Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: April 2nd, 2006
Hi Paul how’s your day going today?
Well other than typhoons coming in every other day, it’s pretty good. I used to live for a while in California and it had great weather but I don’t know what happened! Now each day is seasonal. It basically sucks. I have not seen seventy degrees in ages. In the daytime it’s been about fifty seven degrees. I do plan on moving to Hawaii pretty soon though. I live in the Pacific Palisades and the prices here are getting pretty expensive.
To live here with my mom and myself I pay out almost three grand a month. I can get a place over there almost the size of a city for the same price. I moved here because it was safe for my family but if I move to Hawaii I could hire an army for the same price (Laughing). I love it in Hawaii and with today’s technology I can still make records with artists from East Slabovia.
So Paul you came from a famous family your father being the movie star Sabu Dastagir from "The Jungle Book" and your mother being an actress, plus your sister Jasmine being a writer and trainer of Arabian hybrid horses. That must have been great growing up in that atmosphere!
Yes it was. My Dad was famous and my sister(who passed away three years ago) had various credits for different things she accomplished. The top one that she was always laughing about was that she was the trainer for the horse in the ‘Godfather’ movie. The only horse scene in the Godfather was with the guy who wakes up with the dead horse head next to him (laughing). I mean how much training can that be (laughing)?
She also wrote Thief of Baghdad II and they went to shoot it, but till this day I don’t know if it was ever done! When they went to shoot over there, the director somehow took the Koran and they used it in a scene where they burned it.
They put the entire crew in prison!! So unfortunately my sister got sick. We never found out what happened to the movie. If the crew ever gets out of prison it might get finished. It even made the papers and my sister just couldn’t believe they did such a thing.
Your father became a US Citizen and was also in U.S Army Air Force as a tail gunner. He flew several dozen missions over the Pacific and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. How proud are you of your dad?
Well my mom met my dad on a movie set. She was a stand in for Gail Russell. Yeah my dad had a lot of metals and was a pretty big war hero. I was really little when he died, but I couldn’t be more proud of him. A lot of people grew up with him when he did movies. He was the first and biggest star from India that made it here in the movies. Yet the Indians don’t know him that well. I have a restaurant down the block and I would go pick up some food I ordered and when I get there I would say order for Sabu. They would look at me and say what kind of name is that (laughing). But then again, there are the people who do remember him, and it seems more people on the East Coast remember him more then the West Coast. I always wanted to do something special for my mom. I compiled some things - he did The Jungle Book… and he did an actual narration of it that has never been heard, and when my sister passed away, we had to pack up all his thirty years of memories. One of things I found was an old recording of him doing the Jungle Book. This is thirty minutes of him and it’s so good. It’s on a 78 record and I just got it transferred onto a digital master and I am going to start working on that. My mom kept a lot of his things that are great memories.
Paul you started playing guitar at age 15. Do you recall the model of that guitar and where you got it from?
Yeah I was one of those kids that could play at the age of two years old. My first guitar was a Sears Silvertone and it was absolutely horrible! My neighbor (at the time) could play and they would watch him and the girls loved him. Once I saw that reaction, I said I gotta get a guitar. The first guitar that was halfway decent was one that I got because I watched Jimi Hendrix on VHS, so I had to get a Strat. I also acquired a few Les Pauls but really I always loved the Strat.
Did you take lessons?
I did for a little while. I took lessons from this guy who played flamenco. I learned technique from him and that is basically how I was trained.
What was the first concert you attended?
Gosh! Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I came out of there drooling. I saw them at Long Beach Arena. It was amazing. Recently (in 2005) the new Godzilla movie came out and Keith Emerson did the music on that and it was just horrible. I was so bummed. There was this three hundred and twenty foot giant walking around with this music going dee-dee-do-dee-dee (laughing). I thought to myself his music changed a lot (laughing) from “Brain Salad Surgery”.
How about the first record you bought?
It’s gotta be a Hendrix record. No, no – actually, it was “Help” by the Beatles. I learned how to play “You've Got to Hide Your Love Away”.
Tell us about your school years?
