P- Youíve had it since what year then?
B - Over 20 years.
P-You have a thick sound. Do you do that on purpose?
B- Yeah. I don't like that thin type sound you get from a Strat. Unless you're like Hendrix and have the volume all the way up.
P - Do you play other guitars on stage? Do you have any other guitars?
B - I have this one here that I use as a 2nd guitar. Itís a Les Paul but itís not a Junior.
P - Itís a later year. It doesnít sound the same does it?
B - It sounds like a Les Paul but not like a Junior.
ML- To someone like ME, whatís the difference?
B - I guess itís a single coil pick up which means thereís only one of these magnetic things here.
ML - But whatís different about the sound?
B - Itís more of a kind of distorted rock sound, especially when itís up loud. I also have an Epiphone. It has a single coil pick up. This is my house guitar, it doesnít leave the house.
P - What sort of strings do you use?
B - GHS 009s.
P - If you had endless money what guitar would you have?
B - If I had endless money I wouldnít have one particular guitar, Iíd have GUITARS. Whatís that place on Comm Ave? House of Guitars? Basically my apartment would look like that store.
P- And all electric?
B - Yeah, I had a very nice acoustic at one time but I never played it. It was worth a lot of moneyÖ"Thereís a couple month's rent here. I should sell it!" So I did!
P - What about your tone on the Tone Controls on the guitar on stage?
B - I usually like to control the tone from my guitar. But I usually put the treble all the way up, bass just a little bit. I usually keep the volume way up and if Iím too loud I just control that here. If somethingís too bassy sounding or something I can control it right on stage.
P - What about Amps? I see you have a Fender Pro Reverb.
B - Yeah a black face, they went silver for a while. Iíve had others but I figure for the places I play, thatís all I need. I recently bought a pre-amp so the amp will sound louder.
Nancy Neon enters here.
P- Yeah I donít really ever picture you up there with any effects. Have you ever had a Wa Wa Peddle?
B- Yes. I owned one when I was a kid. I had a thing called a Uni-Wa. It was like a Wa Wa Peddle then you press a peddle and you get that volume thing.
P-You donít care about the Wa Wa effect.
B- No it kinda went out, ya know?
P- The Wa Wa would have been big in like í67. Were you playing in í67?
B- Letís see Iíve been playing since I was 14. I was definitely playing then.
P- When say, the Beatles were big, were you playing?
B- I was about 10 when the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. Thatís when I kind of started getting into playing. My father had a guitar around the house and me and my friends decided we were gonna join a band. Like every other kid in the world probably.
P- You were living on the North Shore as a kid?
B- Yeah, Manchester By The Sea.
P- So, youíre playing guitar and at some point you start a Ďgroupí?
B- Well we had a couple of attempts with friends from my town, it was kind of a phase or a fad with them. I was the only one who kept doing it. I had to go the next aah, "big" town which was Beverly which is right next door. Thatís where it was happening. Thatís where Alpo was from plus thatís where all the drugs and girls were.
P- Youíre first group Dizzy Lizzy comes along at this time.
B- Thatís basically my first band because it's the first band that ever played out.
P- What were some of the songs in Dizzy Lizzy? B- Well, we played "Dizzy Lizzy". We did covers that we liked. We had another guitar player, he kinda looked like Frank Zappa. He was the lead guitar player. Alpo was playing bass and we had a front man, a singer named Nestor Real. I have this picture of us playing and weíre all in ripped jeans and scraggly hair and thereís Nestor, heís got his white bell bottoms and satin shirt! Whatís wrong with this picture?
P- Were you playing ĎGloriaí and "Hanky Panky" ?
B-ĎGloriaí was the first song I learned to play on the guitar. I was so proud of myself when I could change from the D to the A real quick. I think Alpo had a lot to do with saying what songs we should do. I was basically trying to learn how to play and seeing how he was the bass player there wasnít all that much to really learn soÖ
L- Was AlpoÖangry..back then?
B- Alpo was just a wise ass. A Bart Simpson, you know?
P- Do you remember anything in particular he did?
B- How far back do you want me to start? He used to do stuff in front of bands we didnít like. Like when Glitter was popular. Big hair and all that shit and we didnít like any of that kind of look. We just liked ripped jeans and sneakers. Alpo, here he is, this little guy and heíd stand in front of the band giving them the finger with both hands. Just standing there and Iíd be standing behind him kind of like his bodyguard. He knew I was there so heíd do it because if anyone wanted to fuck with him theyíd have to go through me.
L- So did you to decide to move into Boston together? Like "Letís go to Boston and be rock stars." or something?
B- I moved in before him, then he moved in and another good friend of mine. I had a room in a rooming house. I just figured thatís where the action was, in the city. I moved in and didnít really have a band at the time. I didnít really have too much stuff, the usual junk. The same stuff I have now. I didnít even have a bed at the time, I was sleeping on a piece of foam or something and I remember I woke up one day and there was me, there was Alpo and there was another friend of mine and I felt like I was in a tent! And I said "What is this!? I move into the city to get a room of my own and these guys follow me in!"
