Michelle LaRose speaks with Gator Country for Road To Jacksonville
Photographs by Michelle LaRose (November 2009)
Gator Country is ‘Original-Era’ members of Molly Hatchet, you could say alumni. We caught up with Gator Country in Gator Country (Florida). They played to an audience of thousands of screaming fans that sang along with every song at Tampa Bay’s annual Ribfest. We sat down with Jimmy Farrar and Paul Chapman to find out what’s going on with the band.
RTJ: Jimmy, my first question is; you scared your fans last year with the news of your stroke. How are you feeling
Jimmy: I’m feeling great. I mean, I feel good. I’m not one hundred percent over it yet, but because you know I had the stroke, it affected my left side and my balance was not right and I was wobbling around, but I had intensive rehabilitative therapy and it went well and my body responded well. I’m suffering a little nerve damage in my left hand but other than that everything’s pretty well back to normal, but I can tell that it’s getting better slowly as it goes. Everything’s getting back to the way it was, but it’s just going to take time, you know it’s going to take. I just love playing music and that’s helped me a lot. Being able to have that out there, you know it really helps. So I’m okay. Don’t worry. I’m alright.
RTJ: You finally released an album, Gator Country Live, where was this recorded at?
Jimmy: Actually it was recorded live in Ohio. We recorded it live and of course you have to take it to the studio and do a little tweaking on it and so we did that in Melbourne at a friend’s studio and it turned out really well. I’m proud of it.
RTJ: The album is available as a hard copy on CDBaby.com and as digital download on Digstation.com. Do you have any clue to which one is more popular?
Jimmy: Not the foggiest idea.
RTJ: When you release a live album, do you go into knowing you are recording an album or is it just something that gets recorded and you later say “Let’s make this an album.”?
Jimmy: No, when you record an album you got to set the whole show up. A set up for an album recording is much different than the set up that we have here right now. No it’s not a whim at has to be planned down to the last detail.
RTJ: People are asking for a live DVD. Do you that may be a possibility?
Jimmy: Who knows what the future will hold. I mean, anything is possible at this time.
RTJ: You have nothing but rave reviews on this new album with a lot of people chiming in dissing the current Molly Hatchet. You know the Gator Country Band/Molly Hatchet comparison will always haunt this band. What is your take on the comparison?
Jimmy: Well, my take is I’m just going to do what I do and no disrespect meant to Bobby Ingram or anybody in that organization because they are all great musicians and they play well, you know, but let me do what I do and you do what you do and you know it’s a free market. There’s got to be competition or you don’t get the best product.
RTJ: Everybody loves your single, “Oh Atlanta”,
When will we see a Gator Country studio album?
Jimmy: Probably sometime next year.
RTJ: So does that mean you’re writing more tunes?
Jimmy: Always, always.
RTJ: Paul, you need to jump in here I have a few questions for you. Paul, I hear you have a studio in Melbourne Florida. Can you tell us about that?
Paul: Well its analog it’s not a Pro Tools state of the art thing, but to me it’s what I’m used to so it’s a bit of a dinosaur, but it’s what I use to get all of the creative four o’clock in the morning juices pouring.
RTJ: I hear that you teach music. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Paul: Yeah, I have another little studio where I cut it down to about 60 people a week. Most have been with me for a long time. Kind of like a family, so when I have parties at the house it usually turns into a bit of a guitar fest.
RTJ: You were originally with UFO. How did you get in with Gator Country?
Paul: Going back in the ‘70’s when UFO and Molly Hatchet use to play together, I use to always get up and jam with the band at the end of playing “Crossroads” and I use to take Steve Holland’s guitar and dive into the pack and that kind of thing. Basically over the years living in Florida and Riff lives in Orlando our paths would cross and I would get up and jam with him after UFO. Years later I ran into Riff at a studio in Orlando with a side project I call PCP, Paul Chapman Project it’s also a horse tranquilizer! I have one started in England too, a PCP, trying to anyway. I ran into Riff at a studio in Orlando and we used a producer that was also working with Gator Country doing the “Oh Atlanta” single and we kind of crossed paths there when Duane passed away I called Riff to give my condolences and I had said you know, if you guys need anybody, don’t cancel any shows because I pretty much knew a lot of the set from the old days from all the jamming and what not. So I ended up going down and within three days it just clicked. We did “Beating The Odds” and I could see Jimmy playing bass on his microphone stand and at that point you go “Oh look, this is kind of cool!” So that was on a Saturday I believe and then on a Tuesday Keith called me up, Keith Johnson, and said “Would you like to join the band?” and I said, “No not really, they are all a bunch of…” No! Of course I did and I said “Of course I would love to join the band.” And it’s been three years now.
