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Joe Walsh On Dealing With the Digital World, Future Plans for Solo, Eagles and James Gang Projects

Joe Walsh
Sam Jones

Joe Walsh is certainly planning on being a busy man in the near future, so it’s a good thing we got to talk to him now about his upcoming album ‘Analog Man.’ The guitarist has just hit the road for a solo tour in advance of the planned February 2012 arrival date of the new record, which found him recording his own music digitally for the first time.

We talked to Walsh about working with legendary ELO founder and producer Jeff Lynne on ‘Analog Man,’ his new Texas-influenced solo band, and what the future holds for his other two bands, the James Gang and the Eagles:

So, why are you going on a solo tour now?

Well, it’s a period of Eagles downtime, and I would really just like to go play some smaller venues, because I don’t get the chance to do that very much. The Eagles, is a whole different level. I’m just really anxious to go play in front of people, play some of my stuff and have a good time.

Do you still get the same thrill from performing live?

Oh yeah! You know, that’s what I do.  After a long tour, I swear I’ll never do it again, and after a couple of nights, you know… when you do that all your life you can’t just quit. You know, you can’t retire.

Are the rehearsals going well?

Yes. I’ve happened to be in Austin numerous times, and I’ve found a great music scene here. There’s some great players and there’s some great creative energy, and there’s a lot of great places to play. A guy named Ray Wylie Hubbard introduced me to some players and I decided to cross Austin’s music with some people from L.A. for my band. It’s great to play with some Texas guys. It’s a different band for me, but it’s great. We’ve just now pretty much learned a set of songs, just a cross-section of me, dusted off some album tracks for the show, and I’m really having a good time with the musicians.

How big a band are you playing with, and can you tell us some of the songs you’ll be playing?

Four other guys, five other guys and three singers. I’ll save that (the song names,) but… I have finished a solo album, it’s all done and it’ll be out in February.  We’ll probably do a song or two from the new album.

Can you tell us the album’s name, or is that a secret?

I’m gonna call it ‘Analog Man.’ I know in the past I’ve had screwy album titles, but I decided to call it ‘Analog Man’ because my generation of musicians, we grew up analog. And now it’s a digital world, and we had to learn it, you know? Everything’s totally different. There’s no record companies — who knew that would happen? (Laughs) They were so powerful, you know, when I was young. It’s all digital now, and that’s a different way of recording. We’re old analog guys — well, not old — we know all about tape recorders, none of the young musicians do and it’s a shame.

So did you record the album in analog?

No, no, this was my first real experience doing my music digital, and I had to learn it. How you record is different. In the old days there was more of a tendency to just set up the band and mic everything, record the band playing together and when you got a good take, that was it. You couldn’t go in and make everything perfect. It seems to me nowadays, music is constructed (by) layering things on. Musicians come in and play their part one at a time, you know? There’s a magic of a band playing together that I think is a little bit lost in the digital domain. It’s just the way things are done. That spirit and that feel is another part of ‘Analog’ that I’m referring to.

That’s a great title.

Well, thank you! And I have a song called ‘Analog Man’ that deals with that. “I’m an analog man in a digital world / I’m gonna get me an analog girl / Who loves me for what I am / I’m an analog man.”

Is that one you’re going to play live?

Yeah, we’re working it up now. It’s kind of complex, it’s a big… I’ve never played it live. I have to learn to play it live also right along with the band. Just cause you write ‘em, doesn’t mean you can play them!

Jeff Lynne produced the album, correct?

Oh yeah! Jeff produced it, and it was amazing. There’s another analog man, you know? It was great to get together as two veterans and compare notes. He has his way of doing stuff. There’s nobody like him. He has the ability to see the finished thing when it’s still just an idea.  He keeps you honest, he’s just great to work with. I learned a lot, and I’m pretty much in awe of him. To have somebody with that kind of ability to send me in the right direction was great.

So what are the future plans for the Eagles?

We’ve been playing a lot, but the last year and a half or so has been out of the country. We covered all of Asia and a bunch of stuff in Europe and Scandinavia. But we’re in a down time. Next year is the 40th anniversary of the Eagles, so we’re getting kinda geared up for that. I think we’re gonna do kind of a retrospective show. We have thousands of archived films, pictures, recordings, and we’re going to pick out some of the album cuts that weren’t necessarily the hits, put a sprinkling of those in. We’re just gonna celebrate the big 4-0. We’re really looking forward to it.

Any chance the James Gang is coming back?

I think so, yeah. When we played those shows a few years back, we just wanted to reconnect and see how we did, and see if we can still do it. It takes everything you’ve got to be in a three-piece band. You have a good night and there’s nothing like it. You have a bad night and it’s pretty ugly. We can do it, we can still do it. We got a couple of gigs under our belt and we were rocking. I think we absolutely should do a tour and maybe record some new stuff. We’ll have a look at that next year also.

Geez, you’re gonna be busy. Thanks for playing Cleveland on your upcoming tour, by the way, too many bands skip it…

I love Cleveland, and you know, it’s payback. I never have forgotten my roots. (Walsh played in many bands in Cleveland early in his career). I probably couldn’t have got to where I am if I had been in another city. The support and the energy in the music scene, we were rocking in the 70′s!

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