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Interview: Cactus and Vanilla Fudge Bass Player Tim Bogert
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Obi-Dan   |  
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Tim Bogert

When it comes to influential rock bands, not many can claim to have been a part of three of them. For Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and Beck, Bogert & Appice, bass player Tim Bogert has been an integral part.

I gave him a call at his Californian hill-top house to talk about his cocaine snorting, women chasing days in Cactus, quitting the music business to work at the Musicians Institute, and dealing with a “moody” Jeff Beck.

Geeks of Doom: Tim, how are you?

Tim Bogert: Fair to middlin’, thank you. How about yourself?

Geeks of Doom: Very well, thank you. By my count you managed to record a quite unbelievable 10 albums in 6 years from 1967 to 1973.

Tim Bogert: Wow! I hadn’t counted.

Geeks of Doom: I counted 10! With Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and Beck, Bogert & Appice. How did you find the time to do all that and tour?

Tim Bogert: We were young! [laughs] You can do a lot of stuff when you’re young! [laughs] We would work all the time and that’s what the thrust was at the time and we enjoyed it very much. We were young men having a great time doing it. It’s not that difficult to do when you’re out on the road playing with the band. You get lots of ideas and you can turn those ideas into songs and then you go away and you do some session work and it’s not that difficult. Or it didn’t seem to be at the time [but] of course it was a very long time ago! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: I love the story I read that most bands found it impossible to follow Vanilla Fudge on stage and you wondered who would be the first band to do that to you. That band turned out to be Led Zeppelin…

Tim Bogert: Yes it did, they were quite amazing.

Geeks of Doom: And you invited them on stage and all jammed together rather than trying to play your set.

Tim Bogert: That is true. I think it was Salt Lake City, I’m not positive anymore, but I do remember the event. They had played so well and the audience was just shattered. We came out and realized this is impossible and called the lads out and we all just jammed for the next however long it was. I remember that I said something like, “There is no way in the world we can follow that so we’re not going to try!” And that’s when we invited the lads out. Oh, we had a great time, it was a great jam.

Geeks of Doom: Was there some friendly rivalry between you and [Led Zeppelin bass player] John Paul Jones?

Tim Bogert: I didn’t feel it, no. No, he was a very nice fella, liked him a lot. And I’m not that competitive as a human being, never have been. I just tried to do the best I could and there you go. I thought John was amazing, thought he was great. Matter of fact, the Fudge did some Zeppelin tunes and playing John’s riffs are painful! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: And you’re known for quite complicated bass lines, so if you think it’s painful to play his then that’s a compliment!

Tim Bogert: Yeah, in my own fashion I have my own way of playing and John’s style was very different than mine. So I was not particularly familiar physically with those kind of moves so that when I had to so that, yeah, it was hard! [laughs] I had to work really hard to do it well. I really admire John and his playing. Fine player.

Geeks of Doom: Absolutely. I also read in one of your interviews not so long ago that despite being in a band together and your reunion performances in 2005 and 2007 that the guys in Vanilla Fudge are not really friends anymore.

Tim Bogert: No, not really. There’s been so much negative politics that I don’t really want to be a part of it anymore so I have decided I’m not going to be. Luckily I have saved my nickels and dimes when I was working and I sort of sit home at the side of the hill in California and look over the valley and think, “This is wonderful!” [laughs] And it is! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: So you have the choice of whether to go out and play or not?

Tim Bogert: Actually I do, yeah. As an older fella the road can be hard. I’m in my late 60s now so I don’t want to travel the world anymore. I’ve seen everything, been almost everywhere 3 or 4 times and it was great. Now it’s seriously diminishing returns. I want to be the gentleman farmer sitting up here on my little tiny plot of land overlooking the valley and having a wonderful time.

Geeks of Doom: Do you still speak to Carmine [Appice, Vanilla Fudge and Cactus drummer]? You worked with him a lot.

Tim Bogert: Yeah, from time to time. He’s a workaholic. He works constantly and I don’t work very much anymore so we don’t see each other as often as we used to. But from time to time, yes. We’re still friends. I did an album with him and a Spanish guitar player Javier Vargas in March of this year in Las Vegas. So I spent 10 days with Carmine, that was fun. I enjoyed playing that. That was fun but I haven’t done anything since and unless someone asks I don’t care! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: That’s quite fair enough I think! There’s a story that when Cactus was on tour with Black Sabbath…

Tim Bogert: Ah that one, yes. The fist fight.

Geeks of Doom: Yes. Would you care to tell that one more time?

Tim Bogert: Ah, sure! We were playing and we were opening for them, I think it was Atlantic City, New Jersey. Some problem occurred between their band and our roadie and there was some fisticuffs and our roadie got smacked around a little bit. Rusty [Day] who was the singer in Cactus and Jimmy McCarty who was the guitar player took umbrage to this and when they found that out went after the boys and there was a scuffle. There was all sorts of press that happened about it [but] that’s really all that happened. It was young men being physical, as they are, so no big deal.

Geeks of Doom: What was the rest of that tour like?

Tim Bogert: Fun as far as my memory of it [goes]. The Cactus band was a party group so immediately we began to party some more and had great big fun. We were all about having a good time drinking a lot, snorting a bunch of cocaine, and chasing women. Which we became very good at! [laughs] That was a fine rock and roll endeavor, I tell you what. Yes it was.

