Interview With RICK DUFAY (ex-AEROSMITH)

Rick Dufay

Back in the 1981 Rick Dufay replaced Brad Whitford in Aerosmith and spent 4 years with the legendary Rockers. Rick chatted to Metal Express Radio about his time in Aerosmith, his work with Karen Lawrence and about his impending new album.

Let’s talk about your latest project first. You have four brand new songs currently available to listen to on your site. “Four Day Creep”, “Here”, “Rabbit Hole” and “Wild As I Am”. Are these the basis of your new album?

Yeah, that’s a few of them. None of those on the site are mastered; I’ve actually just finished mastering them a couple of days ago.

Are these self-penned or co-written with others?

They’re self-penned apart from “Four Day Creep” which was a song that I got from Humble Pie and they got it from someone else, not sure who though.

Are there any other songs ready yet?

There are nine, possibly more, new tracks that I’ve recorded from the last couple of years that I’m hoping to put out onto an album. There’s a bunch of tracks that I’m going to release onto the internet through The Rondo Brothers. They do all sorts of stuff. They do music for TV but they also have a web distribution set up. That’s the way things are going now, no one sells CDs unless you’re Madonna or something. The record business is over as you know it. Every kid has got a computer so if they want to see the artwork, they can just click on it and if they want to download to their own computer they can do that too. We have to go down a different route now.

There’s going to be a whole new web site done for this release. The current site, was put together by some friends/fans. We’re also going to gather some stuff that I did a while ago in England, what I call “The English Sessions” currently online as the “Written In Stone” CD – we’ll redo the artwork and put it on the new site too.

You’re planning on recording something rather different too?

The Rondo Brothers have a really good plan and they want me to do a cover of a really trendy sort of Pop song and give it the Rick Dufay treatment. Maybe I’ll give a Britney Spears song or The Pussycat Dolls a go or something. It’s got to be totally left field, kind of like that chick who did a cover of “Umbrella” or whatever it’s called by Rhianna on an acoustic. I heard it and it’s great, you’d never recognise it from the original. Actually the lyrics to it are really good too as you can hear them now and you can get into the song differently. It’s a bit like Amy Winehouse on MTV lying on a sofa with an acoustic singing “Rehab” and it’s just the best. Paolo Nutini has done a cover of that too which is fantastic. He’s the real deal; he’s one of my favourite artists at the moment.

The Rondo Brothers also deal in video as well as audio. There are a lot of clips of me mucking around with a camera, unscripted stuff of me goofing around. It’s totally unpretentious and unthought out. They came over and looked at it and said “this crap’s great, we gotta put this out”. It just shows me poncing around in my backyard and with my cars and all sorts of shit. You’re selling a personality really so if you’ve got one, throw it out there..Ha! This should be available in a couple of months.

It seems like you’re going for a hard-edged Blues sound especially on the likes of “Four Day Creep” and “Rabbit Hole”. Is this the general direction you’re heading in?

Sure. People listen to it and think it sounds real 70’s. The way we recorded that was with a three-piece live in the studio. Dan Rothchild, the bass player, is an incredible player and producer. He’s worked with Sheryl Crow, Shakira and Beck among others He I brought in a tape machine and we just whacked it out and did a couple of takes of each song with hardly any separation between us. We then took it up to the Dan’s house. We overdubbed guitars and vocals at his house. All of it’s live and it sounds the shit. It doesn’t sound over produced or anything, it’s unpretentious and doesn’t sound that clean, it’s has a 70’s sound to it. All the songs were written in the studio, jamming around. I just leave the tape running and I just sing what comes to my mind. I’d listen back to it and think that this sounded all right and I’d make some lyrics out of a scat. That’s what Steven Tyler used to do. He’d never have lyrics, we just used to play and he’d just scat and come up with something and then take it home and work on the lyrics from that. I’m not worried about getting on the radio or anything, I’m not trying to compete with 25 year olds. That’s not where I’m at. In fact a lot of kids kind of like this stuff.

Is that you on lead vocals?

I do all the vocals and Dan does the background vocals with me.

Who else is in your band at the moment?

Other than Dan Rothchild on bass, there’s Dan Potruch who I played with in Blue by Nature on drums.

Prior to this you were heavily involved in the Blue By Nature project which featured you alongside Karen Lawrence from the cult band 1994. How did this come together?

When I got back from England in 1990 I got a band together and was playing around and Karen and her husband saw my name on a marquee and came to see me at a club. They started yelling out songs from the album I did with Jack Douglas before I joined Aerosmith. After the show they came up and asked if I could help with some songs they’d written. They came over and played me some music. Karen had some great ideas and Fred, her husband, was a pretty good arranger. I just helped with the arrangements a bit more and we built a band around it and I just loved doing that stuff.

