November 1, 2004
Gene Stashuk talks about the origins of his all too briefly popular progressive pop '80s band, Red 7, and working with Mike Rutherford
By Steven Ward

Former Red 7 lead singer and guitarist Gene Stashuk talks about the origins of his all too briefly popular progressive pop 80s band, working with Genesis guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford on the debut Red 7 album, singing on the debut Mike and the Mechancis album and why the second Red 7 album led to the band's demise.

Steven Ward: When did you form Red 7 with keyboardist Michael Becker and drummer Paul Revelli? Also, How did you meet those two guys and did you guys play clubs before getting your record contract?

Gene Stashuk: There was (and probably still is) a famous rehearsal studio under the streets of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco (the absolutely worst area of San Francisco) -Francisco Studios. You would emerge onto the street above the studios to be confronted by pimps, hookers and junkies, and occasionally the odd dead body . On occasion I would go there to jam with other people. Various permutations of these jams eventually evolved into Red 7. For instance Michael Becker had been playing with a group called "Eye Protection" (lead singer Andy Preboy-who became the lead singer of Wall of Vodoo) who also rehearsed there, and I came to know him through his roomate. Paul Revelli responded to an ad for a drummer. He sat down to play at the ensuing audition, and immediately we knew that we had something- it stuck. Paul is an extremely talented fellow.
Yes, we played in local SF clubs, such as Mabuhay Gardens, The Stone, The Oasis, Wolfgang's, or in Santa Cruz at the Catalyst, etc. Actually, our first gig was at "The Exotic Erotic Ball" (quite the classy occasion-black-tie/jockstraps). We didn't get the chance to play live as much as we would have liked, but we really didn't fit into what was fashionable at the time. People didn't know what to think of us. Red 7 was always pointedly "not part of the scene".

SW: How did you land your record contract with MCA and was it only a two record deal?

GS: Our manager at the time knew the head of A&R at MCA. He told him (Tom Trumbo) about us. Mr. Trumbo flew to San Francisco and heard us play for about half an hour at the S.I.R. Rehearsal Studio. Two days later he offered us a contract. The deal itself was open-ended.
I was to record a solo record as well, however, the debacle of the second record ("When the Sun Goes Down") made us feel that we had to leave, so we did, also canning our management and falling at the time deeper into the mire of the LA music scene (our new manager was heavily involved and enamored with Richard Marx-that should have told us something)...never to emerge intact.

SW: When and how did you first meet Mike Rutherford? Where you a fan of his or the music of Genesis? Did you guys ask him to produce your debut? Also, did you get to record any of the album in the Genesis-owned studio, The Farm in Surrey, England.

GS: "Red 7 Meets Mike Rutherford" was itself an event. Our management had talked to Phil Collins about possibly producing our first record. So, when Geneis was playing the Oakland Colliseum we went to the show to meet him and talk to him. As it turned out Phil was commited to way too much (even then), and he suggested we talk to Mike Rutherford. We met him and talked for a few minutes in the midst of the confusion of the apres-show backstage scene. He said he was interested and that he would come to our rehearsal studio to hear us play. We thought, sure-not bloody likely. The next day, much to our surprise, Mike actually appeared bright and early at the front door of the extremely funky rehearsal studio (see above). It drew quite the crowd. We played for him and talked for a while. He said, okay, come over to my place (The Farm in Surrey) and let's make a record. It was actually that simple.
I was never a Genesis fan per se, if I listened to that genre of music then it was bands like Gentle Giant. I did, however respect what Genesis was doing-the quality of their work. I believe that the fact that we weren't raving fans actually made Mike Rutherford more comfortable, because there wasn't that embarassing fan-adoration thing going on...potentially an impediment when trying to work together on a project.
Yes, we recorded all of that record (with the exception of a few background vocal overdubs) at the Farm and stayed in the 16th Century house on the grounds. Had a cook in residence and a lovely old lady housekeeper who insisted that we have our "nice cup o'tea" in the afternoon. Spent a bit of time in the local pub in Chiddingfold (the small nearby village)...great food there contrary to the popular belief. The Farm is really a remarkable place, you looked out of the windows of the studio onto a pasture where plumb English dairy cows placidly grazed. Mike would come to the studio and put on slippers and an old cardigan sweater and work would resume. At that time the studio was yet to be "updated" and refurbished. By today's standards the equipment list was spartan, but Genesis certainly made a lot of great music with it. Today it is completely state of the art and very posh. On the property were several barns and secondary buildings which housed fascinating things such as all of the old Genesis stage sets, or a house with all of Mike's instruments (a vast array of guitars and basses). The Genesis crew lads (Little Jeff, Bison, Dale Newman) were always around and invariably helpful and great to be around. It was and is a magical place, almost possessing its own time continuom.

