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
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
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
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 quit...it 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
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
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
create...it 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.