I was a pre-med major. When I went into college I skipped two years. I made it to pre-med and took one semester of music classes. I failed all my classes in music because I did not know anything about it. I knew about pre-med, but I knew by then I did not want to be a doctor.
Were you in any talent shows?
No not really. The only thing I can think of on those lines was that they had an audition for the Kidd Glove album. Motown had this thing where they wanted to get in to the rock and roll venue. So they searched the globe to try find the rocker to represent Motown’s entry into this. They had a major cattle call from every place and I auditioned for it and believe it or not, I got the gig. I swore I would never do another one of those things again. I felt so goofy because there were so many people. It was a hard album to do because it was produced by this guy named Steve Barri. He was a really nice guy but not a producer; I wanted to get the guy who produced the Whitesnake album - not the guy who engineered The Carpenters! I said to myself this is not even a close second. This was Motown’s idea of a rock and roll version of The Carpenters.
In 1979 you came out with two self-titled albums - one being disco and one being rock. Why two and which sold better?
Well…this is how I got signed. I was twenty-two at the time and I played clubs while attending school. The guy who actually signed me always came into this bar. He said to me do you do any disco stuff? I said no but I was great at emulating stuff so if you play it to me, then I can do it. For some reason he just liked me and gave me a break. God was looking down on me and gave me a chance. I did it because that is what the label was… Twenty-two producing your first record? I didn’t know shit! I had a lot of people around me (like engineers) that were hot shot guys. Even though I was smart enough to get some great players for the record, I never really had the ability to find out what direction I was going in, and it was the only gig I could get. After that, it was something that I would never listen to. One thing about disco is that technically it gets you trained (i.e. how they make the record and things) - I was like a sponge for knowledge, and learned anything I could. I would stay up all night sweeping and cleaning the studio just to hear others, to learn new tricks or anything.
Which album sold better, the disco one or the rock one?
The disco one, because that was the era.
“Heartbreak” originally came out in 1985 and re-issued in 1995 on CD which had three bonus tracks. Now in 2006 you release “Heartbreak” again with three different bonus tracks. “Cassie”, “Shake It Out”, and "Street Angel" which was on the Kidd Glove CD. I know you said you wanted a better sounding release. Are there any other reasons?
I actually did the “Heartbreak” album the same time I was doing the Kidd Glove album. I hated the Kidd Glove album. What happened was, when Long Island Records contacted me they just wanted to re-issue the record on CD. “Heartbreak” was really big in England and Europe. So that was the guy at the time, and I did not know he had cancer. It just came out and he was going on vacation and he died. Before he left, he told me that the record company was splitting off into two separate sections and that he had a set of artists while his partner has a different set of artists. He said, you’re going to be my artist, and I said ok fine.
But when he died, the company reformed and I don’t even know how much they pressed it. One of my German friends (Michael Voss) and I had written a couple songs for a band called “Vengeance” that was on MTM Records. I guess they liked the songs a lot. So they called me and asked if they could re- issue the album, because people were still trying to get it. I said sure. He asked one request; he said you did some tracks on this ‘Hard Rock Zombies’ movie. The movie came out and it was bad, but it was picked up by Sony and re-released as a comedy and ending up becoming a huge cult hit. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I get per day saying it has to be the greatest Sci-Fi movie they ever saw. I was cracking myself up because my mom got me into this thing and they wanted me to play a zombie in the movie. I said I ain’t going to be in this movie - what are you nuts? So they were also looking for someone to do the music. I’d rather do the music than be the actor. I did the whole soundtrack. So those were from the Movie.
Also were “Cassie” and “Shake It Out” demos from the Kidd Glove era?
No they are not leftovers. They were done for the film with a budget of five dollars. So we did them on a drum machine in the studio. I always do the best I do no matter what. So the three songs for MTM were those songs from the movie. I was talking with Mario (the owner of MTM) and we are going to do another record which should be out by August.
Paul could you please clear this up for me - what does Eric Carr and/or his post-Disco band Flasher have to do with your 1980 self-titled debut release on MCA? And The Kiss Collector tapes on Fire records?