RTJ: Being on the road and performing isn’t all the glitz and glamour some people would think it is. What are some of the down sides to it?
Jimmy: The bus is the size of a saltine box. Being in the band is like being in a family. You love your family, but you get tired of them sometimes. Just like these guys. There isn’t one of them that I wouldn’t do anything in my power for, but you get on a bus and it brings out a side of you that is not normally there and that’s all I got to say about that.
RTJ: What are some of the upsides of being on the road Paul?
Paul: Playing on stage. The last time we played here, I had a terrible problem with my ankle. I could hardly walk and I fell out of that trailer and I was limping and limping and when I walked up and started playing, it went away. It was pretty much gone until I got off.
Jimmy: I told him, I said “When you get on stage you’re going to forget about it. It’s going to quit hurting.” And it does because you have to focus on what you’re doing until the world disappears.
RTJ: So Jimmy, outside of performing, what are some of your favorite things to do?
Jimmy: Fishing, hunting, carousing, you know, I’m just an average guy. Spending time with my family, that’s number one really. I come from a very tight family just like us here playing. It’s the same with my family and I have an extended family, you know all the aunts, uncles, and cousins. Everybody gets together and it’s just like us. It’s the same thing.
RTJ: What are some of your favorite things do to Paul?
Paul: I play. That’s it. It’s funny when you do it for fun and then for a hobby you play and then for a career you play. I have another PCP in Chicago, I go up and play quite frequently with and then people say, after you have been playing for 8 hours, “Why don’t you come jam tonight?” Another thing I love is I love cooking. Jimmy and I have shrimp fests and sea food fests. I moved to Florida because I like the beach and I very rarely go to the beach anymore and I don’t know why. Everything really is geared around playing. Ever sense I was a kid. I started playing when I was seven and I got into a professional record deal at fifteen. I moved away from home to London at fifteen and quit school. It was weird because the guys I was in a band with were in their late twenties. So I kind of went to being at school at fourteen to being in London with a road crew working for me. I skipped between fifteen and twenty five. I was thrown right into trial by fire. I’ve been thrown in the deep end so it’s been just a rollercoaster. There’s always something to do. I have a house full of guitars. Sometimes you fall out of love with the guitar. You look at it and go” I can’t even deal with this.” So I go in and change strings on like seven guitars or you look at it and go “Oh it really needs…” I go and give it a cleaning or something like that.
RTJ: So Paul, you’re a British bloke. Do you ever get back to England?
Paul: I’ve been twice this year already. I went over Christmas and I went over for a surprise visit in April for my mother’s birthday. She had no idea we were coming I just showed up at the front door and I almost killed her! She was so excited. But I would like to get over and get my PCP rolling over there.
RTJ: So you have played in England and you have played in America. What the difference between playing here and there? Is there a difference?
Paul: Yeah, there’s quite a bit of a difference. Well especially in the ‘70’s America was geared more toward rock-n-roll. When we toured with UFO in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s you have FM radio stations and the first time I ever heard the band radio advertisements for UFO on the radio I got off the plane and I was like “Wow we’re on the radio!”. The whole America thing was incredible and in Britain it’s a lot more reserved, the audience was, except for Scotland. It’s weird because even though it’s joined onto England technically it’s like another place. Scottish people go absolutely bonkers. Japan is an interesting place to play. Over in the Orient they’re kind of reserved and all of a sudden it’s like the flood gates open and then they just go nuts. It’s hard to explain. Places in Europe use to be like it too. They have to sit down at a certain point. You just get a different kind of vibe playing in this country. When you’re in bands you break America in certain regions. In Chicago we would play three or four nights at the amphitheater like a nine or ten thousand seater. Whereas when we would play in Detroit we would play at a club which was only, a hop and a skip away. Texas was really big and California was really, really big. You have to do it in regions because the country is so big and that was one of the things that blew my mind. Like the vastness of the continent. Before the days of tour busses we would fly to our shows. You fly in and out, usually two flights and rental cars and that kind of stuff so you spend twenty hours a day waiting around an airport to play for an hour and ten minutes and as Jimmy says you never get any rest. You never get any sleep. The bus thing, when that got introduced that made life a lot easier because you’re not sticking to domestic airline schedules but basically the whole American culture was geared more towards rock-n-roll then the UK.
RTJ: Alright Jimmy here’s a question for you. Nobody’s getting any younger here. If you ever hang up the microphone, what do you think you’ll do?
Jimmy: Die! This is what I do and love. What you see is what you get with me. This is me. This is what I do. I’ve been doing it now for money since 1974 and it’s been a good life. It’s just good. This is me right here.
RTJ: Jimmy and Paul thanks for speaking with Road To Jacksonville.
Jimmy: My pleasure.
Paul: Thank you.