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Articles Home » Interviews » Workforce - 2004 Interview with Ralph Henry Jnr
 
Workforce - 2004 Interview with Ralph Henry Jnr


Interview with Ralph Henry Jnr, of the band Workforce
Written by: Gdazegod, Editor GLORYDAZEMUSIC ezine.
Dated: June 29, 2004


Put melodic hard rock and California together in the same sentence, and what thoughts conjure up inside your head? How about the 'jetset' in L.A, hair-metal, glam-metal, a load of drugs, the psychedelic era, the San Francisco scene.. or all the above. Believe it or not, out of that same scene and era came the popular band Workforce. Not a lot has been written in the press about the band. If I recall, Mark Ashton or Bruce Mee wrote a piece about them in one of the issues of the wonderful Boulevard magazine back in about 1990. But since then, their absence from the written records of history (now known as the Internet) needs a serious rewrite. We at GLORY-DAZE feel that an injustice needs some severe righting, so we made contact with Workforce's Ralph Henry Jnr to correct the situation once and for all.

Now, lets elucidate a little. For those with next to no knowledge on the band, Workforce came from the general San Francisco area. Eastern suburbs to be exact. The band comprised of three brothers, plus three others:

Rick Henry - bass, vocals
Ralph Henry Jnr - guitars, vocals
Scott Henry - drums, percussion
Ron Kimball - vocals, guitars, harp
Rich Mello - guitars, vocals
Chris Holmes - keyboards, vocals

Back in 1988/89 the band signed with the Scotti Brothers label, home to the likes of Survivor, Lion etc. They released their debut (already recorded too it was) back in 1989, a great set of tunes, quite powerful in its delivery. Unbeknown to many, the band also had another albums worth of material on the block at the time, however the Workforce/Scotti Brothers relationship had run its course by then, the second album consigned to the dusty shelves of history.. until very recently that is: 'Wrecked Welded And Wet' is the name of that long lost second album, and it's release courtesy of the Metal Mayhem label is one that is well overdue.


Rick, Ralph Jnr, Scott, Ron, Rich and Chris


Alongside Workforce though, the Henry Brothers ran a successful Recording Studio, which Ralph talks more about further on. Without further ado, we introduce Ralph to the readers of GLORY-DAZE, and here it is we will learn more about the band Workforce..

Firstly Ralph, thanks for sharing some time with us. 'It's my pleasure, we appreciate the review and interest.'

I guess if we can start out, how did music play a significant role in the lives of you and your brothers?
'Music was a major role in our growing up. Our parents, Ralph and Genevieve Henry played piano, and we grew up listening to everyone. I think it really hit home starting with Elvis, the Everly Brothers, and then the Beatles floored us. Our parents also bought us instruments, gave us lots of love, and moral support. And we taught ourselves how to play them all.'

'Rick then got involved in recording. He started with recording on cassette and then over dubbing to another cassette, then 4 track reel to reel, then 8 track, then we started R.O. Studio's. recorded a ton of bands, and then we went to 24 track, where Rick's skills caught the eye of Eddie Money. We also got to have Ronnie Montrose in the studio, members of Journey, Santana, etc, even some big name producers made it through R.O. Studios, like Tom Dowd, David Kershanbaum, Ritchie Zito, to name a few. R.O. was the place to be in the eighties, thanks to everyone, Henry Brothers Productions flourished.'

The earliest origins of the band go back to 1988, but Ralph says that prior to that, there was another interesting band containing some of the future members of Workforce. 'We started in 1988, when we had recorded a band call LaserBoy' says Ralph. 'That band had Ron Kimball and Chris Holmes in it. They were great! We wanted them in our band. Richie (guitarist Rich Mello) came to our studio to record as well, We had some songs recorded and we asked Ronnie to try and sing one. That song was 'Higher Standard' off the first album. Ron, Chris and Richie were just what we needed, and so Workforce was born!'

As mentioned, the band came out of the general San Francisco area. The brothers lived in Concord California, Ron and Chris lived in Vacaville, which was about 40 minutes away, northeast of Frisco on the way to Sacramento, while Rich lived in Pittsburg, about 15 mins away from Concord.