I have no idea. I have never worked with Eric Carr. I know my name is mingled with a lot of names. Even if you go to eBay and type my name you might come up with a lawn mower. Something like, Paul once used this lawn mower (laughing). There are a lot of Kiss related recording. Things I’ve done with Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick and I wrote some stuff with Paul Stanley and worked for Gene with a few albums. But nothing with Eric Carr.
In 1988 you came out with a fantastic album changing the name to “Only Child” - through Rhino/Rampage. What was your favorite memorable moment recording it?
Well in England it got the highest review Kerrang magazine ever gave it. My favorite track was “Scream Until You Like It”, because I really dug the song. There was a lot of good writing on it; five of the songs were used in the movie ‘Meatballs.’
In 1989, did you and Gene Simmons produce “Don't Touch Me There” for the “Silent Rage” record on Simmons Records?
I can settle that question. Gene didn’t do shit. Gene really pissed me off. I did the record and I walked out on it. I told the guys mix it yourself I can’t work with this guy anymore. It would be much better not to have Gene as a boss that’s all I can say. He has no ideas in the beginning but after you done everything, then he has a whole bunch of them. That being said about Gene, I want to say for the record, that I love Kiss as they are an amazing circus act that made it.
The song “All Night Long" was written by Bruce Kulick and Adam Mitchell. Did you have anything to do with that song?
Yeah I recorded it and we had a couple meetings on it. Bruce was great, we would be together and he would change a few things saying this riff would be better here, etc. and he would play it. I was obligated to change it. Bruce is a great guy.
You also worked on the “Trick or Treat” Movie?
Yeah we did the main theme songs for that movie. The funny part in that movie was that Gene is a DJ and he is playing “Scream Until You Like It”.
Tell me what it is like when you were working on the Kiss “Hot in The Shade” album? And is it true that Paul Stanley and Eric Singer wrote most of that album. Do you know if Singer actually played on that release?
I did not work on the “Hot in the Shade” album. Paul and Eric wrote most of that album. I would imagine that Eric Singer played on it.
Did you write songs that were on HITS?
Could be, I wrote something’s with Paul Stanley but nothing that stuck out.
Have you written songs for Kiss that were never used?
You also did some work with Vinnie Vincent. Have you heard anything from him or about his whereabouts?
I never worked with him, but I did go to some album parties with him. Haven’t heard or seen Vinnie in a long time. He was an amazing guitar player.
You discovered Eileen Edwards (Shania Twain) at an early age. Tell me the experience and where did you find her?
Yes I discovered her. I was writing for Lee Aaron a big Canadian star. I was up in Canada with a friend named Harry Hind who was producing this act; he did not know what to do with it, this was Eileen. She was up in this place called Deerhurst a beautiful resort managed by the guy who owned the resort. What had happened is that he asked me if I could write some songs with her. So I said yeah and I went over to see her at one of her gigs but I missed the gig and she said can you come back with me where I’m working at. We started working on some songs. The place was a couple hundred miles away up in these mountains. Eileen is not that big of a girl and she had one of these 4 x 4 pick up trucks and she’s driving up this mountain like this guy Mr. Toad wild ride and I’m cringed to my seat thinking we are going to go over any minute. It was so far up that moose don’t even go there. So that is where we started. I think I’ve liked to have helped her a little.
You have worked with Alice Cooper, Simon La Bon, Sheena Easton, Madonna, Prince, Corey Hart, David Bowie, The Nelsons, and Wasp. You also worked with John Waite. Who was your favorite to work with?
John Waite really got screwed from the industry like know one else has. He has a chip on his shoulder. With Alice Cooper, I did a lot on the “Hey Stupid” album. I did some of the guitar stuff that Slash was supposed to do. I also came in and did some background vocals. If you listen to any of the songs on the “Hey Stupid” album and at the end of the song you hear someone singing higher then a gnat, that’s me (laughing). I was screaming my balls off. I was screaming so hard I was bleeding. Simon La Bon, I was doing some AC/DC stuff at their studio and we met up and worked on some stuff. Prince was great. I worked with him on a bunch of stuff. He is just classic. He is beyond talented. Just prior to me getting sign to Motown they had a pending deal with Prince. They didn’t sign him and I always thought to myself they signed me and not Prince, jiminy Christmas what’s wrong with this company?! Bowie, I did his “Greatest Hits” album. He is the kindest person and cordial – I can’t say enough about him. Nelsons – they are hilarious. I worked on the Bill and Ted soundtrack.