P- So John shows up and has a couple of songs and what did you think?
B- Well he had songs and we didnít and we all wanted to do original stuff, we didnít want to be a cover band.
L- So you mean that he auditioned for you guys??
B- No he joined us. We got together and played.
P- Do you remember thinking "Wow, these are great songs!" or "Itís just a song, letís play."?
B- I just remember thinking it was the same kind of rockíníroll we liked and they were original. That was the main thing. Because we didnít want to be a cover band. It kind of worked out perfect for all of us.
P- What year, í73, 74?
B- I got out of high school in í73. I moved into the city in í74. So we probably hooked up with Felice about í75.
L- How does Howard come into the picture? B- We stole Howard from The Mezz. We were playing with Kevin Glasheen, another friend of Johnís from Natick.
L- I remember him. He was crazy.
B- Yeah he was a big crazy gorilla. I lived with him for a while.
P- Where did you guys play? You had gigs later at The Club and Cantoneís but before that where did you play?
B- Well there really wasnít any place to play except The Rat and The In Square Menís Bar. Actually itís Felice that can take credit for getting Cantoneís started. He was living right around the corner and he was like "Hereís this little bar that isnít doing anything. We could fill this place every weekend. Weíll just play, our friendsíll come in and drink their asses off and you can make tons of money."
P- Is Cantoneís still there?
L- No, itís a Realty Office or something. B- Just about every time we played the place would be fairly packed. It would always be the same people. It was kinda like we were having a party every time we played. Iíd look out in to the crowd and everyone in the crowd Iíd kow. Thereíd be The Poolside Sharks, Roy Mental goiní "Go MENTAL!" all the girls would all be the same and it was basically a big party. It was a lot of fun.
P- Now at some point do you think "Hey weíre the balls! The Real Kids are really good!" Did you get confident or something?
P- Youíre just playing?
B- At the time I was just having a lot of fun. I donít know what every one else was thinking. I remember I thought it was a big deal when we finally had that opportunity to make the 45 with Sponge. That was exciting. I never thought we were "the balls". There was a time in the band when I think, right after we recorded the first Red Star record, the band had everything that it needed. You know what I mean? Howard was a great drummer. Alpo was a great bass player. I was just playing steady rhythm through the whole thing and Felice had original songs and his style of playing guitar and singing and I thought "This band has everything that it needs!" Then I got kicked out!!
P- You got KICKED OUT?
B- I donít know. Youíll have to ask Felice. I think he wanted some one who had a different haircut or something.
P- You never asked him straight out?
B- Well I have a fairly good idea.
L- When you left, that was much later on, wasnít it?
B- It was kind of like when things were starting to happen. It was right after the Red Star record came out and when the band was going over to Europe and stuff.
P- Then you didnít go to Europe then? Outside of Boston and New York, did you ever tour around?
B- Well just recently we did that West Coast thing and put out the 45. That was kind of fun. We got the original band together for that TKO record. We made a good 45 I thought. Me and Alpo shared a hotel room on the tour and we were talking and we said "We shouldíve done this 20 years ago! What are we doing it now for?" It was good for me, it kind of put some closure on the whole thing.
P- I read reviews from different magazines and it sounded like a lot of people were going crazy in the audience. Were they?
B- Yeah, I mean I was surprised. I didnít go to Europe but I guess people just went crazy for the band. I didnít see any of that stuff, I only saw what was happening in Boston until we did that West Coast thing.
It was weird. Like this one kid came up to me and Howie and said "So, how does it feel to be a rock legend?" Me and Howard just burst out laughing.
P- Well donít you feel that you have that under your belt? You were in this group that was really fantastic for this period of time.
B- No. Thereís nothing to be ashamed of, thatís for sure. I think the stuff we did was good. I think the Red Star record is excellent. It may be live in the studio but it kind of captured what the band sounded like on a good night playing live with no drunken mistakes from anybody. Itís just very tight. The rhythm just sounds like an engine.
P- So youíre kicked out of The Real Kids. That bastard, that bastardÖ.
B- You should do an interview with Squanto, he was kicked out of the Real Kids too. Thatís Kevin Glasheen. He lived right across the street and heíd say "This is where all the guys that get thrown out of the Real Kids live!"
L- Gee, just like the Lyres, theyíd have a whole neighborhood!!
P- But the next thing was The Classic Ruins.
B- Yeah, Frank Rowe, heís a very good guitar player. It was like Billy Cole and I shifted spots. He was in Babyís Arm, with Frank Rowe, then went with the Real Kids and I went with Frank. It was like swapping in a sports team or something. We were kind of like the left-oversÖwe were the classic ruins!
P- To some people The REAL Real Kids would only be when you were in the Real Kids, and in The Classic Ruins itís the same thing. That was the prime time for the Ruins. Both groups are still playing so anyone can see and hear the difference. I would ask.. "What are you bringing to The Classic Ruins and The Real Kids that are making them superlative while youíre there?"
B-Just a strong rhythm guitar. Itís not something you can be taught, it comes naturally. Either you have it or you donít. Iím not playing any fancy chords or incredible guitar leads or anything. Itís just the timing and the rhythm.