So you shelved the music you were working on at this time to play with Blue By Nature?

The stuff I was doing at the time was written on my sofa and didn’t perform well live. I was singing too much and playing too much and wasn’t enjoying myself, I just couldn’t execute either of them. I stopped the band and I wanted to recalibrate everything and that’s when I got involved with Karen and her band and it was a lot of fun. I could just get back to the Blues basics which is what I love.

She has one hell of a voice. It must have been great playing with such a gifted singer?

She was brilliant, she has a fantastic voice. I was just going to help them get their shit together and help them take off but we ended up putting a band together. We’d do three sets a day and by the end of the night she was pretty blown out!! Fred would ask if I could do a third set so I’d do a set of Blues stuff and a couple of my other things and it was great, a real blast. That’s how I got my strength back and sense of who I am back. I didn’t do that for that long as I’m not really a side man but that’s when I started playing with Dan Rothchild and Dan Potruch, just jamming.

I hear that Blue By Nature’s first album, Blues In My Way, was recorded in a bus!!! Is that right?

That’s right. There was this old bus with a 24-track studio in it. It was this old Greyhound bus and we recorded some of the stuff in there. I actually think we recorded the tracks somewhere else but we did the overdubs in that bus.

Was the Blue To The Bone album a re-recorded version of Blues In My Way?

Fred did something with it, re-recorded some parts and whatever and it was repackaged. I’m not really sure what they did with it to be honest.

Do you prefer the more raw approach of the original version?

I think the fidelity on the original version was not that great but there’s a live-ness, a rawness that was kind of nice.

What else did you do with Blue By Nature?

We did an album, Live at the Lake, with Jack Douglas. Jack had just got out of rehab, he’d been pretty fucked up but was getting himself back together and I said to him to come down and record this band I was in. He brought his truck down and recorded us and that was pretty fun and he caught the energy of the band onstage.

How was it on the road with Blue By Nature? Was it a chance to get back to your roots?

Absolutely, that’s what it was all about. I had forgotten all about that until I was in Blue By Nature. I’d tried to get too clever and play tunes that everyone would like but it just didn’t work for me. Blue By Nature allowed me to get back to the music I loved.

You clearly have a love for The Blues. Which Bluesmen do you admire the most?

Which Bluesman? All of them!! Pretty much all of them really, Big Bill Broonzy and all of those guys. Albert King and Freddie King and Robert Johnson. In fact Robert Johnson’s stuff is so difficult and hard to grasp, it’s a whole different kettle of fish. He didn’t practice it or study it, that’s just how he did it. To study an animal and try to learn it in a technical way is pretty much impossible. Clapton did a pretty good job of it but it still sounds like a guy working at it and it all sounds a bit clean whereas Johnson was just a mess but it somehow worked. He kept the bottom end rolling and the top end in a counter rhythm to whatever else he was playing. I went through the same sort of stuff that everyone else was playing. When you’re 15 or 16 and hear Jeff Beck, Clapton and Jimmy Page and the early Yardbirds or Bluesbreakers stuff you think that’s great Blues. Then you realise that they didn’t start it and you go back and discover the originals who inspired these guys. With the likes of Howlin’ Wolf you really can hear the urgency, passion and the madness and I think that’s what inspired guys like Jimmy Page and The Stones. They tried to cop some of that and they did manage to turn it into their own thing. Nice try little English white boys !!! There are great accounts of Clapton in session with Howlin’ Wolf and Wolf barking “That ain’t the way to do it white boy!!”

You had worked with Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas on your debut album in 1980, Tender Loving Abuse. How, as a relatively unknown artist, did you land such a big name producer?

I was with this record company and they asked what producer did I want to work with and I said David Hentschel as he had produced And Then There Were Three by Genesis. It was a totally over produced album but at the time I thought it was clever and I thought I wanted this big lavish production. I went to London in 1979 and met with David Hentschel and we were like oil and water, there was no way it was going to happen. I ended up going back to L.A and made a list. I hung out with Roy Thomas Baker for a while and had a good time with him…too much of a good time !! I thought I’d better not work with him as we wouldn’t have stayed friends plus the records he’s done he’s ended up being a real control freak and he knows exactly what he wants and makes HIS record. At the bottom of the list was Jack Douglas. I never liked Aerosmith you know, all of my influences were English, but he did the album Rocks and I used to think that album sounded great. A secretary from my office was on a flight from New York to L.A and a friend of Jack’s was sitting next to her, I think he was trying to pick her up!! She said that we were looking for a producer and he said that he knew Jack. He sees Jack in L.A and Jack heard my tape and liked it and we talked on the phone for about an hour and just laughed. He thought I was this big fat guy from my Jersey accent and my volume. When he came down to the studio expecting this fat guy and what he saw was this poofy looking guy..Ha!! That’s how we got together and we haven’t separated since, well apart from when he was so fucked up that he was living on a mattress in a shooting gallery downtown somewhere. When he got fucked up, I went to St. Martin to get cleaned up. He’s great now though.

