Autograph are best known from their hit single from 1984 “Turn Up The Radio”. However, like many bands of that particular era, they seemed to vanish. Fast forward to 2020, a huge thirty-six years later and it appears to be the dawning of a new musical era for the band. I caught up recently with the sole remaining original band member, bassist Randy Rand, and we talked if their new music had the same effect of making you still turn up the radio all over again.
ANTIHERO: How are you spending the days in this very surreal time for the whole world?
Randy Rand: How am I spending my days? Being very frustrated. Rehearsing every day. Playing the guitar. Taking long walks and I want to shoot myself. Just kidding. How are you doing?
ANTIHERO: I’m not bad. I’m pretty good. You have a new single out at the moment. I just wondered when that was recorded. Was it before all of this or something that you’ve recorded subsequently?
Randy Rand: Well, actually, it was before, just a little bit before we recorded that. Thank God. It’s a good thing. Actually, it was kind of good to wait a little bit longer to let it out because everybody was home.
ANTIHERO: Was that a tester for an album or was it just a one-off single that you had done?
Randy Rand: It started to be a one-off single and then so many more ideas came sledding in that Jimmy Bell came into the band and he’s just got a new blast line for us. There’ll possibly be an album later on probably.
ANTIHERO: Okay. After several years with no Autograph band, you reactivated it in 2013. I just wondered what prompted the decision to bring the band back?
Randy Rand: I’ll tell you what it was. Me and Steve Lynch, have always kept in contact with each other. We met at the Nam show. It was 2013. We said, “Hey, they got all these cruises and stuff.” We just started up to go, “Hey, let’s put a band together and play a couple of gigs.” Then it was so fun. Then we started playing the festivals. We went, “Okay. Let’s just keep doing that.” That’s how that came about.
ANTIHERO: Since 2013, have you been doing the music full time or have you been still doing your handcraft leather business as well?
Randy Rand: Well, I was doing both for a while and then after doing it for like 20, some odd years, it’s like the fact that I walk into a room with leather now makes me want to throw up. That smell of the leather everywhere. I’m at that age where I can actually just spend more time at home writing songs and going out on the road playing. It’s a great way to play at my age. It’s a great way to do it.
ANTIHERO: Taking you back then to the early days of the band, how was it for you when success came along? Was it pretty instant or is it something that the band had really worked hard at and put in the hours and the gigs obviously before that level of success came along?
Randy Rand: Oh, that was amazing. Do you know the backstory of Autograph? At all?
ANTIHERO: Pretty much. Yeah.
Randy Rand: Me and Steve Plunkett, the guy was the lead singer, we were in a band called Wolf Gang back in the 70s. Of course, we knew Van Halen, we knew Quiet Riot, we knew all the guys from the 70s coming up. I was friends with Lita Ford at the time. She called me in New York when I was working with Lita and said, “Do you want to go on tour with Van Halen” because they were our friends. I said, “Sure.” We weren’t even a band yet. I didn’t even know three guys in the band.
They were working on dealings with Plunkett too. We were so surprised how well we were liked opening up for Van Halen. We really thought we were going to get our ass kicked because it was like 15,000 people for your very first gig ever. We named the band Autograph on the way because that was the only name that we didn’t hate. We didn’t even have a name really. In terms of radio, it took a while to catch on. The DJs really liked it. It became like one of their opening lines, you know, for their show. Next thing I knew we were top 20. It was awesome. Really awesome.
ANTIHERO: How do you now view that track “Turn Up The Radio”-? I think I read somewhere that the band had mixed feelings about the song itself at the time.
Randy Rand: We didn’t have mixed feelings. RCA had mixed feelings. Because the song itself … We needed two more songs for the album, for our first album. That came out of a jam. Honestly, it was done in like 45 minutes. We knew we had something special, but RCA said, “Nah. We don’t like that song. We’re not going to put it on.” We just said, “No. You’re putting it on.” They did and they’re very happy about it.
ANTIHERO: Do you think subsequently that it’s overshadowed everything that you did as a band that came after that?