SW: What was the experience like in the studio recording Red 7? Did you take songs in or experiment in the studio with writing and arranging or a little of both?

GS: We were always extremely well rehearsed. We rehearsed 6-8 hours every day when not on tour...way more time on our instruments than admiring ourselves in front of a mirror. The first Red 7 record was esentially a live record. Of course there were some overdubs, but that is just how we sounded-period. All of the songs on that record were written well in advance of the actual recording and had been played live considerably. One of the reasons we wanted to record in England was that the trend there was to actually use the studio itself as another instrument-to try absurd or out-of-the-ordinary techniques. In the States, the approach was much different, experimentation of that sort was not encouraged. Mike Rutherford understood where we were trying to go and made the technology and ideas avaliable, but also made the "process" disappear. We also had an excellent engineer for the tracking- David Tickle. Whatever we needed Mike made sure it was there. I remember sitting at David Tickle's Fairlight (God knows we couldn't afford one of those) and sifting through Peter Gabriel's sample disks (great sounds). David had been working with Peter Gabriel at the time mixing his live show I believe. At the end of "Relentless" we used an explosive percussion/drum sample from those disks to emphasize the "one" of the rhythm.

SW: Do you have a favorite track off Red 7? If so, which one or ones?

GS: "Let Me Use You" would be my favorite probably, followed by "No Sorry". To me these represented the core of many of our musical trademarks-odd time signatures and rhythms that pushed and pulled against eachother, and lyrically they spoke to a young man's angst (angst was yet to become generally popular and accepted). They, as all of our music also contained small excursions into unexpected places. We always liked to insert the unexpected theme, and used conflicting melodic content in a quasi-orchestral manner. It was just how the three of us played together. I expect that mentality is consistant with a "Prog" sensability.

SW: Did it irk you guys that "Heartbeat" got so much mainstream attention because of it's appearances in "Manhunter" and Miami Vice" and the rest of the album-- which had songs that were just as strong -- didn't get noticed?

GS: We were certainly used to not being noticed-so no surprise there. MCA had no idea of what we were about, or how to market us. For example we had the number three song on the biggest Northern Europena radio station, yet MCA negleted to ship records to Germany for a month.We were different than anything that they had at the time-remember "Triumph" was their big band then. We didn't ( I guess I should say, "I" didn't) have a "look" that they felt they could market...we were serious musicians and first and foremost passionate about our music, never wanted to be, or tried to be pop stars. MCA was an LA company and we were much more of an English style or Euro style band.

SW: Which came first, the Red 7 album or you recording vocals on the first Mike and the Mechanics album? What are your thoughts on that Mike and the Mechanics album and how did you get involved in that?

GS: The Red 7 album came first. Mike and I got along personally and musically, and I told him if he ever needed a singer I would love to considered. We were in the middle of an arduous tour with Howard Jones, actually sitting in our hotel rooms in Philadelphia which we couldn't pay for at the time (MCA refused to support that part of the tour and of course Howard Jones didn't pay enough to keep the production going-let alone pay the band members) . I was sick and my vocal chords were at that time abused from too many nights in a row, but Mike called me and told me he would fly me to London to sing on the record of his new group "Mike & the Mechanics"...sounded good to me, and after only hearing the songs on a cassette for a couple of hours and flying all night I was deposited at the AIR Studios in London and the vocal sessions began. As you can guess the results were far from my finest hour. I actually was to sing on a few other songs, but my voice was trashed and not up to snuff.
Mike was extremely gracious and paid me way too much. It did allow the band (Red 7) to pay our hotel bill and continue on the tour.

SW: Who played bass on the debut album, you or Mike Rutherford or both?

GS: Mike played bass on two songs..."Heartbeat" and "Can't Much Anymore"...he has a massively talented musical mind and was an absolute joy to play with. He really understands the role of the bass (a rare approach) in the "classical" orchestral sense and has a great relaxed ans "snaky" style. The rest of the bass parts were synthesizers and were sequenced.

SW: When it came time for the second album in 1987, "When the Sun Goes Down, you switched producers. You hired guitarist Ritchie Zito. Why did you change producers and looking back, which producer of the two did you enjoy working with more?