The eventual signing with the Scotti Brothers label came at a time when that label was under a bit of pressure, however, they were the ones that took most interest in Workforce, as Ralph explains. 'Our manager at the time, along with his partner, were showing some record companies some of the bands they were representing. Workforce was on one of those tapes. At the time they were trying to show some other bands as well, but the A&R man Ritchie Wise, heard us and fell in love with the band. When he came to meet the band at our studio, he knew the words to every song! We thought it would be a good marriage at the time!' says Ralph.

Though the debut album was fairly well received by the press at the time, the band themselves were none the wiser (sic), particularly after all of the label 'huff and puff'.. 'We had no idea what the response was.. nothing' remembers Ralph. 'We just wanted to land some good gigs at the time. We played and recorded music because we loved it, not for the glory or fame! The album also saw a subsequent release in Japan via the Pony Canyon label. Again, the band were oblivious to events going on over in the land of the rising sun.. 'Again none, we wish we had though, all we got were a few Japanese CD's.' The same could be said about attracting interest elsewhere around the globe, something a 'decent' record label would do as a matter of course. Except Scotti Brothers that is.. 'We never heard anything which was sad, because we would have gone anywhere if we were ever asked' says Ralph.

Musically, the band have been described as a brasher version of that other AOR legendary outfit Diving For Pearls, who coincidentally released their one and only album the same year as Workforce. With three brothers in the mix, plus three talented non-family members, the Workforce sound is a melting pot of many styles, their individual flavours and ability giving the band incredible depth. Ralph details the musical make-up of the band. 'The brothers would write and create a tight rhythm track with a unique sound, Ron would write great lyrics and melodies, Chris on the other hand would write awesome keyboard parts, lyrics and melodies as well. Richie would give the band some youthful energy with a modern flair and tasty chops. Together you had Workforce, with everybody sharing in the song writing and credits. No egos' says Ralph proudly, 'a band that would have gone somewhere with good management and direction.'

The band didn't see the need to model themselves on any particular act at the time, they were just themselves really, writing and recording what was in their minds and hearts. Ralph elaborates on their time as a 'live act'. 'We toured locally only, headlining.. which was a major mistake unfortunately. We should had been opening up for major acts, like Eddie Money for instance, who was a friend of the band, and who liked our music. Eddie even did a version of 'Hold on Tight', from the first album, and yes I have a copy of it. We also had a song 'Give It All You Got', from the first album that is on an episode of Baywatch called 'A River Of No Return'. I just purchased it on DVD from amazon.com. the whole song is played, which we thought was really cool.'

Sometime after the release of the debut album, Scotti Brothers pulled the plug.. not surprisingly given their poor attention to detail toward Workforce, perhaps only rivalled by the attention deficit syndrome undertaken by the idiots at the EMI America record label some years earlier. Ralph gives his account of the situation. 'Scotti Bros did not promote us like they said they were going to' he says. 'They lost something like $10 million dollars on 'Eddie and the Cruisers II', and apparently had no money for promotion. It made us wonder if they ever planned to promote us at all. They wouldn't even spring for a video, we even took it upon ourselves to shoot our own video for 'Hold On Tight' which they didn't like. We literally gave them a gold mine. Workforce One was already recorded, they didn't have to do a thing. They even bought the masters!'



Ralph does offer his advice to budding acts when it comes to dealing with labels. 'If I had one thing to say to any young band, newly signed, it would be, get your company to show you what they plan to do and, have them guarantee promotion. Let the world decide if you are good, not the music companies. They don't know anything, until it hits them in the face that is!'

The band did look around for other potential parties/labels at the time. Ralph says they had three other labels looking at the time, who even came up from L.A. to the studio, to meet with the band. 'Nobody had the enthusiasm Ritchie Wise at Scotti Bros did. We thought we would really get some good promotion with them..' says Ralph with a bit of irony.

