the song had?
Eric: I wrote “One Of Us” in an hour one night during the sessions for Relish [Joan Osborne’s debut album]. It’s a cliche, but the song did write itself. In retrospect, I think that the lyric is a summation of my world view and I’m glad that my unconscious process was able to spell it out so clearly for me in the four minutes I spent actually writing it. The song has been interpreted and misinterpreted in many ways. Personally, I try to stay neutral.
The day after I wrote the song I played it for Joan, Rob and Rick. I knew that I had written something special, something that I was proud of, but it wasn’t until after Rick suggested Joan try singing it and I heard the combination of song and voice that I knew that the song was going to be heard. I was delighted but, with all humility, not surprised by its success.
In 1995, Joan Osborne released the hit single “One of Us” which would reach the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 and receive Grammy nominations including Record and Song of the Year. The song was written by Eric Bazilian and produced by Rick Chertoff. Bazilian and Rob Hyman also accompany the song and sing backing vocals. In recent years, The Hooters have also performed “One of Us” in their live shows.
Q: Some ’80s pop superstars “run away” from the ’80s and some embrace the success and fans from that decade. How do you personally deal with and keep the ’80s alive and in perspective?
Eric: I personally have mixed feelings about the cultural impact of the ’80s. What I do know is that it’s probably the last crop of pop/rock music that will be played by cover bands into this century and the next. “And We Danced” and “Day By Day” included, hopefully.
Q: After well over three decades in the business, from your perspectives, how has the music industry changed over that time? And how do you see the future?
Eric: The music industry has gone beyond the point of no return. I have no idea what it will look like moving into the future. I’m just grateful to have been working during what will be looked back on as its Golden Age.
Q: 2007 saw the release of Time Stand Still, The Hooters’ first album of new material since 1993. Any plans for a new album in the works? Do you plan on recording and releasing more new music with The Hooters?
Eric: Musically there’s a whole lot going on. I co-wrote Ricky Martin’s current single (which was just #1 on the Latin charts), “The Best Thing About Me Is You”. I’m doing local shows with my band. I’m really excited about a collaboration I’m doing with Mats Wester in Sweden. He’s a national treasure there, a personal hero of mine. We’ve been writing and recording for over ten years and we’re finally going public with our project, Bazilian & Wester. Check out his band, Nordman. Otherwise, I’m just looking for the next thing to come down the pike.
I am so happy that Eric took the time to answer my questions so I could share them with you here. Special thanks to Debbi Collard with The Hooters management for helping to coordinate the interview. If you want to find out more about him, you can visit his official website at EricBazilian.com or you can certainly visit The Hooters official website to find out more about the band. I want to take this opportunity to again thank Eric Bazilian for his contribution to ’80s pop culture with The Hooters and, even more, for taking some time to reminisce for a little while with us here as well.