Randy Rand: Yeah. I wish we would have had a couple of other hits before that came out, to tell you the truth. Who knew we were writing a fricking anthem that would last like 40 years? 30/40 years. You never know. Since that was our first, it feels like, a real single that came out and it got so huge. It’s still huge. I’m surprised at how many movies it’s in and how many radio stations still play it. It’s an amazing and wonderful thing.
ANTIHERO: Leading on then, I was listening today, again, to the Loud and Clear album. Do you feel that that wasn’t supported enough by record companies at the time?
Randy Rand: No. We had Andy Johns producing it. To me, that was my favorite album. It was a little more hard-edged, just a little bit. Of course, Andy, I’ve been working on and off with him forever, it was just so fun working with Andy. It was awesome because he has had that old technology to make the drum sounds huge. I really liked that.
ANTIHERO: Subsequently you recorded an album which came out 10 years later as Missing Pieces. Was that Missing Pieces release something that the band had any direct input into? Or was it just pushed out by a record label?
Randy Rand: You know what that was, it kind of pissed me off a little bit too. We didn’t know that Plunkett was going to release that. That was like our fourth album demo. Do you know what I mean? It’s just like, “come on dude.” But people like it, but at the same time, I did get kind of mad because I said, “Come on. At least tell us when you’re going to release stuff. I’m a writer, I’d like to know.”
ANTIHERO: I was going to ask, did you guys have any input into that release? But obviously you’ve answered that.
Randy Rand: No. We really didn’t. We really didn’t. It was just like … they at least remastered the demos, but they were still demos. You just hate to have that as your fourth album. We’d just come out with Loud and Clear, which is a great produced album and then Missing Pieces. I went, “Oh God, dick.” I guess some people get hungry for money. What do you do?
ANTIHERO: Yeah. After so many years away from music, you mentioned earlier, you had your own business. What prompted you to reactivate Autograph and go out and play those songs again?
Randy Rand: What it was is that I never didn’t want to be in … I mean, I always wanted to be in music, but unfortunately at the end of the 90s, guys like us, we just weren’t allowed to play. No one hired you. It wasn’t the fact that I wanted to quit. It was the fact that I had no gigs. I couldn’t even find a bar gig. It was horrible for 20 years. Then all of a sudden, the eighties came back again and we got the cruises. We had the bosses of rock stuff. We have some of the European festivals and stuff. It just turned out to be really fun. I was only going to do this for like a year now on my seventh year, I’m just digging the hell out of it. It’s fun.
ANTIHERO: You are the sole remaining original band member. I wonder how your focus and ambition for the band has changed over the years.
Randy Rand: To be honest, we started off, it was going to be me and Steve Lynch and Keni Richards the original drummer too. He just couldn’t play his back was so screwed up. So then me and Lynch said, “Okay. Let’s go. Let’s grab a couple of guys.” I heard that Simon’s voice and I said, “We gotta get this guy.” We just, honestly, honestly, honestly thought we’re just going to go out and do like maybe 10 gigs or something like that it’d be over with. Once you hit that stage again and that’s all you’ve ever really wanted to do, recording again, I’m going to keep doing this until my legs fall out from under me. I love it.
ANTIHERO: Of course, you mentioned that you’ve got Jimi Bell now in the band as well…
Randy Rand: He’s awesome. He’s awesome.
ANTIHERO: Has that fired up the band again? Re-energized you guys?
Randy Rand: Yeah. I was more on the heavier side. I like power-pop music. I love it. Don’t get me wrong. But I played in a lot of three-piece bands, and I kind of dug the energy up based on the guitars, big drums, big everything. This is more fun for me because just Simon and Jimmy together, what a great combination. It’s almost like Angus and Malcolm. It’s just unbelievable. The tones and how well they get along together playing guitar. It’s awesome.
ANTIHERO: The band again, you mentioned earlier, have maintained longevity through good song placement and other areas of media, e.g. films, even computer games. I just wondered who was the brains behind those decisions?
Randy Rand: That was RCA back then. I love that RCA put us in so many things. So many movies, games, because now we go and play audiences from 19 to 75. It’s so cool. It’s cool to watch a youngster, like 19 years old singing all the lyrics to all your songs, which is great. I mean, that’s awesome. That’s just awesome.
