April is the coolest month.
So say Cheap Trick. On Friday, after more than 40 years of performing, in excess of 20 million albums sold, with 5,000 shows behind them and more to come, the Rockford group releases “Bang Zoom Crazy … Hello,” its first album in seven years, and celebrates with a sold-out concert at Metro.
Then, just a week later, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will welcome the bandmates as its newest inductees, along with Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, N.W.A. and the late songwriter/producer Bert Berns.
But their greatest distinction, at least this month, lies in the combination of these two milestones. Unlike many who preceded them into the Hall, Cheap Trick have never stopped rocking. As their new album attests, Cheap Trick shows no signs of slowing down, splitting up or detouring onto the oldies circuit.
“We wouldn’t be a band if we weren’t writing and recording music,” explains lead singer Robin Zander. “We couldn’t just go out and do the same thing over and over again. That’s actually one thing that started to bother us about six years ago, so we decided to clean house as far as management and agency and everything else is concerned, and start over again. It took some time, but in five years we had enough material to go in and record the new album.”
“Bang Zoom Crazy … Hello” consists of all-new material plus a clever cover of the Ramsey Lewis classic “The ‘In’ Crowd.” Some of these songs include riffs and licks the band came up with and filed away decades ago.
“There are maybe three tracks on the new record that we never recorded,” says guitarist Rick Nielsen. “Or they were never recorded correctly or the tempo was wrong or the drum part wasn’t what we wanted. But when we cover songs or resurrect old things into new ideas, it’s all new to us.”
Cheap Trick’s performance at the upcoming Hall of Fame ceremony is noteworthy because original drummer Bun E. Carlos will appear with Zander, Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson onstage for the first time in six years. (Carlos and the band had a legal dispute following Carlos’ exit from Cheap Trick in 2010.) Current drummer Daxx Nielsen (Rick Nielsen’s son) will be in the audience.
“It is weird,” Daxx admits. “It’s cool that my dad is getting into the Hall of Fame — and the other guys are family too. But I really don’t belong up there because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is about what the band has done, its legacy. I’m part of the current thing. It’s like I’m the girlfriend and the ex-wife is coming over to hang out for the night.”
All of the guys take this honor seriously — as seriously as their commitment to keep pumping out material that exceeds their fans’ expectations. “The bar is pretty high,” says Rick Nielsen. “We don’t want to do wimp versions of ourselves. We try to do the best we can every time. We go for it. We’ve been going for it for a long time. Why would we do it any other way? We’ve never progressed — and I mean that in a good way. We never tried to be something we weren’t, like, ‘we need to dress like this’ or ‘we need to learn how to dance.’
“Besides,” he concludes, “if the Rolling Stones aren’t too old rock, then neither are we — and they’re still full of piss and vinegar, too!”