Interview: Ronnie Montrose

Randy Allar: You're doing a lot of things yourself.

Ronnie Montrose: Yeah, I'm doing my own label, RoMoCo for my new music, and I've also recently acquired some of my old titles that I'm going to put out on my label as well. I'm really working hard and staying busy working on my website,

Randy Allar: Do you maintain your own website?

Ronnie Montrose: I do most of it. My son is a professional programmer, so 'nepotism' reared it's head when we first started. He had to get me involved in the process because he simply couldn't do it all for me. So I dug in and learned some HTML, got a couple of programs and it's working really well.

Randy Allar: Now you're a wildman!

Ronnie Montrose: Yeah! Last summer I had a digital camera with me and we'd take pictures of the places I toured and usually have them up on the website with some fans and things within a day. I included my reviews of the shows, how they went, who came to jam, and all that kind of stuff. It was fun.

Randy Allar: You have a disc out currently called "Roll Over And Play Live!"

Ronnie Montrose: Yes I do, and that has been out for a little while. I've also just finished an all-acoustic project, called "Bearings". I've been getting great response from both of them. I've done a couple of single acoustic tracks here and there on my previous albums. I've always wanted to do just a complete all acoustic project, and having my home studio finally gave me that luxury.

Randy Allar: The old home studio...

Ronnie Montrose: Well, there really isn't that big a demand for that kind of music that I write and play over the radio. So what I've been able to do by doing my own records and doing my own website is basically ignore the record company thing where the whole machinery has to be in place for airplay, promotions and tours. Now I can make the music I want to make, and so far so good.

Randy Allar: Sounds like things are going well for you so far.

Ronnie Montrose: Yeah, they are! I'm getting just incredible e-mail from people all over the country and all over the world for that matter. The internet is a wonderful medium. The 'networking' that happens when people turn my website on to somebody else. They write. Keeps building! That's what it takes to let people know that you're out there.

Randy Allar: You were on a disc back in '79. Tony Williams had a record out called "Joy Of Flying" with many players.

Ronnie Montrose: There were a lot of players. The actual show that I did with Tony, I was so thrilled to play with him! My jaw was open; I couldn't believe he wanted me to tour with him. He had great players with him that were certainly more jazz. I said, "Tony, I just play rock." And he said that was exactly what he wanted me to do. Just play rock. It was just such a thrill to play with him. It was me, Tony, Mario Cipolina, who then went on to play with Huey Lewis And The News, and Brian Auger on keyboards. We're playing a couple of my tunes and I'm trying to get through Tony's songs as best I can, and Billy Cobham comes out to jam. So I have Tony Williams on one side of me and Billy Cobham on the other playing my material. My knees were shaking. May Tony rest in peace. He was a dear, dear soul.

Randy Allar: You've been around a long time.

Ronnie Montrose: Don't mention it!

Randy Allar: Sorry!

Ronnie Montrose: No, no. You can! I have been around, and I'm 52. My birthday was in November. When you make it through and you understand that you didn't fall into the major pitfalls that a lot of your contemporaries did in the '60's and '70's, you just have to be proud of it. You wear it like a badge of honor. Somebody asked me if I was 50 yet. I said, "Yeah." He said, " I won't tell anybody." I said, "Tell everybody, I'm proud of it."

Randy Allar: Where did you get your start?

Ronnie Montrose: I worked with Van Morrison on his "Tupelo Honey" album, and did a tour with Boz Scaggs. All though we didn't do a record. Then I went to Edgar (Winter). It's all there on the website. I'm in the process of listing all of the discs that I've played on that were significant to me, and now on each album I'm writing my personal musing and memories and stories of everything I've done.

Randy Allar: The song "Frankenstein" has been getting covered often lately.

Ronnie Montrose: Edgar Winter and I ran into each other last tour that I did. We were on the same bill in Austin, Texas and we went together and jammed on "Tobacco Road." That was the first time we've been on stage together for over 20 years.

Randy Allar: A little uncomfortable?

Ronnie Montrose: No, it was incredible. It went really well.

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Randy Allar: You had your own group known as Montrose, which featured Sammy Hagar on vocals.

Ronnie Montrose: Correct. Sammy was in a cover band in San Francisco. They were doing some rock 'n' roll stuff. He did some Rod Stewart with Jeff Beck cove songs; he had heard that I was looking for a singer. He had seen me with the Edgar Winter Group just before that. When I put out the word that I was looking for somebody, he called me up and said, "I'm your man!"

Randy Allar: Then you started to do instrumental stuff.

Ronnie Montrose: That band was not taken too seriously by Warner Brothers. We were like their token, house, heavy rock band. We'd get to places and play, and people would go nuts, but we didn't have any indication that that was happening through the record company. To the record company, we were just sort of there.

Randy Allar: It's got to be tough working with record companies.

Ronnie Montrose: Let's not go there! It's rough for anybody working with record companies by virtue of them being a company. The equation is real simple, sell a lot of records to pay for overhead and all their staff, promotion, for everything. So they need to make the music business a music 'business.' It's very understandable. If you are on a major label and you sell 20,000 copies, you're a failure because it doesn't really support the overhead. You sell 20,000 copies on your own label and you do just fine.

Randy Allar: Are you re-releasing any of your older material?

Ronnie Montrose: Some of it. I'm actually releasing a limited edition of a record I did that was really popular called "The Speed Of Sound." That was on Enigma. I get many, many e-mails from fans wanting to know where they can get a copy. I've seen copies of that and a couple of my other records go for auction on Ebay for like $50.00. There's a demand for instrumental music and for my music, thank goodness, even though I don't get radio play! I've been fortunate enough to acquire some of my titles back and when I get enough requests, I put it out. I've only putting out a limited number. They're all serial numbered. I'm making it a real special deal because there's been that kind of interest and support.

Randy Allar: Ronnie Montrose seems to be ageless. He was recording music ever since this journalist can remember, and he is still creating music. His most recent recordings are released on his own record label called RoMoCo Records. His newest releases is a live disc called "Roll Over And Play Live!", which features his wife Michelle on drums. The other release is an acoustic disc called "Bearings".

Both discs possess the fire captured by the Montrose that graced stages in the '70's, and has continued through to the present day. Montrose is a truly gifted musician, and he does not appear to be slowing down.

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At some point while you listen to the radio, watch television and things of this nature, you have heard the playing of guitarist Ronnie Montrose. He played on the instrumental monster (no pun intended) "Frankenstein" with the Edgar Winter Group before it was considered instrumental rock music.

He has been a sideman and bandleader, with many titles under his belt. It now seems that Ronnie Montrose is back for round two, and is more determined than ever to produce a quality product and to get the sound out to the masses.

Recently Ronnie Montrose phoned in to the Fusion Show on radio station WCSB. Here's what Ronnie had to say.