Kerrang's poll of November 2005 has you as holding the #2 greatest AOR albums of all times! Have you read that and what are your feelings towards that?
I actually got a copy and was amazed. They actually like me over there. Japan never liked me until this album came out. I did the “Superman” album in Japan it had a blue cover. It was titled Paul Sabu and all my friends were loved by Japan but they hated me until this album. It was # 1 for six weeks over there. Everyone was freaking out because they did not expect it to do very good.
This was in 1996 and I got all these calls from Japan for interviews asking me about my background and what I am going to do next. I said to them I have no fucking clue last week you hated me (laughing) this week you love me, call me in a month maybe you will change your mind. (laughing). But they were really nice. I didn’t say it quite that blunt. England has always liked me and those guys at Kerrang always liked me, it’s just the way it is.
Is there any artist that you have not worked with you would like to?
Tina Turner. If Gary Moore asked me to work with him I would just sit there and drool.
Who is the newest talent, people should know about?
Ipod. Truly though, I don’t know where all the good bands went. They are like dinosaurs - they just all vanished. Some of the new guys have the one song that cool but the rest of the album sucks. There is nothing like Alice in Chains or anything like that. Everybody is tuning down to E flat…. then D to C sharp. How many times you going to tune down, you don’t even need a bass player anymore. A lot of these old bands are trying it again. Some are good like Y & T but most are like seeing Spinal Tap. It’s like the Moody Blues. I have a friend who is a background singer for them now. She missed a couple of her cues because she fell asleep. I kid you not. I have not seen Whitesnake but I have a friend who saw them and he said they were just amazing. But all the bands that are putting themselves back together in general and putting out goofy records I never wanted to do that and never wanted to put out another record. I wrote some really cool tunes and thought about it again. When I did The Monsters Of Rock Tour, I seem big enough to play over in the UK and God has been good to me, but after you play Red Square, every other gig seems pretty small. I didn’t want to reform and do a Spinal Tap tribute. I love my life and my son and I get to do things I only want to do.
I listened to the “Heartbreak” CD today as we were driving in the car and it still holds up after twenty years.
I’m lucky. I do I put my heart and soul into it. Maybe the technology got better but I wouldn’t do them any different. For me at the time I put a lot of TLC into that. I was putting my own money into it; I didn’t have a label all I knew is that I had to do something because what I was doing was not right. If I only done the Kidd Glove album, nobody would go back and listen to the Kidd Glove album and say hey that stuff was pretty cool what he was doing if I hadn’t done the harder stuff. That album wasn’t me doing really great stuff because there were too many chiefs on that album. I still did my best. On the “Heartbreak” album I got to be more me and anything you do you do your best and I think it lasts.
Paul, what would you like to be remembered for, being a songwriter, producer, or artist?
I got to say I am a guitar player that makes records. When I produce a record I am very impatient and I can say the way it should be rather then having band discussions which I hate. I know most people call me the producer but I consider myself always a guitar player that wrote songs.
Are you working on anything now?
I’m doing my wife’s Christian album and another solo album. I am also doing the Jesse Damon album.
Would you ever work with Kiss again?
Would I or will I (laughing)? I don’t know who they are working with now, but I highly doubt it. Half of House of Lords just got back together. Jimi Bell just called me. Jimi Bell and I are just like brothers forever. I love the guy - we don’t get to work on much stuff together but we are great friends. He is a Connecticut guy and a lot of talent comes out of Connecticut like Vincent Vinnie. It’s funny it must be like Venice because all these great guitarists live a block from each other.
Paul this has been a real experience for me and a pleasure. Would you like to say anything in conclusion?
I thank you for looking into this interview, it has been the most intelligent article I ever done. I can’t tell you how many idiots I get asking me the most goofy questions. Answering the questions you asked me along with the extensive research you did made it an honor doing this interview. I really appreciate it. I got lucky at twenty-two and God has been looking down on me. I eat, sleep and breathe music and it’s the only way I make money and it’s the thing I love.