Fresh off a plane from Sweden where his wife’s family still lives, and having recently buried his beloved father Stanford Bazilian, Eric Bazilian, who has shared frontman duties with Rob Hyman in The Hooters since the 1980s, was kind enough to take the time to speak with us about his “Beatles’ moment,” Live Aid and Dr. Evil.
The Hooters will play at the Ocean City Music Pier 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, July 17 and 18. Here’s what Bazilian had to say.
Tribute acts have become common in Atlantic City, so much so that it would actually be surpr…
At The Shore: Your dad was a shrink and your mom a concert pianist. What was it like growing up in that household?
Eric Bazilian: It was a pretty eclectic childhood. I didn’t see my father a lot, he worked all the time. I didn’t really get to know him well until I was in college. But we had great quality time. He just loved life. My dad was always interested in different cultures, he loved different foods. My parents had really interesting, unusual, eccentric friends. (Back then) he had to do what he had to do —work.
Part of my (love for music) is from my mom. I saw the trance-like states when she played piano. I’d say, “I want me some of that.” My uncle was a guitarist and he taught me my first chords. That was before The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan.
I think of my life and the world as pre- and post-Feb. 9, 1964 (the night The Beatles performed on Ed Sullivan). That’s when my pump had really been primed.
ATS: Where did the name The Hooters come from?
EB: We named ourselves after a chain of restaurants (laughs). When we started the band, we were doing reggae and ska — Rob (Hyman) was way into reggae (and) no American bands were really doing it. One reggae artist, Augustus Pablo, he’d play a melodica over reggae tracks. We wrote a couple of songs over a melodica riff. Rob’s studio manager had some recording gear, so we went to rehearsal space, pulled out melodic and someone asked, “can you give me a level on that hooter?” At the same time we were looking for a band name. We wanted a plural noun that could be singular (and) not a household object — “I am a Beatle,” “I am a Rolling Stone” — not a shoe, not a table. So (we said), “let’s be The Hooters.” We were named for a nickname for a melodica, which is the sound at the beginning of “And We Danced.”
ATS: Take me back to when you opened Live Aid. Here you are, these local Philly guys, and while you are playing in your hometown, you’re really on a worldwide stage. What was that like? What were you thinking?
EB: I was thinking about breakfast (laughs). It’s a blur, really. It all happened so quickly, it was so surreal. Your mind has to find something to ground you, so yeah, I was thinking what to eat after. But I was (also) thinking I was so proud to be representing Philly on that historic day.
ATS: Who were your musical influences?
EB: It all goes back to The Beatles — everything goes back to them. They are the Ten Commandments. Then there’s rest of the New Testament — Hendrix, Clapton, Stewart, Elton … the fusion wave of the ‘70s, some Steely Dan, Dylan, Springsteen.
Since then it’s harder and harder to find inspiring music.
Dave Hause … is a real inspiration to me. His power, intensity, the passion — he tells stories in a great way, sings great.
My son dragged me to see John Mayer — I knew how good he was. Maybe I was jealous of how good he is (laughs). I was just riveted. Then he took a break to play with the (Grateful) Dead. That was another reason to hate him (laughs) — I wanted that gig (laughs again). I was a Deadhead for a while.
ATS: The Hooters have had many hits, but is there one song that if you never had to play again, you’d be fine with that?
EB: I’ve gotten in trouble for answering that one before (laughs). In truth, we all tend to agree on the ones we’re tired of playing.
I still love playing “All You Zombies” — I’m so proud of the composition, the arrangement — it’s a blast to play. I play the exact same guitar solo from 1984 because that’s they way it was recorded, and out of respect for the audience, we play as recorded. We find refinements that we wish we did in the first place, which make it interesting. When I do a gig outside The Hooters, I play completely different arrangements, partly out of respect for The Hooters — like the reggae I keep for The Hooters. It’s four on the floor with other bands. But I never want to play it that way with The Hooters. I save the good china for the band.
ATS: Tell me about “One of Us” (written by Bazilian but made popular by Joan Osborne).
EB: That song … everyone says that their most iconic song wrote itself. That song was going to be written — and I was the human who was put on earth to record it. It is the only song I feel I got right the first time.
Writing in a group can be tedious, but when you catch fire, it’s amazing. Most of the time you’re watching paint dry, waiting for someone to come up with an idea.
We did a quick recording with a guitar and Joan and we all just looked at each other (in awe).
I started practicing my Grammy speech (laughs). I’m actually glad I didn’t win. It’s much cooler to say I was robbed than to say I won (laughs again).
ATS: What do you think of the Prince version of “One of Us”?
EB: His version is kind of cartoony — in a good way. He takes subtle elements and makes them huge. Bright pinks and purples. He magnified everything in his Prince way. It was one of only three covers he ever recorded.
Many kids draw. But not many kids draw like 9-year-old Noah Hurley Baker.
ATS: How about when Dr. Evil sang it (in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”)?
EB: It was the highlight of my career (laughs). I mean, it’s cool that Tom Cruise sang it in “Vanilla Sky” and Jim Carrey in “Bruce Almighty” … and forget Prince. I mean … Dr. Evil!
ATS: Can you answer a few of your own questions: “If God had a name what would it be?” (A lyric from “One of Us.”)
ATS: “And would you call it to his face?”
EB: If there is a God and his name is Frank, yes, I would call it to his face (laughs).