Liberty, I can't thank you
enough for taking the time to answer a few
Hey Anthony, you're an Italian
from Brooklyn and a major fan.... How can I say no,
Fugedabouit?? Of course I can do it.
Not many people
realize that Billy Joel practically joined your band
instead of vice-versa. How did this
Myself, Russel Javors, Doug
Stegmeyer and Howie Emerson formed "Topper" in 1971
and played original material that Russell was
writing plus Reggae, blues and straight out Rock and
Roll. In 1973 bassist Doug Stegmeyer got the gig
with Billy to do the "Streetlife Serenader" tour. At
the end of that tour Billy told Doug he wanted to
move back to NY from LA and have the same band
record with him and go on the road. (He was using
studio guys in the studio and different guys on the
road). Plus he told Doug he wanted a NY style
aggressive drummer... Doug said I know the guy... I
did get the gig and we went into the studio to
record "Turnstiles"... 3 piece, Piano, Drums,
Bass... When it came to needing guitars we told
Billy we will get a great guitar player for him and
we brought in Russell Javors and Howie Emerson. So
yes, with the addition of saxophonist Richie Cannata,
"Topper" did become Billy's band.
"Aggressive" is definitely
your style. Which drummers influenced you?
Easy, Ringo Starr (Beatles),
Dino Dinelli (Rascals), Jim Capaldi (Traffic), Mitch
Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix), Ginger Baker (Cream). I
have to say in my early day of listening .. Hal
Blaine was a major influence and I didn't even know
it... As was The guy that played on the 4 seasons
records and the studio guy who played on all those
English Invasion tunes, DC5 , the Kinks, Zombies...
Speaking of drummers, what do
you think of Neil Peart from Rush?
I think Neil is a fantastic
drummer, their style of music isn't really what I
like, but I think they are a great band and totally
believable... Plus I think Neil is a great lyricist.
What kinds of music do you
enjoy listening to these days?
I like anything that is done
well, Rock, the Killers, Radiohead, Muse... R&B and
Hip Hop, Mary J Blige...Jazz, I like old school
jazz.. Jimmy Smith... Dave Brubeck...Classical... I
like movie soundtracks... "The Mission" is one of my
Okay so the first album you
did with Billy was "Turnstiles" from 1976. While
Billy now had the band he was after, the newfound
energy just didn't translate onto the album. Was
this because producer Phil Ramone was yet on the
Yes, the production was weak.
Billy produced that one. Phil knew how to make hit
What was it like working with
Phil Ramone and how did he work with you? Did he
have any influence on your playing?
Phil taught us how to play in
the studio without losing our energy. Check out his
book "Making Records" there's a chapter in there on
I read you're not a big fan of
"Just The Way You Are". Any other songs you could do
without hearing again?
"My Life" ... Hate it !!!
Funny, you know the song I
hate the most is "Modern Woman" from "The Bridge".
It's hard to believe that was a Phil Ramone production because it sounds so much
different than anything he's done before with Billy.
Phil was coming off a big hit
with "Maniac" from the movie "Flashdance" at the
time. So he was really hung up on that sound...there
is an even worse version of the tune with me playing
electric drums.... SUCKS.
On the flipside, my absolute
favorite album with you and Billy is "Glass Houses",
I love the energy on that album...how was it making
That album is the only album
that has just the band on it ... No one overdubbed
anything.. It was just, Me, Billy, Doug, Russell,
David, and Richie....That was "The Billy Joel Band"
and forever will be. WoW, I got so sentimental in
that last question.
Earlier you mentioned being
influenced by The Four Seasons and British Invasion
records...how was it working on the "Innocent Man"
album which was basically paying tribute to that
Oh that was great, We would
sit and listen to these old 45's - The Drifters, 4
seasons, all that 50's doo wop... Billy would write
in that vein and we would become those guys!!! That
album was done so fast that we thought it was sure
to be a flop...
That was also around the time
Billy started dating supermodel Christie Brinkley.
What's it like when your good friend and lead singer
starts dating a supermodel and she starts hanging
out with the band?
Lets not forget, Billy was
dating Elle McPherson first... Then Christy... When
we knew Christy was coming to the studio we would
would be falling all over her.. It was sick... She
is beautiful.. Inside and out...
Hey at least you got to work
with Stevie Nicks...how did that happen?
I did the "Wild Heart" tour.
Jimmy Iovine thought Stevie needed an animated
drummer for a visual effect.... To get the people's
eyes off her for a while so he hired me. She was
different to work with.. She was very delicate and
very "West Coast"... I was a NY Rocker.
You also toured with Elton
John. To me he comes across as prissy, what's your
take on him?
He was a great guy or girl....
Elton is a total pro who knows who he is and loves
what he does and is very comfortable in his own
While we're talking about
tours, one of my favorite concert videos ever is
"Billy Joel - Live From Long Island". What are your
memories of that concert?