After the hassle with Scotti Brothers, and the subsequent shelving of Workforce Two, the Henry Brothers moved to Oregon in 1991 after Ralph Henry Snr died, and they built a Studio in Scott's house. Ralph recalls what happened with everyone else. 'Our singer Ron Kimball moved to Nashville, to become the next Garth Brooks, which was a waste to me, Because Ronnie was meant to write and record with Workforce, as well as the rest of us! Chris Holmes still lives in Vacaville, plays music, programs music for others, and has a heart of gold. Rich Mello moved to Las Vegas, started another band. which is a shame. In my opinion, there was no better singer, writer or keyboardist as Ron and Chris. Even today fifteen years later, there isn't a band I have seen that had the talent of Workforce! Rich was also great, and the Brothers had a magic all of their own. My brother Rick though, was the mastermind behind Workforce. He is the best producer, engineer and bass player I have had the pleasure of working with. And like Bonham was to Zeppelin, Scott is the best drummer I have ever seen, period!'

Even though the long lost 'Wrecked Welded And Wet' album saw a posthumous release, I was particularly interested as to how the material made its way into the public domain, and also the involvement of Metal Mayhem. Ralph duly explains. 'I got an e-mail from a man named Bert Heilbron in Hawaii asking about Workforce. He said he loved the band, and wondered if there was any other material. We recorded WorkForce II in 1989/90. and shelved it, I sent him a copy who in turn, sent it to Metal Mayhem. Ryan at Metal Mayhem liked it, and emailed me about releasing it. The brothers who own the masters, just wanted to get it out to people who would enjoy it. Ryan allowed that to happen. So thanks to Ryan and Bert, this is how 'Wrecked Welded And Wet' came about.'

I asked Ralph whether after all these years he felt a sense of closure with this album, now that it's out there. 'Not at all' he says. 'I would like nothing more than to get the band back together and play the world. Bands always break up for some reason or another, and never go anywhere else with their talents. Ego's get involved, and they never realize what got them there in the first place. It's magic that comes to a very few, and knowing it, keeping it alive, thru good and bad, and having longevity and hindsight, if your lucky enough to have a shot, is what it takes!'

Ralph says that there are more Workforce tunes stashed away in the Henry Brothers vault. 'Yes, there are four more songs, and there is a 'live in the studio' release that the brothers have that was recorded for record executives at the time.'

Actually, can you tell us more about Henry Brothers Productions.. If Workforce aren't in operation, are you, or were you involved with other artists? 'The Henry Brothers have always recorded, and we have some great stuff on tape from other bands we were involved with as well, including other material we wrote and recorded for others. There was also a band in about 1985 named TRAK that won the MTV Basement Tape Award. They were three brothers as well, their band name stood for Todd, Rick And Kurt. The song 'Dancin' was written and recorded and played by Rick, Scott and myself, we just had the youngest brother Kurt sing it. He was only about 12 or 13 at the time, but it was fun to see a song we wrote win a MTV award.'

Take it from me, there appears to be absolutely nothing out there on the Internet about Workforce. One can only assume that the band wanted to retain a low profile, or perhaps it was a case of being too early for the Internet Age to catch on to Workforce. 'I think we were too early for the Internet Age' agrees Ralph, 'but we are not low profile people. We realize it is only the fans who can make or break you, and it's the fans we were always into. They are what it is about. Period! Without fans you have nothing.'

What about now? Are you embracing technology like everyone else? 'Rick has always kept us on the edge of technology' says Ralph. 'We always knew what was going on in the industry, We still have a 24 track studio, but it's digital now, and Rick had mastered that as well as analog years ago. Eddie Money used to joke to Rick, he would say 'Rick, you got a great set of ears, too bad there connected to your head.' I always got a kick outta that one, but the truth is, Rick does have the best set of ears in the business.'

And finally I guess a question which gets raised everytime I speak to someone about a band long since inactive. Any chance of the boys getting together for a third album with new material? 'Most definitely' says Ralph. 'If we get a good response, and there is a need for Workforce to continue, we would. Even if I have to kidnap the rest. All kidding aside, we all know it was Workforce that got signed, and we as a band had the magic from day one.'

Thanks Ralph, for giving us all an insight into Workforce. 'Thank you George for taking the time, and giving Workforce, and fans of the band a chance for some info, and of course the review on the music. It's people like you, that allow bands like us, a chance to stay alive. Thanks again George, and God Bless! - Ralph.'

Related Articles:
Workforce - 1989 Workforce
Workforce - 2004 Interview with Ralph Henry Jnr (Jun 2004)
Workforce - 2004 Wrecked Welded And Wet

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