GS: First, "When The Sun Goes Down"-gak-puke...was the beginning of the demise of the band. MCA records (we used to like to call MCA "the Music Cemetary of America") was anxious for us to make a record near the corporate offices, so they could "keep an eye" on us. They trotted out an array of LA producers and Richie "seemed" to be the least toxic of them. Also, it must be noted that Mike Rutherford WAS going to be the producer of the second record, but was at that time he was on tour with Genesis and we would have had to wait an undetermined amount of time for him to be available. We were pushed into this record by the company. They even forced an outside-the-band song on us-"I'm On Your Side". At that point I personally almost was such a heinous piece of trash. Ritchie also foisted the saxophone playing on us again, this is puke. This record was NOT at all what the band was about. It took the heart and soul out of the band.
I cannot say enough nice things about Mike Rutherford, the musician/producer or Mike Rutherford the human being, truly an intelligent, sensative, intuitive gentleman. Mike even showed up at our video shoots in London just to be supportive and lend his insight when we returned to film "Heartbeat". The video is just hysterical when you see it now...was I really wearing that much makeup?

SW: Was the even more commercial sound of the second record due to Zito or the band?

GS: Ritchie Zito and MCA records can take credit (sic) for that.

SW: Why no third album? Also, why did you guys break up?

GS: While it doesn't help to be sensitive in the music business (or in most cases to have sense at all) , we were sensitive enough to be crushed and depleated by the "When The Sun Goes Down" experience. Our new management didn't have a clue, and in general we were confronted by many who took big percentage points and helped us very little. Eventually it wears down the resolve of even the most stalwart hearts. With no help and no money, there seemed to be no point and of course we all individually had to address the serious "real world" life issues that don't go away.

GS: I have continued to be involved in many divergent musical projects such as playing bass for Ronnie Montrose (using my "Boris" persona) on three tours and recording (bass and vocals) on his CD "The Diva Station"; arranging, programming and engineering for The Isley Brothers ("Tracks of Life"), playing keyboards for Toni Childs (very short-lived-way too much Hollywood for me); producing and/or engineering many independant "small" records (such as a traditional Haitian ceremonial music record called "Simido" which won several awards); owning and operating my own very high-tech recording studio-Apostrophe Music; writing and performing a one-man multi-media show "Boris in Idaho" (performance art); writing, recording my own personal CDs. I love music and the making of it, I will always be involved in doing this. To this day I practice scales on the guitar at least an hour every day.I don't however love the "music business" and therefore my own music is for made for my friends to enjoy and to bring me personal joy. I am currently working on another CD of my own. This one I may share with others...we shall see...hmmmm...

SW: Do you still keep in touch with Michael or Paul or know if they are in any bands now or are they still involved in music?

GS: While I don't keep in touch with either one of those poeple (or they with me), I do know that Paul has done an extensive amount of recording in the SF Bay Area and toured with Chuck Prophet. Mike I believe lives in his beloved New Jersey.

SW: Fans of Red 7 have never had the opportunity of hearing your classic first album on CD. Is there chance or possibility of it ever being released or CD? Do you know who has the rights?

GS: I do know that I saw a CD version of this music in Hong kong several years ago. As to the rights, I really have no idea. Do musicians actually have rights? (I was never really clear on this.)

SW: How would you describe the music of Red 7?

GS: Bela Bartok exploring his punk sensabilities and working out his aggressions.

SW: Ever have any thoughts of reuniting Red 7 or making music like that again?

GS: The music that Red 7 produced was never an attempt to fit into any one given format-it was just what came out of our mutual association at that time. While we meshed for a flickering moment in time musically, our other life expressions were divergent enough to keep us separate and undoubtedly will continue to do so.
The music that I currently create is just that-the music that I currently just comes out of me as it comes out.
I admit to having a recurring nightmare in which Red 7 once again goes on tour-I say this with no malice intended. I would play music with Paul Revelli glady, he is an outstanding musician. Also, one would have to recognize the fact that the "multitude" has not been exactly clamoring for such a reunion.

SW: Looking back at your experience in Red 7, what was the most memorable part of the experience?

GS: It was a vibrant and wacky time in the music business. "Excess" was being explored and perfected and everything moved very fast. I love to be on stage and of course Red 7 gave me that opportunity. It was wonderful to meet so many talented and interesting people like Mike Rutherford. Also I met my wife at one of our shows and that meeting was the singular most important event of my life.


Copyright © 2017 all rights reserved Nickels and Dimes