November 30, 2010

Exclusive interview with Joe Vasta jr. - Part II

Nov. 2010 by Gillespy [GvdH] exclusive for Willy DeVille International Fans.

Hey Joe, welcome back!

Joe Vasta jr: Hey there again ... you did a great job on part one of the interview my friend!! Now where were we??

Uhh ... thank you Joe (blush). After your time with John Waite, we haven't seen you for a long time, what have you done all this time?

Joe Vasta jr: Oh yes!! Well like I said before: I make teeth you know, I always did it on the side. I just like making things you know with good outcomes, just like making music. But playing all the time on the road got to me man. I couldn't hardly keep a girlfriend, because she was always thinking that I was with someone else when I was on the road. But it was a lot of things, you name it ...

Okay let's talk about music. If I send you an e-mail I always open with "Hey Joe", because of Willy his version of this great traditional song. In fact his biggest hit in Europe (1992). what was your opinion about it, Willy scored a hit again after he went solo?

Joe Vasta jr: Well the song is dated you know but he did put a different swing to it, that's for sure right?! We where going to play it for the BB Kings Memorial show, but unfortunately never got it in the show. I just miss Willy's singing man. I like a lot of the other solo songs too, Willy could only sing it his way!

[Joe at Pinkpop '82 / Willy and Joe at Werchter '82 / Mink DeVille, Joe just behind Willy's hand]

Music of New York City is a diverse and important field in the world of music. It has long been a thriving home for jazz, rock and the blues and it is the birthplace of many different styles of music. Do you like today NYC bands, for an example the Fun Lovin' Criminals?

Joe Vasta jr: Yes!!! I like a lot of the new stuff, always involved in it all. I really like the high energy stuff you know, the faster the better! That reminds me: have you ever heard Thommy and me on David Byron's album from 1980? It's called 'This Day and Age' on Arista records. See if you can get it somewhere, this music is great to me! It easily ranks with the best work of contemporaries like Graham Parker and the Jam. Mat Lambert and Robert Sarzo played guitar on it and Billy Joel (!) did background vocals. I admit, could have sounded better that's for sure. But it's an obscure, but absolutely essential example of late-'70s/early-'80s power pop [D.L. Byron - This Day and Age] And I did a record for the Sharks in Canada, on Capitol Records.

How come that there are currently so few bands who can do the same Mink DeVille did at that time: playing a blend of rock, soul, doo-wop, R'n'B, blues?

Joe Vasta jr: You know that's a great question! Willy's music made you play the best you could if you got it in you. The blend was out of this world at times, something that would never happen again! And the proof can be heard on the albums and seen on the Montreux 1982 DVD. "I always made dance music, it's just blues with a rhythm" Willy once said about that. It seems to me that today no one wants to put the hard work into it. First of all you have to know what it's all about, I mean: MUSIC! Everyone learns it a different way I guess. Right away if the person you are playing with is on the same page, you know? You see I came up around with all big bands stuff, and the time in life you learned it too, the mid sixtees, had lots of music to do and play along with. I'll tell you a secret of mine. When I was eight years old, I played records with my fathers phonograph when no one was home, volume knob to ten!! I loved this shit so much I use to make believe I was playing to hundreds of people jumping up and down, like the Who or Jimi Hendrix. I said to myself: I am going to do it someday! That's when I met Thommy Price because he felt the same way man! We started a band and like they say, the rest is history! Did I answer the question??

- You sure did Joe, thanks!

[Mania: 1974 with Joe Mauri, Jimmy Cooke, Joe Vasta, Jimmy O'Donnell, Moe, Thommy Price in Michelle's back yard]

My personal opinion of Willy (Mink) DeVille's lyrics and music is that he always crossed my path in life with the right songs at the right time and so became an important part of my life. And I hear the same story of most fans I know. How did he do that, do you think?

Joe Vasta jr: You are right! He sang anything and everything, and it came out right! How the hell did he do that? He just was that great! And a great man too. He always would say: "I write for me, not for the companies out there Joey. I am not part of the machine". And he was right man! The 'big guys' who are running the companies would never get to know the real Willy. Because they never hanged out with him, you know. Or ... really tried to help him when he needed it. It was all about the money they could make with him. But they didn't know how to promote him, where to put us, on what chart? Thàt's how great he was! What do you do with an artist who is right from the heart but has so many roads to go down?? Sometimes I still don't know myself ...

After the Willy DeVille Birthday Celebration August 23th at BB King's Blues club you told us: "It really was a great night to play. Only hope that Willy heard us. I miss this man." (we all do!). Have you seen him throughout the years after your Mink-time and did you also appreciated his later (New Orleans) stuff?

Joe Vasta jr: No, Willy had lost contact with Thommy and me for some time. And you know why it's so sad for Thommy and me? We did talked to Willy some time before he died. He said he wanted to try and get the old band back together again some day. We were so happy we could get the old band back! And look what happened ... we just did not have the time back then but Willy would have loved it. I know, his later stuff didn't have the same drive to it, very laid back indeed. Very different from the days I played with him. But he could still swing like he did with the Mink DeVille band.

You only had a few rehearsals for the DeVille Birthday Celebration in NYC and it sounded freakin' great so they say. Did you know each other well enough and was there also a massive celebration of reminiscing the good old days afterwards?

