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15 Minutes with Cheap Trick's Robin Zander

Watch out ZZ Top!
Jim Caligiuri, 1:47pm, Fri. Nov. 16, 2012
Surrender: Bun E. Carlos (who no longer tours with the group), Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, and Tom Petersson
I spoke with singer Robin Zander of nearly 40-year-old rock legends Cheap Trick, who open for Aerosmith tonight at the Frank Erwin Center.

Geezerville: Since the band's in town during F1 weekend, we’re wondering if you're a racing fan?

Robin Zander: I’m a casual F1 racing fan. I’m probably more of a stock car, NASCAR guy. When I was a young boy, a stock car guy used to live across the street from us. He’d work on his car and both of my older brothers became gearheads. So I was close to that growing up. In Rockford, [Illinois], there was the Rockford Speedway and we used to attend that all the time.

G: Did they have a demolition derby there?

RZ: You betcha they did. It was a quarter mile track and they had the figure eight. The Roadrunners, who were the local guys, used to get out there and bash each other around. It was a lot of fun.

G: Everyone knows your partner in guitars Rick Nielsen collects them. Do you?

RZ: I’m not a guitar collector. I own some guitars because I play. Rick’s been collecting since he was a teenager. His dad owned a music shop and by the time I even met Rick he had a substantial collection. I’ve got a few. I probably own 15 or so. But I play them all. I’m affectionate with them [laughs]. A couple I’ve owned since the mid Seventies.

G: Anything else?

RZ: I used to collect comic books. I had a substantial collection. I collect records also, but those have gone the way of the world. The comics I outgrew. I’m still into comics. Now I write them and don’t collect them.

G: Anything that’s been published?

RZ: No, not yet, but soon I hope.

G: Is it true you compete with Aerosmith on a nightly basis?

RZ: Not really. The truth is we’ve known each other a long time and we’re pretty good friends. We put up with each other’s egos and all that junk. Of course we go out and try to kick their asses every night. That’s just natural. It’s all in good fun.

They’re a great rock & roll band. We love touring with them because of the camaraderie. There’s a lot of connections over the years, so it’s like family. They’re our big brothers and you just want to slap them around a little if you can.

G: Will there be a new Cheap Trick album next year?

RZ: We’re working on it. We’ve written about a half-dozen songs so far. We’ve got some new blood in our team, so there's plans for some pretty interesting things. We’ve always been an animated group and figured it’s time to take advantage of that in the ebbing days of our career [laughs].

It’s going to be cool. It’s Cheap Trick. People know what we sound like and look like, and some people even know what we smell like, but we’ve a got of creativity within the group. Those juices flow once or twice a year and we do something special with them. This time we’ve got a something-that’s-never-been-done-before kind of record.

We think we’ve got something special going on.

G: Is the band performing any of the new songs live?

RZ: No yet. We do songs off the last record, which was The Latest. We mix it up every night. We do something from almost every record every night.

G: I was looking at set lists from recent shows and I thought it was pretty cool that you didn’t play the same songs every night.

RZ: I think it depends on what kind of band you are. We go out and want our fans to enjoy our music and we do play one or two songs every night because the fans expect to hear those particular songs. But we mix it up. We play for ourselves just as much. That’s just as important – to prevent yourself from falling asleep up there.

G: Some bands play the same set every night and have everything planned right down to the leg kicks.

RZ: Ugh. We’re going to work on some of that choreography before we get to Austin. I’m going to call Billy Gibbons up and see how they do it. ZZ Top's got those steps together.

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