My favorite part is at the
beginning of "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant". Me
and the band are around a table. I make like I'm
drinking a bottle of wine... Then I take a pepperoni
and place it like a dick.... Hardly anyone catches
it... Its pretty funny...
All that great music and your
favorite part is a "pepperoni dong"...great. I just
re-watched that part and it is pretty funny.
Why hasn't that video been released officially?
I have no idea.
Okay, so back to your studio
work with Billy... just as he was set to record the
"Storm Front" album, Billy decides to fire not only
the entire band (minus yourself), but producer Phil
Ramone as well. How did you react??
I hated it ... They were all
my friends, Doug had some problems he couldn't work
out but I believe losing Doug was a big part of
Then on "River Of Dreams"
Billy (along with producer Danny Kortchmar) decided
to replace YOU with another studio drummer! How did
that make you feel?
It made me feel like shit....
Only because Billy did it behind my back... He has
never been one to be confrontational ... Like Doug
and Russell found out they didn't have a gig anymore
when they heard it on MTV... I got a call that said
Billy was recording with new guys.. I called Billy
and actually had to pry it out of him.
Do you think it was a wise
move in retrospect?
Hey it is what it is... I have
the songs with me playing on them ... Maybe one day
Billy will release them to the public.
Did you initially play drums
on all the songs and then Danny decided which ones
I would say I played on 90% of
the songs... Danny replaced everything... The album
was so bad Sony replaced his "Shades of Gray" with
the one I played on and they sent "River Of Dreams"
to a guy in Philly, Joe the Butcher, and he put a
drum loop on it and a new bass then he put the kids
sounds on it and made it total hip hop. Danny K's
version SUCKED. Joe totally recut "All about soul".
What really sucks is that
you're no longer playing with Billy. What happened?
Really, I have no idea what
happened...I was really hurt by it and have never
had closure on it... I never got a call, no one ever
talked to me again.... I think I was sabotaged by
people around Billy.
Is there a chance you'll play
with him again?
There would have to be some
personal changes before I ever work with him again.
Online there's rumors your
split had to do with money or perhaps your not
liking what was said about you in Hank Bordowitz's
biography, "Billy Joel - The Life & Times of an
Angry Young Man", which lead to a falling out to
such an extent that you didn't attend Joel's most
recent wedding to Katie Lee. Do you want to comment
on any of this?
I wasn't invited to Billy and
Katie's wedding...I have no idea why.. And I have no
idea why I don't play with him anymore.....No one in
that organization will speak to me...and to be
honest... I was really hurt by it but everyday I get
more and more of that great.. I don't give a fuck
Let's talk about some stuff
you've been involved in more recently. I'll never
forget a show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New
York City about 8 years ago. The opening act comes
on and there you are slamming away on drums, then
Ben Orr from the Cars appears...what a great
surprise! Tell me about that band "Big People".
"Big People" was Myself, Jeff
Carlisi (38 special), Derek St Holmes (Ted Nugent),
Pat Travers and Ben Orr (Cars)... It was thought up
by Manager Charlie Busco (Skynard, Styx) and put
together as a supergroup... It was a blast.
What was it like playing with
Ben was our Rock star... He
was a fantastic person and friend ...Unfortunately
we lost Ben to cancer .. And the band fell apart.
Me, Jeff and Derek still play together and I am
still in touch with Pat... All great guys and very
talented musicians. Jeff is also the co-founder of
Speaking of "Camp Jam", I
understand you're now working with children in a
couple of music related projects?
First let me say that I do
believe the children are our future. I love to show
kids the reality of drumming and making music... And
to show them they can do it. There is nothing I love
more then seeing a little face the first time they
play a simple drum beat. Its very exciting to know I
may have changed that child's life at that moment.
You can look up "Little Kids Rock" and "Camp Jam"
... www.littlekidsrock.org www.campjam.com.
Liberty, before I let you go I
want to talk bootlegs. I have a proshot video from
the "Innocent Man" tour, Wembley 1984. The rumor is
one of the sources of this show came from your
personal collection...know anything about that?
I have no idea... Maybe my
ex-wife is passing stuff around.
Do you have any rare live
shows with Billy in your personal archives?
I lost everything in my last
How do you feel about fans
having bootlegs of your performances and trading
Bootleg all you want .. I
don't get royalties.
I would be honored to to
replenish your personal archive and send you copies
of all I have - many DVDs of your work from
Musicladen and Old Grey Whistle Test 1978, Mike
Douglas 1976, Live From Long Island (from a Japanese
laserdisc), Wembley 84, Russia, Japan with Elton. I
don't sell any of these...just a collector. If they
were released officially I'd buy them in a
heartbeat. It's the least I can do for someone I
have highly respected for the past 30 plus years.
I would love to have it all...
I'll take whatever you got...