ANTIHERO: What in your life as a professional musician, are you most proud of? Is there a standard highlight perhaps that Loud and Clear album that you mentioned, maybe something else?
Randy Rand: You know how everyone in their life says, “If I had a wishlist, this is what I would want.” In my life, I wanted to get to be on American Bandstand and got to do that. I wanted to play Madison Square Garden, got signed there as part of the Van Halen tour. I wanted to get a song in the top 20. It’s like, “Whoa. How many times do you really get everything you wanted as a kid?” It’s kind of cool.
ANTIHERO: Do you feel though that the band didn’t maybe necessarily get the level of success that you guys deserved?
Randy Rand: I don’t know if there’s actually a point of ultimate success. It’s such a train to get to anywhere you’re going in the music business. Everything changes. You never know if your style is going to be there next year. Any kind of success you get in the music business is really, really cool.
ANTIHERO: What level are you at these days? You guys now are out in the States obviously. You’re able to sustain a full-time career in music. Correct?
Randy Rand: Yeah. We were doing well. We have K-1s and 1099s all over the place. It’s awesome.
ANTIHERO: What would it be then, the key lesson that the music industry has taught you?
Randy Rand: The industry now?
Randy Rand: Get good management- That’s why we went with EMP because what a great team they are… David Ellefson, he’s a real player and stuff and they understand. They do as much for us as they can. We’ve tried it a few times. It’s been great, ever since they’ve been working with us. It’s not like the old days where you had to have RCA. You didn’t have to have any unless you’re country or something. Now you put out whatever the hell you want. Our drummer, Mark, has a studio. We did our whole album on that and we did this song on his Pro Tools. That’s how good Pro Tools have gotten now.
ANTIHERO: I mentioned the Souls on Fire has been released as a single. You mentioned working on new material. Can we expect then, a new Autograph album? I think your last one, Get Off Your Ass, was back in 2017.
Randy Rand: I’m glad people liked “Get Off Your Ass”. That was at the beginning of the new thought process of what we’re doing. Timmy really has a lot of unbelievably good ideas, as far as the structure, recording, and stuff. Simon always is a great lyricist. What it is, is I would love to do more in the one. We already got like six or seven we’re working on right now, six or seven songs. We’re really enjoying it.
ANTIHERO: What sort of sound is that? Just going to bring the classic Autograph sound up into the modern-day, or it’s just going to kind of be in a similar theme to that previous album, sound-wise?
Randy Rand: Yeah. We’re bringing it into modern-day a little bit more. It’s a little heavier. It’s not overproduced. It’s a little more modern now. The one thing that Autograph always had, was great vocals and great harmonies. We’re not getting away from that just because that’s what we love to do. It’s awesome.
ANTIHERO: Just the final one then for you, Randy. If the roles were reversed, who would you like to sit down and interview?
Randy Rand: If the roles were reversed, and now I was asking the questions?
ANTIHERO: Yes. Who would you like to interview?
Randy Rand: I would ask questions that you probably couldn’t put on here. Things like, “Well, how much fun did you really have on the Motley Crue tour?” It’s like, “How did you live through the Motley Crue tour, and the Van Halen tour?” Those would be my questions.
ANTIHERO: That’s great. Thank you very much. Hopefully, once all this global pandemic gets done, you guys are going to be out touring again? Maybe a new album.
Randy Rand: Yeah. I actually think we’re going to be playing at the HRH/AOR festival next year. In England. Looking forward to that a lot.
ANTIHERO: That would be good. Then I’ll finally get the opportunity to see Autograph.
Randy Rand: Oh yeah. The band is really, really fun. It’s very entertaining. We got four professionals, all of us have been playing for at least 30 to 40 years. Getting the band together is just a blast. It’s a blast.
ANTIHERO: It’s going to be good. Right. That’s great. Thank you very much.
Randy Rand: You’re welcome Mark.
ANTIHERO: Brilliant. Thanks. Cheers. Bye.