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Articles Home » Interviews » 707 - 2004 Interview with Kevin Russell: Part 1
 
707 - 2004 Interview with Kevin Russell: Part 1


INTERVIEW: 707 [Part 1] (Apr 2004)
A trip back in time with 707, and Kevin Russell.

When you think of melodic rock, and specifically late 70's/early 80's AOR, one of the first classic bands to consider is 707. In a relatively short career they treated us to some of the most well composed, memorable pomp-tinged AOR of the era, yet little is really known about their story ... until now. We were lucky enough to make contact with lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist Kevin Russell for some Glory Daze chat spanning the years, from the first origins right up to here and now.. Here is Part One of our Two Part Installment with Kevin Russell and 707, leading up to the re-release of their 'Megaforce' CD next month through MTM Music.

==

A TRIP BACK IN TIME WITH 707
INTERVIEW WITH: KEVIN RUSSELL
WRITTEN BY: LEE BRADFIELD (FOR GLORY-DAZE E-MAGAZINE)


It's widely known that the 707 story began in Detroit, but the misconception that they formed there is corrected as Kevin takes us through first meetings and formative years leading to the original lineup.

'I was born and raised in Detroit. It was a wonderful place to grow up and play music. My household was filled with music. I started playing guitar at age 7. Both of my parents were very supportive and pushed us hard to practice and learn! My Father played drums and upright bass. My older brother (Brian) played drums for many years as well. My younger brother Brad is an incredibly talented bass player on both electric and upright. My brother Brian and I are closer in age so we played with our Pop on weekends and then eventually we were able to start gigging on our own. I was around 13 years old when we started playing weekend gigs with our band. I became a full time professional musician by age 17.

In the summer of 1976 I met Jim McClarty. I knew his reputation around Detroit as a great drummer, and that he was! We jammed on one particular Sunday afternoon at a local club. It was magic! We then both discovered that we were moving to Los Angeles later that summer. As fate would have it! I didn't know Phil Bryant in Detroit although he certainly was playing on the Motor City scene. Phil and Jim hooked up in L.A. and shared an apartment in Hollywood.

Jim and I started 707 in 1977. Duke McFadden and I met at a gig in L.A. I was hired to play guitar for this gig and never had met Duke prior to that night. We hit it off really well and exchanged phone numbers. Duke and I started hanging out together quite a bit then and making some music. I then introduced Jim to Duke. A short while later we started writing and rehearsing in Hollywood at S.I.R. Studios. Duke was a fine bass player as well as piano player, so he switched off between the two, I would play moog synth bass pedals when Duke was on piano. It was quite challenging, but fun!

We later used various 'hired bass players' in the early days of showcasing 707 to record companies. We were not playing any 'live' shows yet at this point. Finally I approached Phil at one of his L.A. gigs and asked him to join 707. He accepted the offer and the lineup was now complete.'



For any young band just formed, the process of writing that first batch of material and getting it recorded onto a demo makes for an exciting period of time, especially when there seems to be magic at work within the band's chemistry - Kevin takes us right into those first studio experiences.

'We loved to go into the studio any chance we could. We were always writing new material. When we first heard our new songs on tape we were thrilled. We knew we had something special ! We had 4 singers, 4 musicians and 4 songwriters within the band ! We demoed so much material in the early days. Quite a bit really. I still have the cassettes of those early 707 sessions, including alternate versions of some of the songs. Some really great songs I must tell you. Duke and Jim wrote some wonderful songs together. Phil was a great singer and a very melodic bass player as well. Those demos were recorded in L.A. for the most part (at various studios) although we did fly up to the Bay Area (San Francisco) and recorded at Fantasy Studios at one point.'

Knowing of Kevin's origins in the Motor City, we had to slip in a question about the Detroit live scene. Kevin tells us what it was like to be an active performing musician on a scene which was rich in musical heritage across many genres.

'As I mentioned earlier, 707 did not form in Detroit. We formed the band in Hollywood. I was playing all kinds of gigs in Detroit though in my later teens/early 20's. The rock scene was very cool! I did it all - lots of club gigs to play for sure! I also toured a fair amount as a young player. Mostly the east coast. As far as the 'melodic rock' scene goes, there was all kinds of rock stuff happening at that time. Detroit was a different city back then. A special era for me really.'

That first record deal is one of the watershed moments for any band, and it's well known that the first two 707 albums were released on the Casablanca label, home of such high profile bands as Kiss and Angel. We needed to know what that felt like and if any friendships formed as a result, so the reins go back to Kevin as he takes us back in time again.

