Rick Nielson is the lead guitarist of Cheap Trick. With an amaranthine array of records and an endless, eternity of concerts and tours, Cheap Trick continues their deathless and perpetual relevance.
Having originated in 1973, with their very first album released in 1977, Cheap Trick continues to be one of the most celebrated and covered bands in history. Best known for hits including: “Surrender”, “I Want You to Want Me”, “Dream Police”, and “The Flame”, the faction was inducted into “The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame” in 2016. Band members include: Robin Zander, singing lead vocals, playing rhythm guitar, and keys, Rick Nielsen, playing lead guitar, singing back-up, and playing keyboards, Tom Petersson on the bass and backing vocals, and Rick’s son Daxx on the drums, singing back-up as well.
I was honored to have had a conversation with iconic guitarist Rick Nielsen, who was hysterically comedic, and exceedingly handsome, ( I promised him that I would say that ). Mesmerized by his humor, and effervescence, we spoke about rock n’ roll, inspirations, a future intentions…
Eileen Shapiro: Thank you for speaking with me first of all and if there is any question that you’re tired of answering, just tell me you can’t deal with it.
Rick Nielson: I can’t deal with anything.
Eileen Shapiro: In a time where it’s difficult for artists today to stay relevant for 40 seconds, how is it that Cheap Trick still remains musically pertinent and significant after 49 years?
Rick Nielson: We are? We’re relevant? I think we just do what we do and we don’t try to be somebody else. When you try to be somebody else or try to be something or try to figure out what’s going on in the world….we just do what we do. I tell people, I don’t think we’ve ever progressed.
Eileen Shapiro: When you originally recorded your very first album, “Cheap Trick”, is there anything that you would have done differently if you had today’s technology at your disposal?
Rick Nielson: Maybe something we did in our live show…We thought we were going to have this great mechanical eye, like “Spinal Tap”, and we never used it after.
Eileen Shapiro: You’ve seen music go from vinyl to digital, do you have any thoughts on how the state of the music industry has changed?
Rick Nielson: Oh, there is a music industry? Oh wow! Cheap Trick is still working and we’ll keep making records, like we’ve done for the last 20 years. We’re too dumb to quit doing what we do.
Eileen Shapiro: Do you have a favorite question that you’ve been asked?
Rick Nielson: Yeah, is this the last question?
Eileen Shapiro: I ask a lot of artists this question, do you have an ultimate stage fantasy?
RN: I think we’d have an audio/visual thing going on about Cheap Trick while we’re on stage, and the camera would make me look handsome.
Eileen Shapiro: You mean you haven’t done that yet?
RN: I don’t think I’m handsome yet so, we’re working on that.
Eileen Shapiro: I think you’re handsome.
Rick Nielson: That’s all I need to know.
I’ve read that you’re one of the most covered bands in the world, who do you most like to cover?
Rick Nielson: We do a lot of Roy Wood.
Eileen Shapiro: You’re constantly touring, what is it that you like best about leading the rock star life?
Rick Nielson: Not much. We like to play, and we’ve been able to do this for a long time. Wonderful news.
Eileen Shapiro: Let’s talk about your last release, it’s kind of different.
Rick Nielson: That’s what we like. That’s what we like to hear.
Eileen Shapiro: What inspired the record?
RN: The fact that we were asked to do it. We were asked, “you guys wanna do another record”? Hell yeah! So that’s what we did. It’s all good news.
Eileen Shapiro: Is there a song that never fails to evoke emotion when you hear it?
Rick Nielson: I like “Salty Dog” by Procol Harum. Look that one up.
Eileen Shapiro: Do you have an idol?
Rick Nielson: Billy Idol, I don’t know. I like him. He’s funny. We toured with him last year in Australia and New Zealand.
Eileen Shapiro: I saw you when you toured with Rick Springfield.
Rick Nielson: I don’t know if that was a tour. We did some shows with him.
Eileen Shapiro: Do you recall your proudest moment as an artist?
Rick Nielson: I got to work with John Lennon. That was pretty cool.
Eileen Shapiro: Wow! That so cool.
Rick Nielson: Yeah, not bad huh? He was very cool, it was an honor.
Eileen Shapiro: Were you nervous?
Rick Nielson: No, I think he was. We had a good time together,
Eileen Shapiro: You were recently inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame”, what was that like?
Rick Nielson: That was quite an honor, I think. If my parents were alive I could say, “Hey look, I made it”.
Eileen Shapiro: What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you live?
Rick Nielson: Playing with The Who. That might have been it. I’ve done a few things with them. Once again it’s an honor to do it. How do you explain something that you do, that you love, and you’re lucky enough that you get to do it? It’s hard to explain but it’s like pretty darn cool. I think I made Pete Townsend nervous too.
Eileen Shapiro: I noticed that you will be playing at The Greek Theatre in California, that’s a big deal.
Rick Nielson: We’ve played there a bunch of times. Do you know what the best thing about playing at The Greek Theatre is?
Eileen Shapiro: What?
Rick Nielson: Well after the show you could go eat at ‘In and Out Burger”. That’s the only thing you didn’t laugh about, you must like the burgers.
Eileen Shapiro: Never tried one, but i'm thinking about it because of you.
Rick Nielson: Then you better get out of Brooklyn, they don’t deliver.
Eileen Shapiro: Is there any advice that you would give to “Baby Rick”, knowing what you do now?
Rick Nielson: Practice. Practice more. Keep practicing. Don’t stop.
Eileen Shapiro: Do you write most of the songs for the band?
Rick Nielson: Sometimes. We all write. Like the album, “ We All Right”
Eileen Shapiro: Is there a favorite song that you’ve written?
Rick Nielson: I haven’t written it yet.
Eileen Shapiro: There are a million new artists out there hoping to become rich and famous, is there any advice that you could give them?
Rick Nielson: Yeah, I think that they should all do at least one Cheap Trick record on everyone of their records. That would really help them. They can pick anyone they want.
Eileen Shapiro: What do you want to be remembered for most?
Rick Nielson: Never dying.
Eileen Shapiro: You probably won’t.
Rick Nielson: Then I have nothing to worry about.
Eileen Shapiro: So: You’re never going to die and you’re very handsome.
Rick Nielson: Wow, so you did listen to me.
Eileen Shapiro: This is the funnest interview ever.
Rick Nielson: Then we better stop now, I don’t wanna ruin it…..