Can you still get this album?

I haven’t got the masters to it. Dan made a copy of it for me from the record and it’s got these little pops on it just like a record but I don’t know what we’re going to do with that or who owns the publishing rights or what but I’m sure we can sort something out.

You’re probably best known for your stint in Aerosmith where you replaced Brad Whitford. Is this something that you look back on with pride or do you wish people would move on from this and pay more attention to your other work?

It doesn’t bother me at all that people keep talking about it. I’m still very proud of my time with Aerosmith. Steven and I talk a lot. Whenever he’s in town we hang out and it’s just like the old days. It only seems like a couple if years ago but it’s closer to 25 years since we were in Aerosmith together. I don’t know where the years are going!!

Did Jack Douglas help to give a lead into Aerosmith when Brad left?

Oh yes, that certainly helped. They’d auditioned everybody and there were some great players who auditioned who could play circles around all of us. Michael Schenker and Danny Johnson and all of the hired guns turned up and all palled up with Steven and the other guys thought “Here we go again!!” Then I turned up and I’d grown up back stage at the Fillimore so I was never starstruck or impressed when Steven was running around like a lunatic or when he tried to intimidate me by asking what it’s like playing in front of 20,000 people. It’s more scary playing in front of 1,500 people as they can see you and hear you and they’re right in your face.

Do you recall your audition?

It was a real shambles, really terrible. Everybody was fucked up. Joey Kramer called me at 2:00 that night as I’d told Jack that I didn’t want to do it and he said “Hey, Doof, get down to rehearsal tomorrow” and I went “OK !!” I really liked Joey, he was a good friend so it happened and I ended up in the band.

It must have helped having Jimmy Crespo there too, another relative newcomer to help to break the ice?

I never really thought of that. The guys that broke the ice for me and made it easy were Tom and Joey. Jimmy wasn’t really much help at all. I think he looked at me and thought “Shit!! Another asshole!!” I was pretty extroverted and didn’t take things too seriously and just wanted to have a good time and get the songs down and get into it. Jimmy liked to stand there and be cool and put on a persona like Joe Perry that was a BIG mistake. I don’t know what Jimmy’s real persona is, I think it’s pretty laid back. He’d come on stage with leather pants and a holster, Steven would dress him like that, and I was like “What the fuck is that man?” I just annoyed the shit out of Jimmy, I think he’s very allergic to me. I haven’t seen Jimmy in a long time. I think he’s got his family and a band out there in Vegas and I think he’s happy. I have nothing at all against Jimmy, I think we were just two opposites. I was the fucking court jester, the goofball and that pissed Jimmy off. On stage I’d run over to his side and say” Come on Jimmy, let’s go down the front of the stage” and he’d say “Nah, get the fuck out of it”. I don’t think he really got me at all. Tom is the one who showed me how the songs went, he worked with me. I had a blast. I don’t regret any of my time in Aerosmith.

You recorded one album Rock and a Hard Place with Aerosmith. You weren’t credited as a songwriter on the album. Was this because the songs were already written when you joined or as the “new boy” were you kept away from song writing?

The songs were all written. I played rhythm guitar on a few tracks and did some background vocals, that’s all I did. It was a case of “Learn this song, this is kind of how it goes” and I just played the rhythm to it. That stuff was recorded at The Hit Factory and some in Florida when Jack was with us.

How was the recording process….chaotic or well organised?

It really wasn’t organised at all. They tried to make that album for two years but Steven couldn’t finish stuff and they had trouble with their original producer but once they got Jack and me on board, we were just pushing it. When we went down to Florida, Steven was way too fucked up to do anything, he was nodding off when he was trying to write lyrics and I said to Jack that we had to get him out and get him together. It took about two or three months and we pretty much nursed him back to health. We got him off the hard stuff, sat in the sun and had some laughs and I established a bond with him. It’s pretty well documented on the Behind the Music show. He was pretty sick and I just took care of him and even had to wipe his ass for him!!

“Lightning Strikes”, “Jailbait” and “Bitches Brew” are quintessential Aerosmith and stand up to any of their earlier material.

