It takes some thinking for a casual listener to remember who Rick Wills is. Quite unfair for a man whose playing can be heard every day, as “Waiting For A Girl Like You” featuring his bass is always on some radio station. But FOREIGNER is not the only station where this brilliant musician has left his aural baggage at. There are interesting things going for Rick now – and that’s why this conversation took place.
– If you were to name just one band you played in, what would it be?
– You started as a guitarist. What prompted you to switch the instruments?
I had always liked the bass guitar, and when rhythm guitars started going out of fashion in the Sixties, I decided to change over and become the bass player.
– How do you remember JOKER’S WILD and BULLITT? Would the bands go far had David Gilmour not accepted an invitation from PINK FLOYD?
JOKER’S WILD were a Cambridge group that played locally, and I got to know them and used to sit in and play with then whenever I could. We decided to move the group to London because various people were interested in furthering Dave’s career, and so Willy Wilson and myself went with him and formed at first THE FLOWERS and lived in Spain and France and then became, eventually, BULLITT, but Dave got the call from PINK FLOYD, and the rest is history. I don’t think we would have considered continuing without him.
– How did COCHISE come to be with such top players like yourself, B J Cole and Mick Grabham and play such non-English music as country rock? Was there any competition with BRONCO who played in the same vein?
COCHISE came about by Willy Wilson, the drummer, and myself. We were looking for a band and Mick Grabham was with a group called PLASTIC PENNY and he wanted to do something different, so he suggested that we rehearse together and see what happened. He brought B J Cole along and a singer called Stuart Brown, and we just sort of became COCHISE and the music developed with a country feel. I don’t think we really thought about BRONCO, it was just a style thing that was happening at that time.
– How did it come you joined PARRISH AND GURVITZ if Paul Gurvitz was a bass player himself?
Paul and Brian were being tipped as the new BEATLES, because George Martin was producing them at the time I met them, which, as you can imagine, put a lot of pressure on things, Paul and Brian wanted to be front men with a group behind them so that was why Paul decided to play guitar. It was a good band, with Mike Kelly of SPOOKY TOOTH on drums and Micky Gallagher on keyboards. We did a tour of America and some TV in Europe, and then Peter Frampton asked us to join him as he had just left HUMBLE PIE. So we did.
– Was it comfortable for you, in the stylistic terms, doing progressive stuff with Kevin Ayers and ROXY MUSIC?
Kevin Ayers was avery interesting project if not crazy! The band consisted of Zoot Money, Tony Newman and Ollie Halsall, and they were all very heavy drinking guys and pretty crazy characters, so it was a lot of fun and very musical but probably very out of control as far as Kevin was concerned. ROXY MUSIC was most enjoyable and they were very kind and nice people. The music was something that I never thought I would enjoy but it was interesting to play and I found that I could get into it after a while. The tours were always good fun and I’m glad I had that experience.
– What did you feel filling Ronnie Lane’s shoes in SMALL FACES?
I never did feel comfortable filling Ronnie’s shoes as I was such a fan of the band that it didn’t seem possible for me to be doing it. Steve [Marriott] asked me, and I couldn’t say “No” but it was strange playing those great songs and thinking, “What am I doing up here on stage with these guys?”
– Was it your recording with HUMBLE PIE that led to your involvement with SMALL FACES?
No. I didn’t actually ever record with HUMBLE PIE: I was given a credit in the “Smokin'” album because I used to hang out at the studio with them and I got to know them really well, as Jerry Shirley and I had played in a band together before he joined HUMBLE PIE – it was called LITTLE WOMEN.
– Why, do you think, the second SMALL FACES incarnation failed?
Steve Marriott had gotten heavily into drugs and drink, and although he could still play and sing well his writing suffered in my opinion. So without good songs on the two albums we made, we suffered the age-old problem of having no good new material to play to the fans and just playing the old songs over and over. Soon we got tired and fell apart. It was fun, though, and we did do some good shows across England and Europe.
– You were in FOREIGNER through all the best times. Whatever different was the line-up you joined with Ian McDonald, to the latter ones?
To be in FOREIGNER when I joined in 1979 was so fantastic that you can’t believe just what it was like to be in such a huge and popular band. The line-up when I joined was Mick Jones, Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott, Ian McDonald and Al Greenwood, and for the next couple of years it seemed to work well. Then we started work on the “Foreigner 4” album with Mutt Lange, and Mick and Lou thought it was time to make a change in the line-up, So we became just four members and we could bring in different players to do different things on keyboards and guitars, it was more flexible and it gave the band new energy that had been missing.
– Were you offered a job when Mick Jones and Lou Gramm resurrected the band?
No! But it’s all right because we had run the distance by then and I had become involved with BAD COMPANY.
– Did you ever wish you’d be in BAD COMPANY with Paul Rodgers at the front?
Yes, but I thought the version of BAD COMPANY with Robert Hart was really good. Still, I wanted to know what it would be like with Paul ’cause I am a fan.
– What have you been up to in the recent years?
Since leaving BAD COMPANY I have joined up with Kenney Jones and Robert Hart and Dave “Bucket” Colwell and formed a new band called THE JONES GANG. We have recorded new album of original songs and will be releasing this in the States this spring. We also hope to be touring with the new album.
– I heard 2005 is going to keep you busy. What is it the future holds for you?
Yes, I think this will be our year I certainly hope so as I really believe we have made a great CD and want to have the kind of success it deserves.
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