Joe Vasta jr: Well, the band didn't sound great in my ears! But then again what were we looking for, just to get around a set or a show for Willy and his fans, not for us. If a Mink DeVille band were to get back together with sufficient rehearsals, it would have to be much much better than the BB King Memorial show. That's for sure. And no, there was no big party after the show, it was all pretty subdued but great to see each other. Willy's wife Nina didn't came back stage, maybe she still felt bitter or a strange feelin' that her man was not there. But hey ... the whole ‘celebration’ was for Willy right?!

The whole show was recorded and filmed too. Will it soon be put out?

Joe Vasta jr: Afterwards we had quite some problems with the recordings of the show. Or rather, nothing but problems with the DVD recordings! The guys that recorded it, did it in two different formats ... how the hell do you do that?!! We had to overdub the bass and many other things too, they forgot to put the bass in the mix when they recorded it! What assholes right?!! David Keyes and I had hours of work ahead of us to make it right. So who knows when this thing will come out ... I don't even know right now, still working on it.

There are rumours that you might be doing this ‘celebration’ again with a smaller band, key guys from Mink DeVille with Peter Wolf singing for the frontman! Can you confirm that?

Joe Vasta jr: Right now, NO! Peter Wolf will not be the frontman again. It was and might have been a good choice to front the band ... but as of now, no.

February this year there was a one-night Willy-Mink DeVille Memorial in the Netherlands with three Dutch/Belgium tribute bands and Freddy Koella and Boris Kinberg played along. And in November this year they will do it again in Germany with a four-gig mini tour. So you can say the DeVille revival has already started! Do you think this is temporary or will it last longer?

Joe Vasta jr: These guys are good that's for sure. But you know, I don't see how Boris and Freddy would do anything over there with more band members from here? I guess it comes down to money right. Okay let's talk about the facts here. First of all these extra musicians were never a part of the Mink DeVille band. Our band had five guys from New York: drums, bass, horn, piano, guitar and a singer, that's it! Never had extra keys and we just had one drummer. We had to work pretty hard man to make this band sound full and moving. We had no backup singers in the band and no extra's man. There simply was no money to pay for it. The Mink DeVille band was the last real recording BAND Willy ever had, if you know what I mean? Later on, every one else were extra's, no band but just musicians to tour with, you know? It seems now everyone wants to be 'the band'... wrong! That's why Willy had guys to play the records and guys to play the tours, I did both! Fortunately there are guys like David Keyes who want to put together a real Mink DeVille band and maybe play around town or tour it. But you can't have all theses x-band members to play it understand? I tell you again, hey these guys are good but how in the world and who is going to pay for it if we would have to tour with a whole orchestra?! It all has to do with budgets, right?

- I understand, it is difficult enough with an original touring band, so definitely with a memorial band.

Thommy Price is a friend of you and I heard you've been together in a recording studio in New York City lately. Can you tell us more about that?

Joe Vasta jr: Sure! Thommy Price and I are going to be putting out a record in the springtime 2011. Some of it is like Mink in a way. But you make up your own mind when you hear it okay? It's very cool shit man, hope everyone loves it when it gets here. Check back with me in two or three months.

[Nowadays: Johnny Rao, Tony Lazzara, Thommy Price, Kristen Greco-D'amodio, Joseph Vasta]

How do you actually deal with the modern (technical) world? I mean, do you have a computer, blackberry, iPad ...?

Joe Vasta jr: You know when it comes to the newer stuff, I leave it to the other guys to run it all. I am a old school recorder ... the tape-way I go, ha ha. Yes I have an internet computer and ohw ... I'm on Facebook as well! [Joseph Vasta on Facebook]

Nowadays there are many many digitalized recordings of independent origin (bootlegs) in circulation among the fans on the internet. What's your opinion about that?

Joe Vasta jr: You know when you do a record with a big company, you should (could) worry about it. But when you put it out yourself, what could you do? The information that's out there (on the internet) is crazy man! I still ask myself: where the hell did they get that from? And how?!

Finally, do you want anything else to say to our readers?

Joe Vasta jr: Ohh ... is it over now? You mean you asked your last question?? Ha ha, only kidding my friend! Well I only hope that a good band with backing would come out of it all. But sometimes I feel it should be left alone, some things should lie where they are you know. It was done and we all got something out of it. Why try to make it something else when it's not. Willy will never come back ... and there's something we should learn from it all, and that is: Willy made us look at our selfs! And from time to time with songs that touched our souls sometimes. How we all could relate, like you said: you get moved from things in life ... Willy was a mover, I guess. Yes, that's right! A mover for Minkers!!

Well Joe we are looking forward to your coming activities and appreciate it a lot that you wanted to answer these questions. And we wish you every success in what you're going to do in the future!

Joe Vasta jr: Thank you for letting me share it with you guys. Let's hope for the best for everyone in the upcoming year okay? And I will share what's new for Thommy and I in the new year. Love to you guys and thanks again for your time. Peace out brothers and sisters!

~ Joey Vasta jr ~

Exclusive interview with Joe Vasta jr. - Part I



  1. Great to read - very down-to-earth;thanks to you for this!

  2. Thank you for this engaging, entertaining, insightful and moving Part II interview with Joey Vasta, Jr. Great questions, honest, thoughtful answers. Very special and meaningful. :)) >^..^< + <3


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