Absolutely !! Jimmy wrote some great stuff. He was a big Aerosmith fan so he was in the grease of all that. It’s just too bad it went to waste. Well, it kind of went to waste but some people liked that record. It was an uphill battle as Jimmy had to fill the shoes of Joe Perry and I think Jimmy made a mistake trying to do that.

When you went out on the road with Aerosmith which songs did you particularly enjoy playing?

Those songs were great to play live. I pretty much enjoyed them all. “Dream On “ was a bit of a bore but “Back In The Saddle”, “No More No More” were great, you know, those great riff songs. A couple from Rock and Hard Place were fun to play too. You could strut around to them and throw your guitar around a bit. Steven on stage was a good foil, he was good fun to play with. He’d knock me down and pull my hair and stuff but he didn’t do that to Jimmy as Jimmy didn’t like all that. He didn’t like Steven putting his arm around him as he thought he’d make a mistake. I couldn’t give a shit, I’d just put my guitar down and say “Let’s hug!!” Ha!! “Sweet Emotion” was another great one to play, I still love hearing that one now.

What was the reaction of the crowd like to you?

People would come along to gigs and go “Where’s Joe fuckin’ Perry?” and Jimmy would be affected by it instead of smiling and going “Don’t worry man, check this out”. He’d go all moody about it whereas I was just running around having a good time, being goofy and being really into it and I think the crowds picked up on that. I think they enjoyed what they saw.

I remember reviews at the time praised both you and Jimmy; in fact there were some quotes that you were brimming with energy to the extent that Steven Tyler thought you were stealing his thunder. Did he try to curb you enthusiasm on stage?

Well I’ve seen some footage on You Tube from some gigs in ’83 and I can’t believe what I got away with where I’m running around all over and teasing Steven. . He’d go mad say “ What are you doing, you’re supposed to be like Brad” and I’d go “Well I ain’t Brad so don’t worry about it” Brad and Tom never really moved on stage, mind you neither did Joe either. I think he saw how I moved so now he moves around a lot more. Ha!! It’s totally me to be like that. People said that me being a pain in the ass like that kept Steven on his toes. I think it pissed him off enough for him to think that he had to work harder. We’d be on the plane and there’d be these reviews going “Rick Dufay dances circles around Steven…he’s the Ronnie Wood of Aerosmith” and Steven was like “What the fuck is this !!??!!” It really used to bug him and out of that came respect. Mind you one thing you can never do is upstage Steven Tyler. He is really to this fucking day the real deal. He just lives for that stage. He’s great man, he really is.

Once the tour was over did you start writing for the follow up album?

Oh, yeah. “Written in Stone” was written for the follow up but Steven never finished the lyrics. His scats on that were really good so they’ll be lying around somewhere, that would be great to hear again. It had a classic Aerosmith sound to it. That was the start of the next album but it never went that far as I left the band and Steven and Joe got back together. I’d written a few songs and after I left Aerosmith they were going to be on an album I recorded in London which didn’t end up getting released.

Why was that album not put out in 1989 when it was originally finished?

The label went bust. The man with the money behind the label, Ritchie, was a really good guy but the man who managed the label was a really bad guy. I told him that this other guy wasn’t managing the label right and he was going to bankrupt the label and I was right unfortunately. Giuseppe felt really bad and said that he wanted to support me. Tim Collins, the manager of Aerosmith at the time advised me to leave London and go back to L.A and get my shit together. To cut a long story short Giuseppe supported me with rent and rehearsal money for 2 years so that’s how I got myself sorted out back over here. So the album never came out but we’re going to repackage it, it’s a bit over produced but there’s some good songs on it and some people really like it. Giuseppe gave me all the rights to the album and all the publishing, he let me have it all.

It must have been frustrating for you to go to all that effort to make a record only for it to be shelved?

Everything happens for a reason. I don’t know what would’ve happened if it had come out but I learned a lot and made a lot of good friends. I made a record that was pretty good but who knows?

You and Jimmy have been credited with steadying things for a while during a turbulent period for Aerosmith. In fact you are seen as the person who persuaded Joe and Steven to meet again so effectively putting yourself out of a job. Do you regret doing that?

At the Aerosmith MTV Icon awards Joe credited me for getting him and Steven back together and said that I’d cut off my nose to spite my face. I don’t regret doing that one little bit. That band was over then. Steven and Jimmy Crespo were never really pals. Jimmy wrote great stuff and busted his ass for the band but there was never really a bond between him and Steven. Steven really missed Joe and Joe certainly missed Steven. I basically shoved them in a room together and said that they had to get their shit together. Joey and Tom flipped out on me. I only found out years later that they were really pissed at me doing that. The management called me and said I was out of my mind as Tim Collins would end up managing them but I just thought “Fuck that!!” It was the right thing to do. It worked out right for them and I had to get back to what I was doing.

