Spinning Platters Interview: Rick Springfield

by Gordon Elgart on January 20, 2018

 

Although it’s widely touted as a comedy festival, SF Sketchfest has a wide ranging program that meanders into film, television, literature and music as well. How fitting it is, then, that Rock Solid With Pat Francis is welcoming a guest with a long career doing all three. From his beginnings with mega-hit “Jesse’s Girl” to his years as Noah Drake on General Hospital to his critically acclaimed memoir of depression, Late, Late Night all the way to co-starring with Meryl Streep in Jonathan Demme’s final film, Rikki and the Flash, Rick Springfield has a career as interesting and varied as the rest of the programming at SF Sketchfest. When given the opportunity to talk to him about his Sketchfest appearance and his new blues centered album The Snake King, and told I would only have an hour to prepare, I jumped at the chance.

Rick Springfield was in his car on the way to Joshua Tree when he called.

You’re coming to talk to Pat Francis for his Rock Solid Podcast at SF Sketchfest. Are you familiar with this podcast?

I understand a podcast is, obviously, but I’m not quite sure what this podcast is, or how music fits in.

It’s a music podcast, and when they have a guest on, they often dig deep and talk about songs you wouldn’t normally get asked about. Are there any songs you like to talk about that no one ever asks about?

(Laughter.) No, not really, that’s for you guys to pick out.

Will you be playing anything from your new blues record, The Snake King?

They didn’t tell me that I could but I’d be happy to. I’m proud of it, it’s kind of weird and funny but I like it.

You do have that Christmas song, “Santa Is an Anagram,” on it. That would fit right into a comedy festival.

Yes, it’s a humorous one, one of the funny ones. It follows a song called “Suicide Manifesto,” so I was trying to lighten the mood a little bit.

Because you’re coming to a comedy festival in San Francisco, they may expect you to be funny.

I can be pretty funny. It depends how much I have to drink. I do think comedians are the ballsiest people on earth.

Do you think comedy is harder than music?

Getting up alone and trying to make people laugh has got to be the hardest job in the world. Some of the smartest people on the planet are comedians, they should try running for president but they don’t want to.

It seems to be that everyone wants to be a rock star, though. As a rock star, would you want to be anything else?

It’s a pretty cool gig, and can be a pain in the butt like anything, but I like acting, too, but I probably won’t try stand up. I don’t think I have the courage to do that.

You might find someone who’s willing to coach you in San Francisco if you ask around.

I do have a solo show that has a lot of humor in it, kind of a storyteller thing. (Editor’s note: look for his Stripped Down dates near you.)

You came to San Francisco a few years ago with that show, a club called Yoshi’s that sadly doesn’t exist anymore.

It’s a shame,  it was a nice little place.

Hard to Hold was shot in SF, right? The house you shot in back in 1984 would be worth a lot more today.

We actually filled it at the penthouse suite at the Fairmont.

It was actually shot in the hotel?  I always assumed it was shot somewhere else and made to look like a hotel.

A lot of times, we use the actual places, but I shot this movie with Meryl Streep called Rikki and the Flash and there are a lot of scenes in a bar. We played a bar band and they built the whole bar on a soundstage. I thought we were going to use an actual bar. It depends how they want to film it if they’re going to need to take walls out or anything.

You’ve been doing acting appearances for years, and with YouTube you can watch anything. Is there anything you wish people wouldn’t watch?

Oh my god, probably about the first ten years of my work as an actor. It was pretty awful. Some of the scripts sucked, too. There were some awful scripts back in the seventies. A lot of the shows were cool, though. I did the Rockford Files, I was on the first Battlestar Galactica which is something that gets thrown at me by a lot of the nerds that are into that sort of thing. Yeah a lot of the stuff was pretty horrible. Certainly, some of my early acting on General Hospital was pretty atrocious. I’ve gotten much better at it, though.

Indeed. At Spinning Platters, we cover a lot of new music, and we like to ask musicians if there’s something you listen to these days that you think more people should listen to.

Yes, my music. My new album. (Laughter.) It’s not out yet but you should catch it. But I’m listening to a band called Porcupine Tree that’s been around for a while.

Oh, Porcupine Tree. That’s my favorite band.

Seriously?

Steven Wilson is my favorite musician, yes, absolutely.

Yes, he’s amazing. I’ve been listening to them for three or four years non-stop, I think he’s an incredible songwriter. His writing is insane.

(Minutes of nerding out about Steven Wilson follow where I recommend his other projects to Rick Springfield, and he talks about his favorites, and about how he listens to them when he writes. Basically, Porcupine Tree is the best and we agree on this.)

I noticed you’re going to be a celebrity judge on a rescue dog competition show. How did that end up happening?

I love dogs. I like dogs more than people so it’s an easy thing for me to do. On the road, we’ll visit shelters, and I’ve had two rescues, and one of them was on my first album cover so I’ve always been associated with them. They asked if I would do it, and I thought it was a great idea. You’ve got to do something other than just for yourself so I focus on dogs and kids.

So that dog on the cover of Working Class Dog was your dog?

Yes, that was my dog. I bought his shirt and tie and dressed him up. That was my boy.

 

You said you were on the way to work on a video for the first single. Which song is going to be the first single?

“In the Land of the Blind” but we’re going to do one for “Little Demon” and on Harry (Connick Jr’s talk show) we did “Voodoo House” which I think is the next one we’re going to do

When you were putting this record, were you listening to things that inspired you, or were these songs you had written and finally found a place for?

They’re all new, I just sat down and starting writing, and knew the direction I wanted so we just did it.

Now that I know you listen to Porcupine Tree, will you be doing a heavy prog album soon?

(Laughter.) No. I listen to stuff that I don’t play. I like adventurous stuff a lot, but the closest thing to that is probably Little Demon where it goes into a bunch of areas, and it’s really suited to this record.

Thanks so much for talking to us.

Thanks for the interview, and I’ll see you in San Francisco.

—–

Rock Solid With Pat Francis and special guest Rick Springfield is live on January 20 at 4:00PM at Cobb’s Comedy Club. For more info or to buy tickets, click here.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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