P- To me thatís a fascinating statement. You never hear anyone state that they are great rhythm player.
B-Well I think a lot of people can do it, so itís not all that great of a thing.
P- Has your playing changed through the years, do you think?
B-Hopefully Iíve become a better guitar player. But Iíve kept it fairly basic. I mean I was raised on the Blues and RockíníRoll is just the Blues a little sped up.
P- But you are playing differently in the Varmints from how you played in The Real Kids.
B- Well I donít want the Varmints to sound like The Real Kids. I want the band to be different. Just like all these pictures I do are different. Kind of the same, but different. Iíve moved on musically.
P- Now when you started playing a lot of people were playing that guitar style, that riff based on the old blues riffs. Nobodyís doing that now and itís a much simpler riff now.
B- Itís easier!
P- As far as the Real Kids becoming real big Öat that time nobody was playing that blues type of riff, the punks were playing the simpler riff. So maybe you got pushed out, in the sense that people were choosing. They wanted this new sound and you sounded a little bit more like Chuck Berry than, letís say, The Sex Pistols.
B- The Real Kids were before the Sex Pistols. Their stuff is more attitude and fashion. We were keeping itÖyou know, rootsy.
P- The Classic Ruins lasted quite a long time. How did you feel being in that band?
B- That was interesting because it was like going into a whole different sound. A lot of the time Frank would already have the rhythm part written. Like in Geraldine I Need Money, heíd be playing going down the fret board and Iíd be playing going up. So weíd be playing totally different things.
P- When/how did that end?
B-Itís kind of like the older you get the harder it is to keep people together. Especially if youíre not making any money. Especially if everyone has to pay the rent, or their wife or girlfriend starts nagginí at them. "Youíre always going to band practice! You never make any money! When are gonna give that up?!". You know something is going on in their life and itís hard to keep everyone together. Unless the band is touring and making money they start to fall apart. Pete Taylor just moved to Maine. Heís got a little cabin up in the woods and he just pulled up his stakes and moved to Maine.
ML- Well, they lost their Rent Control apartment.
P- So what about the Varmintsí next gig if Peteís gone?
B- Thereís Matt.
P-Thank God for Matt Burns!
ML- Heís in every band I think.
B- I was trying to get another line up of The Varmints together but most people are in two or three other bands. Iím trying to get people who arenít in other bands. Itís kind of like having a girlfriend whoís got three or four other boyfriends. It gets too complicated, you know?
P- Was Primitive Souls your next band?
B- That was just a side project with Pete and Alpo, it was just a 3 piece.
P- So at some point you get this idea to have your own group.
B- Well I had been writing songs and if you want something done right, do it yourself.
P- The 3rd song, "Maybe". Iím listening to that and I hear this stuff and I think "What the hell is that?" Itís Carl Biancucci.
B- Who knows what heís doing. I think heís playing bass, ha ha! Sounds great what ever heís doing.
P- Heís unbelievable. He is locked in, rhythmically but heís also melodic and heís also gymnastic. And that song really shows what he can do. What about ĎPay Dirt" is it about a girl?
B- Itís about love and being alone and getting up everyday and youíre basically digging a grave for yourself until you find it.
NN- That wasnít going to be on the CD, Billy didnít want it on there. But the guy who was doing the mastering said it should be on there. I had said it should be on there so when he said it and it was another person, and possibly, another musician made the point a little stronger so we got it on there. I think itís one of the stronger songs.
P- "Ainít No Good" is a great song. Itís like a great Felice songÖthat he never wrote.
B- Itís my favorite. It kind of sums up life for me. You go out and get something thatís supposedly good. You pay for it, you get it home and it sucks. Itís like everything is like that.
P- Is it like a high? Do you feel elated?
B- Itís likeÖfun.
ML- Do you ever feel empowered by it?
B- No not really. It feels good when the crowds' response is good, when they cheer. It makes you feel shitty when they arenít happy, then you wonder "What am I up here for?"
P- How would you say the club scene has changed from say, the Cantoneís days to now? Do you feel there is a difference?
B- I guess so. Iím different now, so it feels different.
P - So, from since, say 1975 , it seems from the outside, that you've been living the rock' n' roll life style. Would that be correct?
B - Yeah definitely.
P - And how is that lifestyle?
B - Well, It's changed. Back then it was just one big party. There were common band houses, all the band members lived in different rooms and you practiced in the basement . And you'd wake up in the morning and crack open a beer and start watching cartoons.
P - Haha. Yeah. And that's a nice life style for a rocker ?
B - Yeah, It's kind of refusing to grow up.
P- Is it just us or was that timeÖ1975-1978 great or what? The scene was great, we were there and it all just happened!
B- It was our youth. It was our time.
P- It wasnít just that. If you were young now it wouldnít be the same.
NN- I tell Billy we were born at the perfect time. We were young enough to have seen the Beatles on Ed Sullivan but still young enough to appreciate the Sex Pistols. We really had the best of both worlds. We were really shaped by what happened in the 60s but we made our own thing happen too.