Have you played with any of the guys since you left?

I’ve played with Tom and Joey, just screwin’ around over at their houses and stuff but I haven’t played in the band since I left. When the band’s been in town Steven has said “Why don’t you bring your guitar down and we’ll fuck around” I just said he’d better ask Joe though as I don’t think it would go down too well!! When I was in the band and when Brad was at a show he’d always come up on stage to play but Joe was pretty particular about where he played. He never played with me. I don’t think he wanted to stand next to an asshole like me..Ha!! Some of the fans would love it if I got up to play but I don’t think most of them would remember who that hairy guy was if I turned up!!

What did you think of Aersomith before you joined the band?

I never had respect for Aerosmith and I never understood them until we started rehearsing and the Steven came into sing and then it was whooaahhhh…this guys a little motherfucker!! It really showed me a lot, being in that band, it really did.

Once you left, it must’ve been a strange feeling for you. What did you do next?

I stayed high !!

Did you receive any tempting offers from any other bands?

The last thing I wanted to do was play. We were pretty much on the road all the time, constantly on the road. It was the only way they made any money as the album wasn’t selling. We were playing 1,500-seaters as that’s all we could get, but they were great. We played at The Ritz in New York and they were just great gigs to play. I loved those gigs. After the band I tried to reconnect with an ex-girlfriend who had a daughter by me who is Minka Kelly the actress (Friday Night Lights). She’s doing really well. I tried to make a go of that and tried to get cleaned up but her mother wanted me to hang out at The Rainbow and be “Rick Rock” and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. I thought maybe she’d changed. I wanted to do the responsible thing but I couldn’t, so I got the hell out of L.A and went back to New York and stayed with Jack. In ’86 I went to Paris to work out the deal with the record company and in ’87 I went to London to work on the record. Aerosmith was done in ’84 and I was fucked up for a couple of years. I spent a year and a half trying to make a life with this kid and woman but that didn’t work out. I had to survive so I went back to the East Coast and Jack helped me out. I got an offer to make a record in England but Jack was too sick and fucked up to make the record with me.

One constant factor has been with you throughout your career, Producer Jack Douglas. How do you feel he’s helped you over the years as a musician?

Jack is actually staying with me at the moment – he’s at the gym right now. He’s a gym nut!! We’re the best of friends and have been since the start. He’s working on a project with Nicholas Cage’s kid, kind of a Death Metal thing but more of a soundtrack. He’s always busy but when he’s out in L.A he stays with me. We have a lot of laughs. He’s helped me so much throughout my life – he really is a great guy.

Back onto your music now. How often do you play live these days?

I haven’t played live in about a year. I’m not really missing it though. The gigs we did a little over a year ago went really well and I had fun so I thought “What am I going to do with this?” I know I’m good and it’s fun and people enjoy it and it’s what I do best so I figured I’d record some stuff and just take my time with it. I am going to start rehearsals in about a month and do some gigs and see what’s what. The Rondo Brothers want to record some shows and put them out too.

Have you ever played in Europe?

I’m definitely coming over to England this year. Play some shows? Probably. There’s plenty of players over there I can play with. I don’t think I’d bring the band as it’s too expensive but playing some shows is a possibility. I’m still fit you know. I run 6 miles a day 3 or 4 times a week. People don’t believe how old I am…10 years of heroin addiction…it pickles you a bit!! I’ve been sober since 1990.

One final question. What do you consider as your most lasting legacy to the music business?

What I’m really pleased with is that I never tried to be clever. After I finished my first album, Polydor wanted me to do another with Chris Thomas who did The Pretenders first album. I heard it and really liked it. As I said I grew up back stage so there was no fantasy to me of what it was to be a Rock star. I wasn’t a climber, I didn’t care about being a big Rock star. I just cared about having a good time and writing songs that I wanted to write. I was never a business guy but I never lied. I guess I’m pretty happy that I kept my dignity in a pretty screwed up business. I’m a happy fucker you know. I may not be wealthy but I like the way I play, the way I write and the way I live. I’m very proud and happy about my daughter. Also Jack and I, we’ve been through hell together but we’ve stayed really good friends through it all. I guess even people who don’t know me respect me for the way I carry myself so I don’t know if I have a particular legacy but I’m just a character who’s survived through it all and has kept his head on. No lies, that’s all..just the real deal.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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