We got ROCK LEGEND Phil Soussan to get with us on some questions. You know him from his stellar bass playing and songwriting with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, Vince Neil, Johnny Hallyday and John Waite, as well as a membership in Beggars & Thieves. Soussan has also played in bands featuring Jimmy Page, Steve Lukather, Edgar Winter and Richie Kotzen. Let’s check out his interview:
I am thankful to my mother for being instrumental in exposing me to various forms of music. Was there someone who opened your ears to music?
Phil: Yes, my Mom used to play the radio all day and sing along to songs. I was bought a kid record player at about 4 years old, and I used to sit in front of it changing records and singing along. About that time, my Mom’s musical cousins – two brothers who played just about every instrument, bought me a real 1/4 size acoustic guitar. The rest is history!
When was it that you decided to learn music? Were you formally educated or self-taught?
Phil: Both. I was self-taught on the guitar, melodicas, recorders – anything that made a sound! At about 8 I started taking proper recorder lessons and at 11 began classical violin and music theory studies.
I think all of us at one time cranked up some music and played air guitar to our heroes music, what were some of the bands you jumped around in your bedroom to?
Phil: The Carpenters… NOT!! David Bowie, T-Rex, Sweet, Slade, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Move, Wizzard, the Yardbirds, the Stones and of course the Beatles – all of these the first time round!
What were some of your early bands experiences? Did you take any lessons learned from those experiences and they are still relevant to you today?
Phil: I had a lot of American friends growing up in London and they placed a lot of importance on the quality of sound and their technique, compared to UK musicians that were not very polished. I started to practise a lot by watching in the mirror and I was able to see my technical faults better. I knew how it should look. I still do this today.
I’ve talked to a lot of musicians who have been “starstruck” by other musicians, has that ever happened to you?
Phil: Very few times… when I first had a chance to meet Jimmy Page, once I got to know him the familiarity kicked in and we became friends.
If there was any performer alive or not you could work with who would that be?
Phil: Elvis during the Sun Sessions era, Hendrix, Zeppelin during the LZ III years.
I love the idea of one-off “supergroup” projects, what would your ideal project be?
Phil: Big Noize with Sebastian Bach!
Is there a singular moment in your musical career that you are most proud of?
Phil: Walking on to the Stage at Wichita for my first US gig with Ozzy, and at Donnington in 1986.
I love your solo work and have a copy of “NO PROTECTION” can you tell us about the CD?
Phil: Thank you! I played and recorded virtually all the instruments on the record. I wanted to do a record where I performed and arranged the entire record. I first heard McCartney do it with “Maybe I’m Amazed” and I wanted to try the challenge of doing it myself. It was tough but I learned so much about imagining arrangements in my head. Some people think it’s because you want to be able to control everything, but it’s not. I think I wanted to do it is because I wanted to really get inside of music, from every perspective. And it was very difficult to do. But when you come through it, you are a better musician for it: you understand arrangements better, you understand all the instruments better. It takes four times as long to change one part, and I don’t have three other guys to say, “Hey, let’s change this”. I had to change it, record it, change that, record this, and then listen and realize, “No, it’s not working. I think I’ll do something else”. But what I got out of it was a sense in my head that, when I hear an idea now, I can imagine exactly how it should be arranged. And that’s something that I was not doing very well before. So it’s an amazing exercise. My last album “Vibrate” was fun to do but it was what I would call a compilation, a compilation meaning songs one written there, one written here, one written there, and every song put together into a collection written over a long period of time. This album was written at one time from beginning to end, all songs written around the same time, and there’s a thread of continuity that goes through it. As I started recording it, I was in my studio and I started coming up with arrangements.The record itself is really a snapshot of my life at the moment, at a point where I had to go through a lot of realizations and changes in the you cannot stop life from taking its course.
Here is “Free My Soul” from NO PROTECTION:
Are you still involved with the Grammy’s and how did that come about?
Phil: Yes, I am Vice President. I have been a member for many years and about 6 years ago a put myself on the ballot to run as a Governor, which I did. I wanted to find a way to give back to the musical community and the Grammys was the best way. I became involved in advocacy issues, fund-raisers for MusiCares and education issues. I wanted to do something for MusiCares as they were the entity that did so much for by best friend Randy Castillo when he became so ill.
What does the future hold for you? New recordings, touring, etc….?
Phil: All of the above, We just got back from doing a festival in Bulgaria with Big Noize and we had a change of singer from Joe Lynn Turner to Sebastian Bach; it was awesome and we are now looking to book more shows with this line up. I really want to do more shows out of the Los Angeles area with my solo band doing material from this new album and some of my other hits written for other artists, but it is proving difficult to tie down local promoters as most of the agents are closed off to new projects. Maybe I shall try to approach local venues myself.
If you were asked to give a lecture to musicians looking to start their careers, what advice would you have for them?
Phil: Ask yourself if this is really what you want to do and if it is then go for it, never say die and never give up.
What era appeals to you the most and why is that?
Phil: The era before digital music – I loved making records and selling records was the way in which we made our money. Today everyone feels that music should be free and it has become such a s challenge to be able to pay your bills and continue making music for people with no income. It is not as if recording equipment manufacturers give you free equipment!
Being a veteran of the music industry what are your thoughts of the sate of things today?
Phil: We are getting back in to the T-Shirt business. We use music to invite people to a gig and if you sell them merchandise then you walk away from the deal with some income. If not then you come up zero.
If we were hanging out and I plugged your MP3 player into my stereo would I be surprised at what was on it?
Phil: Just a varied assortment of music.
This last one is open, tell us anything you want to:
Phil: Listen to my record, enjoy the songs and if you like them please join my mailing list at www.philsoussan.com and write! I try to reply to everyone as much as I can. Please follow me on Twitter at @philsoussan and although I have a Facebook “page” I am not on Facebook anymore – I hate Facebook as I don’t know anyone on it who is not made miserable/ jealous or had their friendships and relationships compromised… and I want to make people feel good – My music makes people feel good!
Thanks so much for considering this. I know there are some questions you have answered a million times over the years, I’m just hoping to bring them to a new audience!
Phil: You’re welcome! Rock on!
Let me know if you are tied in to any local promoters or radio stations and perhaps I can arrange to come out to NM and do some shows!
I am gonna leave you with Phil’s version of the classic “Shot In The Dark”: