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Mike Hartman Interview

by Grant Fisher

On March 5 I interviewed Mike Hartman using AOL Instant Messenger over the Internet. The chat lasted for approximately two and a half hours.

The transcript has been edited for cosmetic purposes only (ie. spelling and punctuation have been corrected). If you wish to quote parts of the interview on your web site, magazine, mailing list or newsgroup, all we ask is that you post the URL of this page - http://www.vhnd.com/old/interviews/990305mikehartman.shtml - as a reference. Thanks.

Graphic: Black Glue album cover

vhnd.com: What have you been up to since the DLR Band album?

Mike Hartman: I immediately finished up my solo disc with John Christ at Steve Vai's house. We used (Gregg) Bissonnette on drums. Labels were making offers.

vhnd.com: When you say finished up, does that mean it was already in progress before you joined Dave's band?

MH: Way before, I started it in the summer of '96. I wrote the tunes, then hired John Christ to help me get some tones and coach good performances out of me.

vhnd.com: The new album is titled Black Glue. Who thought of the title?

MH: Black Glue is real glue, my wife and I like playing with it. Use your imagination. Kids will be reading this.

vhnd.com: We don't have Black Glue in Australia...

MH: Go to an arts and crafts store, laughter all around!

vhnd.com: What was it like working with John Christ?

MH: John is like my best friend, he is a hulking guy.... He almost kicked a guys ass who pushed me.

vhnd.com: Cool! Was he a slave-driver in the studio?

MH: John is a great musician overall, he almost made me cry!!! He kept saying, "you can do better!!" I was screaming at him and Vai's engineer.

vhnd.com: Was Steve Vai present during any of the sessions?

MH: No, he would call in a lot though, he was out doing G3 at the time.

vhnd.com: How did you get to use his studio for the album?

MH: Steve is like a dad to me, we have known each other for years. I just asked, he said no problem. I talked to him last night, he loves the record. He said he was really proud.

vhnd.com: What other musicians played on the album? I heard a few past and present members of Dave's band made a cameo.

MH: Ray Luzier, and Gregg Bissonette, but get this, Billy Sheehan is doing some stuff with me this summer!

vhnd.com: Now where have I heard that promise before? :) Make sure you get it in writing! :)

MH: Well, Billy is just playing on my next disc, not joining my band, LOL

vhnd.com: Only joking, that's really cool!

MH: (Neil) Zlozower hooked us up. I hung with Carmine (Appice) at NAMM.

vhnd.com: Don't tell me he's gonna be on the next record too?

MH: Carmine will be on my next disc too, as well as Randy Castillo of Ozzy.

vhnd.com: LOL!

MH: Yep, Sheehan, Castillo, and Carmine Appice, they all love my disc.

vhnd.com: Does he still have that big black moustache?

MH: Yep!!

vhnd.com: I used to work at a place that had promo posters all over the walls. One of them was Carmine Appice - he looked like he was straight out of Rod Stewart's "Hot Legs" video.

MH: Carmine is so cool. These guys all just said they are there if I want them. That is cool.

vhnd.com: A few DLR questions for ya...

MH: Ask away.

vhnd.com: The gig as guitar player for DLR is pretty coveted...

MH: Yeah, I guess its a chops thing, lol

vhnd.com: Actually, my high school year book has an entry for me that relates to that. My ambition after high school was to be DLR's guitar player.

MH: You have to be able to play all the Vai, Van Halen and Becker.

vhnd.com: Yeah, well that kind of ruled me out! How did you get the gig?

MH: Roth heard I was doing some stuff at Vai's. My disc was passed on (to Dave). He liked two songs, had me come down and jam with Carmine in front of him. They called the same day and said "you're in". That was December 18th, 1997.

vhnd.com: Just after The Best...

MH: Yeah, and the DLR book.

vhnd.com: So Carmine Appice was the drummer at the rehearsal/try-out?

MH: Yeah, he actually gave Dave the thumbs up on me at the rehearsal. Carmine helped me out.

vhnd.com: Where was the rehearsal?

MH: A rehearsal hall in Van Nuys, CA. Real low key....

vhnd.com: Do you know why Carmine didn't stick around? Dave said in interviews that Carmine was the drummer and Billy would be on bass.

MH: Carmine went to Japan.

vhnd.com: Was Billy ever at a rehearsal?

MH: I really don't feel comfortable talking about the Carmine/Billy thing though, that is not my cup of tea. Billy was never around. That's all I can say.... They are my friends, I don't want to mess that up.

vhnd.com: No probs. Who came next? Ray Luzier?

MH: Dave heard my demos, asked who was drummin', the rest is history.

vhnd.com: Cool. When did John Lowery enter the scene?

MH: January I guess, I didn't meet him till March. My wife was in the hospital. I was really sick too.

vhnd.com: From the car accident?

MH: Yeah, she broke her pelvis and leg in 3 places. Mine was because of my lungs.

vhnd.com: Were Indeedido and King Of The Hill already written before Lowery was in the band?

MH: Way before, I wrote King in '96. It was called Stomp, that it how it appears on my disc.

vhnd.com: Indeedido is Southern Romp, right?

MH: Indeedido was called Southern Romp, that is how it appears on my disc.

vhnd.com: How many of the songs on Black Glue did you play for Dave when you were with DLR Band?

MH: All of them!

vhnd.com: So he could have used them if he wanted?

MH: Yeah.... DLR Band would have been a lot heavier. Maybe too heavy, lol.

vhnd.com: Were King Of The Hill and Indeedido the only ones recorded? There aren't any others in the unreleased archive in Dave's basement?

MH: Nope, we only recorded "King" and "Indeed".

vhnd.com: It will be interesting for Dave's fans to hear what he passed on. Recently we heard a VH song from the 1996 sessions with Dave, but with Gary's vocals. The Dave version was called Blood From A Stone, with Gary it became That's Why I Love You.

MH: By the way, that brings up some earlier things I was mis-quoted on.

vhnd.com: What mis-quoting?

MH: I was quoted as saying Extreme was a hair metal band.

vhnd.com: You didn't say that?

MH: What I meant was, "the music industry, via MTV, radio, and trendy type folk". That affected the way people viewed the new Van Halen. Narrow minded folks I might add! I like new VH and Extreme! Nuno is great, so is Gary.

MH: Eddie is a god, he created shred!! Also, I said the fans deserved to hear the good versions of King of the Hill and Indeedido. What I meant was, my songs on Dave's disc were mixed muddy, I spent hours tweaking the mix on my disc. I wasn't slamming Dave, you yourself agreed that there is a world of difference in the mix quality.

vhnd.com: Sonically, Stomp (KOTH) and Southern Romp Indeedido) sound better to my ears.

vhnd.com: Was Edward Van Halen your main influence as a kid learning guitar?

MH: Yeah, Ed was an influence, but Vai was like a god to me!!

vhnd.com: Were you nervous the first time you met Steve Vai?

MH: Eat 'Em And smile changed my world, I was ten. I was so nervous, he made me feel at home though. I have spent holidays with Steve, he treats me like family.

vhnd.com: In the liner notes for DLR Band there is a guy named "Burbon Bob" playing bass. Is that an alias for you and John Lowery?

MH: Yep, John and I. It was more of a time factor in the studio I guess. That's all I can say. It was fun though, I don't really think about it much anymore, my career is doing great as a solo artist. I hope to sell about 60 thousand in a years time. That is good for instrumental stuff. I also am doing more film stuff.

vhnd.com: What do you think is the reason Dave didn't tour behind the album? It was begging to be played live!

MH: I don't know, I was out of the picture when the disc came out, John (Lowery) was gone soon after. I havent spoken to any of them since May of 1998. My attorney handles business, royalties etc. Your guess is as good as mine.

vhnd.com: Let's get back to Black Glue for a while... Tell us about "Song For Jeanie". Was that written for your wife?

MH: Yeah, it is simple and beautiful, like her.

vhnd.com: How did the deal with Dreamworks come about, ie using Song For Jeanie in the film, Forces of Nature? (Starring Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck)

MH: The film music editor called me up, she heard I had some great stuff that fit the film. She is hooking me up with other film folks too. Then Warner Brothers called me and offered me a deal, a publishing deal.

vhnd.com: What does the publishing deal entail?

MH: They will work to keep placing my music in huge films and television. There is huge cash in that field!!

vhnd.com: The song isn't on the movie soundtrack album though... just in the film?

MH: WB does TV, major films and soundtracks, they work to get my music in them and take a small percentage. (The song is) just in the film. That is good though, a soundtrack can bomb, but I still get royalties if the movie is a hit. Every time it plays, goes to video, and tv, I get paid. For life!

vhnd.com: That's nothing to sneeze at! I read that the film is like a romantic comedy version of Planes Trains and Automobiles.

MH: WB already has a tv project in the works for my music, but it is under wraps right now. They also get my music to other artist, like Ozzy, and George Michael, two favorite artists of mine.

vhnd.com: You mentioned that John Christ worked on the album with you. Is he the official "Producer"?

MH: Christ co-produced with me. He was the drill sergeant!

vhnd.com: I heard he wrote some of the songs, is that correct?

MH: John didn't write a lick!!!! Ask him, send him mail at http://www.johnchrist.com! He was pissed at that accusation!

vhnd.com: He should have been flattered.

MH: His quote: "I only helped get tones and coach Michael, the songs were written months before my involvement." John loved the tunes by the way...

vhnd.com: Gregg Bissonnette played drums on "Insanity" and "Groovin". Man, those tunes are heavy!

MH: I wrote them while in Dave's band. Dave passed on them!!!!

vhnd.com: Those songs have DLR written all over them!

MH: I hope Dave's fans buy the disc, they would enjoy it.

vhnd.com: What equipment are you playing these days?

Mike Hartman: VHT amps, I just signed a exclusive deal with Washburn guitars. They are putting me on a clinic tour this summer. Washburn are taking out full page ads in Guitar Player 3 months in a row.

vhnd.com: Any guitar magazine interviews lined up?

MH: Metal Edge is reviewing the disc for the issue on stands April 20th. The actual interview hits newstands in May. Guitar is covering it, as well as Associated Press.... By the way, I "left" Ibanez.

vhnd.com: Why?

MH: Ibanez has Vai, Satriani and HIGH profile cats. They aren't going to take out ads with me. Lowery is in (Marilyn) Manson, a HUGE gig, of course he will be in ads. He is a great player too.

vhnd.com: Are you doing any live shows?

MH: Washburn has Paul Stanley, Nuno, and Dimebag. They needed a new posterboy, lol, a shredder!

vhnd.com: Well, I have 3 Washburn guitars. I paid for mine though.... :)

MH: Shows are in the works, a possible package, can't talk yet though. Free guitars are a perk, lol!

vhnd.com: I need a Marshall endorsement. My old 1976 JMP has plenty of scars. Even some wheels for the cabinet would be nice!

MH: I was born in '76.

vhnd.com: I bet my amp looks older :)

MH: Yep, I get carded to see R-rated movies, lol!

vhnd.com: You've decided to release a track from the album as an MP3 file on the Internet (see bottom of this page). Why did you decide to do this?

MH: My label thought it was a good idea. I am not greedy. I am donating proceeds from each album to the Cystic Fibrosis foundation.

vhnd.com: Plenty of other artists are doing it. Just yesterday I saw Tom Petty's new song over at MP3.com.

MH: It lets the public hear it before they make a decision. Free samples!

vhnd.com: No offense, but it's not like your songs will be saturating radio, so MP3 is a great alternative.

MH: Yeah, but the label and Warner Bros. are targeting all stations that play Satriani and Eric Johnson, that is about 150 nationwide.

vhnd.com: Will there be a Mike Hartman web site to promote the album? I hear you're a bit of a computer nut....

MH: Yes, but of course, it will be up by March 25th! Merchandise, CD's, updates, contest, we've got it all.

vhnd.com: The album is out on March 23, right?

MH: Nope, April 6th. It was pushed back because of label stuff.

vhnd.com: LOL, my promo disc says the 23rd - I guess the readers will have to wait a little longer. It says here (on the promo disc) that the single will be "Pooh's Day Off". Who is Pooh? Not Winnie The Pooh?

MH: Yes!!! WINNIE the POOH!!

vhnd.com: Will there be a video? I can just picture Winnie and Tigger jumping around to the song!

MH: Washburn is building me a guitar with Pooh all over it, it will be in the ads! No video, too much red tape at Disney, darn.

vhnd.com: Bummer (no pun intended!) Will the album be released worldwide on April 6, or just in North America?

MH: Jeanie is my pooh bear, lol. America through Universal/MCA, it looks like Japan will be through BMG, Europe is still up in the air.

vhnd.com: We (in Australia) had to get DLR Band via import when it came out. There's always CDNOW for those overseas.

MH: My lawyer is working out details.

vhnd.com: Are the songs "Feel My Pain" and "Why Me?" about your illness?

MH: More about the emotions involved in living a life with a terminal illness. Knowing I will be without Jeanie one day.

vhnd.com: How old were you when you found out you had Cystic Fibrosis?

MH: 6 weeks, I stopped breathing, mom freaked out, I almost died. I have been in and out of hospitals all my life.

vhnd.com: Has it been bothering you much recently?

MH: Sadly yes, the doctors claim I need a double lung transplant and heart surgery.

vhnd.com: Is that a "cure", ie. will new lungs rid you of the disease?

MH: It will stop the lung problems, but the anti-rejection drugs will kill my immune system, hence I will die from a different type of infection. I am trying to put it off for another 2 years though, prayer and therapy man...

vhnd.com: Do you have to take enzymes with every meal?

MH: 15 pills per meal, 4 treatments a day. 7 aerosal inhalers a day. Various antibiotic pills a day too. Vitamins out the ass. It isnt easy...

vhnd.com: I kinda got that impression.

MH: I neglected a lot of it while in Dave's band, it almost killed me. I wanted to keep it a secret. Ed Anderson (Dave's manager) knew I had it, they didn't know how bad I was until I started losing weight and went into the hospital. They knew, just not how bad.

vhnd.com: Is there much research being done to find a cure?

MH: Yeah, a lot of research.

vhnd.com: I read that 1 in 25 carry the gene that triggers CF. That's pretty scary.

MH: Yeah, I feel like a timebomb sometimes. It affects the reproductive system, pancreas and lungs. I can't have kids - I would have to have surgery to do that, it cost 10 grand. I don't want to at this point, lol. I don't think it would be fair to have a son, and know that he will lose me while he is a child. Man, this interview is getting heavy.

vhnd.com: Or a daughter.... Let's brighten the interview up a bit then!

MH: Yeah, a daughter too, she can't date musicians.

vhnd.com: LOL! Do you plan to record another album soon?

MH: Yes, my contract with Universal, Fuel 2000 is for 5 years. I plan on 1 disc a year.

vhnd.com: Just like the old Van Halen!

MH: Yep, I hate it when bands disappear for 2 years without a trace.

vhnd.com: So you won't be joining Def Leppard anytime soon? ;)

MH: No, but I had offers to audition for Alice Cooper when Reb Beach left.

vhnd.com: That would be a cool gig!

MH: I also spoke with Whitesnake, but nothing materialized, damnit. I gravitate towards classic rock gods, lol!

vhnd.com: Everyone's been in Whitesnake!

MH: I can tour despite my health, my wife accompanies me and takes care of me. She is really my manager as well. She helped with all my deals too. Her and my lawyer handle it all.

vhnd.com: So if someone like Coverdale came along and offered you a job as the schredder in a high-profile band, would you take it?

MH: As long as my wife could go on the road to assist with me as my manager/tech/wife/nurse!!! I have a band for my next CD though. My attorney is trying to get Sebastian Bach to guest on the song with Sheehan and Castillo. Hartman, Bach, Randy Castillo, Sheehan. Just on my album though.

vhnd.com: It's a pity you're so young, it seems like the "guitar hero" genre was left behind in the 80's. Now it's trendy to play sloppily.

MH: Yes, but things are looking up for heavy guitar music.

vhnd.com: Baz reminds me so much of David Lee Roth.

MH: Korn, Ozzfest....Bach is a great guy too.

vhnd.com: Is Dave really serious in the studio, or his he just "on" 24/7?

MH: He is very intelligent and very attentive to detail. He could sing my parts. But, he is an entertainer too, keeps the morale high, keeps the boys smiling at all times.

vhnd.com: Did he intend to go on the road with the album?

MH: I thought so, but like I said, I was out by the time it was an issue.

vhnd.com: Have you ever met any of the guys from Van Halen?

MH: Eddie

vhnd.com: When was that? What were the circumstances?

MH: NAMM shows. I don't think he knew who I was at the time, lol!

vhnd.com: Was this after you'd worked with Dave?

MH: Before and after. I didn't want to walk up and say, hey, I am Mike Hartman, I worked with your ex singer, lol! The people around would have been like, yeah right!

vhnd.com: heh.. :) Has he heard any of your playing?

MH: God bless Eddie for taking a stand though....Eddie heard King (Of The Hill/Stomp) - That is what I was told.

vhnd.com: What do you mean by "taking a stand"?

MH: They really took heat for VH3, but they stood strong and kept Gary. That is a real musician. VH3 had some great playing and ideas. I think the next one will be even better.

vhnd.com: Ever see Dave live?

MH: Filthy Little Mouth tour... Saw videos of Eat 'Em and Skyscraper.

vhnd.com: Did you see any of the VH shows last year? Ed's live tone never sounded so good.

MH: I was in the hospital both times they were around, darn. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital in January, March, July, October, November and December of 1998. I was in this January too. Last year sucked health wise...

vhnd.com: Your wife must be very dedicated.

MH: She has to be, most couldn't accept the fact that their loved one is dying.

vhnd.com: How did you guys meet?

MH: L.A. club scene, lol! She also has a degree in audio engeneering, she can run a studio.

vhnd.com: So she's kind of like your Yoko? :)

MH: She can actually sing though.

vhnd.com: Maybe she could do a vocal on the next album? Or produce it!

MH: Her and (Sebastian) Bach. She is going to engineer a lot of the acoustic stuff at our house, we have a studio too.

vhnd.com: Do you have any type of computer setup for writing or recording?

MH: Well, I am installing 24 track Protools next month, as well as a Roland digital 8 track mastering mixing board. Korn used Protools to do their entire new disc, so did Satriani.

vhnd.com: Is that for PC or Mac?

MH: With good pre-amps like the dbx206A, digital can sound analog. Mac. I think you can get a PC version too.

vhnd.com: Beats the old cassette 4-track! Bouncing tracks used to suck.

MH: I am getting Wave Lab too, it has libraries of drum loops, orchestras, horns etc. Yeah, beats 4-track!!

vhnd.com: What's the address of your web site?

MH: www.mikehartman.com

vhnd.com: Thanks for your time, Mike. It was good to talk to you for the last 2.5 hours!

MH: Yeah, time flew!

Black Glue was released today (April 6, 1999) on Fuel 2000/Universal Records. Look for A Song For Jeanie in the Dreamworks film Forces of Nature, now playing in cinemas all over the world.

A Washburn radio/clinic tour is planned for this summer, along with live dates.

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