'Well, Neil Bogart was a very adventurous guy as I recall (owner of Casablanca Records). We were thrilled to be on a record label period! We never really got to know Kiss, but in the late 80's I did form a band with drummer Peter Criss called 'The Keep'. Pete was always a really nice guy! We're both Italian so we hit it off right away ha ha!! Unfortunately that band didn't last very long.'

The very first 707 single 'I Could Be Good For You' became a substantial hit, reaching the Billboard top 100 at # 52. Having said that, the assumption that it was a hit right off the bat proves to be another misconception, as Kevin sets the record straight and provides insight into that first headlining club tour.



'Well, it wasn't right out the box and that's for sure! Sadly we had already parted ways with Duke and we had 707 'The Second Album' completed when we heard that a Rock Radio Station WRIF 'The Riff' in Detroit was playing 'I Could Be Good For You'. We had a smash hit in Detroit! The funny part was that our managers at the time found out about it, but Casablanca was clueless to that fact! Truth! We were very excited to go on tour and play a 'sold out' club tour across the states in 1980/81. Especially Michigan. It was so cool to go back home and have a Rock Radio hit.'

1981 brought with it 'The Second Album', which saw 707 working with producer Jai Winding, who had done keyboard work with Cheap Trick on their 'Dream Police' record in 1979, and produced Le Roux's classic 'Up' album in 1980. Remembering Leon Medica's reservations regarding Winding's production (despite the album's classic status) expressed in a recent Glory Daze interview, we needed to know the 707 perspective on working with Winding, and Kevin's feelings regarding this album's long-time underrated status.

'This was sort of a strange time for us' says Kevin. 'We had parted ways with one of our key members Duke. I must tell you that Duke was a hugely talented guy and so his departure left a big void in the band. We were now a 3 piece band. Jai (Winding) played some keyboards and another 'hired guy' also played on that record. Yes it was widely overlooked because of a few things, mainly poor management. 707 was plagued with bad managers from the start, they were inexperienced and just took what they could from us - you know the old story.



The Second Album had some good songs on it, but it wasn't produced very well I thought. Jai was a fine enough keyboard player, but he wasn't a very fine record producer (at least not back then anyway). Again, management made that decision to use Jai, not us. We argued a lot with Jai and management on that record as I recall. Too many outside agendas going on during the making of that record for sure.

But, one of the coolest things that came out of the making of that record was Steve Lukather and I became buddies that year. Luke and I are still pals today! He's a great guy, monster player too! Toto was recording at the same recording studio (Cherokee studios in L.A.) during the making of our Second Album. Rod Stewart was also recording in the same studio then as well. We were all in the same building at the same time. It was fun to run into so many talented people every day. So there was an upside to it all.'

Sadly, the single from The Second Album 'Strings Around My Heart' didn't become a big hit, despite being a fine song perfect for radio - but 707 did get a big break when they were selected by REO Speedwagon to join the 1981 'Hi Infidelity' tour, the cloud had delivered a silver lining as Kevin explains.

'There is actually another version of 'Strings Around My Heart' that we did when Duke was still in the band. There was a different bridge section. Phil did a wonderful job singing that song. I remember writing the music to 'Strings Around My Heart' in my apartment in Hollywood. Jim did the lyrics with me. Yes I was disappointed that it didn't do better at radio, but again we never really knew who was doing what on our behalf, if anything. The REO/707 tour of 1981... the biggest tour that year belonged to REO. We were thrilled to be asked to join them. We were Kevin Cronin's favourite band that year and we all got along just wonderfully. They were good to us and gave us a lot of space once they knew we weren't a bunch of egotistical guys looking to steal the show (not that we could have anyway ha ha!). After all they were # 1 that year!'

Revealing links and frienships between bands sharing the stage is one of our favourite pastimes here at Glory Daze, so of course we had to investigate the 707 touring family tree, as Kevin runs down the list with some anecdotes besides..

'707 opened for Loverboy, Rainbow, John Mellencamp, Scorpions, Ted Nugent, Molly Hatchet, Michael Schenker Group, 38 Special, Ten Years After, Humble Pie and the list goes on ... I became pals with Joe Lynn Turner and Carmine Appice in 1982. We still stay in touch. I knew Ted (The Nuge) from Detroit. Ted and I had the same guitar teacher in the late 60's ... a bit of trivia for ya!'

For the next installment of this interview, go to Part Two.

For more reading, go to: www.kevinrussell.com


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