Geeks of Doom: Yeah! Talking of your time in Cactus again the album One Way…Or Another is 40 years old this year. Are you proud of that record?

Tim Bogert: Oh yeah, I’m very proud of my old work in the Cactus band. I thought the boys were terrific. It was a great opportunity for me to shine and I had a great time. As, like I said, I was a young man and oh gosh it was wonderful! [laughs] I couldn’t have asked for more really. More women and fun than you can shake a stick at!

Geeks of Doom: [laughs] And you were shaking your stick all over!

Tim Bogert: Oh goodness gracious me yes! [laughs] So yeah, it was great fun.

Geeks of Doom: Cool. Cactus V which was released only in 2006 was 35 years after you, Carmine, and Jim McCarty recorded Restrictions. What was it like going back into the studio with them?

Tim Bogert: It was fun because there was no pressure of any kind. It was a thing when the Vanilla Fudge band would go to New York to do some gigs there was a guy there by the name Randy Pratt who was a very big fan of Cactus and the Fudge. We would rehearse at Randy’s studio the Fudge would, and Randy said, “If I brought Jim McCarty in would you guys like to record some songs?” We all said, “Yeah, that’d be great!” So that’s what happened. When we were in New York with the Fudge band Carmine and I would stay an extra few days. Jimmy would come in and we would rehearse in Randy’s studio and put some tracks down…then Jimmy decided he didn’t want to do that anymore and then when Jimmy left the band I played a little while with it, but Jimmy was really the thing that I wanted to play with. Jimmy’s style was. So I said, “No, I’ll pass Carmine, thank you very much.” Carmine decided to keep it going and it’s a very good rock and roll band. It’s not the original Cactus, but it’s pretty good.

Geeks of Doom: In the original Cactus you had Rusty Day as your frontman. What are your memories of him?

Tim Bogert: Oh he was amazing. Oh boy, Rusty was quite an individual. A lot of rock and roll people put on this image of being a bad boy and tough guy. Rusty actually was a bad boy and a tough guy. He walked the walk, he talked the talk. He was real and you didn’t mess with that guy and I admired him for it. He was quite a piece of work! [laughs] Yeah he was. But he was one of the best frontmen I’ve seen and knew how to run a band harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. In his way he was as good as Robert Plant was in his way. So yeah, I was very pleased to be in Cactus, very pleased.

Geeks of Doom: That’s good to hear. You worked for a long time at the Musicians Institute.

Tim Bogert: 18 years. What a great job.

Geeks of Doom: Was it good to get away from the nonsense of the rock business?

Tim Bogert: It was perfect in my life because at the age of 35 they were starting to use terms like ‘grizzled warrior’ [laughs] My time was basically done so it was a wonderful way to decompress and become normal without going off the deep end like an awful lot of my peers did at the time. I think it very much saved me. Plus I met literally thousands of wonderful people that for 18 years I had great fun with.

Geeks of Doom: Were your students surprised that you were their teacher?

Tim Bogert: At first they were but as time went on and I became the generation that came before…the older music became popular with the young kids. So by the last 4 or 5 years of my tenure there the kids did know who I was and was kind of impressed because I was the age of their dad but I still was cool. Which is kind of a dichotomy for kids. It was a good thing, I enjoyed it very much.

Geeks of Doom: You worked with Ozzy’s old guitarist Jake E. Lee on the album Retraced. How did that come about?

Tim Bogert: I had done some work before for the Shrapnel Records people and they called me and asked would I do three sessions in Las Vegas for them…and Jakey was one of those sessions. They sent me about 30-some odd tunes that they wanted me to learn. I drove to Vegas…and Jake came down and [he was a] very nice fella. Boy can he play and we had a great time.

Geeks of Doom: Another one of the great guitar players you played with was Jeff Beck. What was it like working with him?

Tim Bogert: Well back then Jeff was very moody and he was very on-and-off. When we were on we were brilliant, when we were off it was trash. Jeff also found the fact that I was quote ‘a lead bass player’ which is what they used to call me, he found that threatening as opposed to helpful which just broke my heart. So we had trouble and eventually the band broke up which is a shame because it could have been wonderful. But it turned out just to break up. Too bad because Jeff is brilliant, he’s absolutely brilliant. He’s one of the best players of his generation.

Geeks of Doom: Absolutely he is. So it all came down to a fragile ego really?

Tim Bogert: I don’t know. I was in my 20s and I wasn’t very worldly at the time and really didn’t understand emotionally what was happening. My feelings got very hurt and things went badly unfortunately. It’s a real shame because there was so much potential there but it just never happened. Oh well, life goes on.

Geeks of Doom: Exactly. Are you working on any music at the moment?

Tim Bogert: No, not a gosh darn thing. I’m still in the PJs because it’s late morning here. Yeah, I slept in today and I will probably throw my leg over a motorcycle in about 25 minutes, a half hour, and go ride to breakfast. When I get back I will probably mow the lawn and that’s about as far as I thought of today! [laughs] So it’s all good.

Geeks of Doom: It’s all good. Tim, thank you so much for your time.

Tim Bogert: Oh thank you for having me!

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