Billy Sheehan – The full in bloom Legacy Interview – David Lee Roth – Talas
Talas / David Lee Roth / Mr. Big bassist
full in bloom: What year did Talas form? Who was in the original lineup?
Billy Sheehan: Early ’70s. Myself, Dave Constantino, & Paul Varga.
full in bloom: Why did it take so long for Talas to cut a record?
Billy: We just never thought of it. We were playing constantly.
full in bloom: Where did you record the Talas self-titled album?
Billy: Some studio in Buffalo—not sure which. We just went in & pounded it out in a few days.
full in bloom: How many copies of that record were sold initially? How did you distribute the record?
Billy: They printed 10,000, & sold them all. Local, Buffalo only distribution. It wasn’t released nationally then.
full in bloom: What was your recording budget for Sink Your Teeth Into That? How many copies were sold?
Billy: $10K. We did it in 4 days in Toronto. It went fast, so no real events took place other than playing & singing, then getting back to gig ASAP. About 200 thousand (were sold). More now.
full in bloom: Were you in a version of the Michael Schenker Group?
Billy: I wasn’t. I was flown to London to work on his first record. We got through the pre-production, but then he freaked out, smashed his guitar, smashed his apartment, cut off his hair & they found him laying in the street somewhere & put him away. I left. They called me to return, but I passed on it.
full in bloom: Is there a memory that stands out from that experience?
Billy: Tuning his guitar for him because he was so wasted he couldn’t do it. Also, the smell from lack of bathing or any personal hygiene. Pretty horrible.
full in bloom: In 1982 you were asked to join UFO. How did that gig come about?
Billy: I wasn’t asked to join. They needed a bass player for an upcoming tour & I agreed to do it. Talas opened for UFO (hence the Schenker connection) and they knew who I was. It was supremely un-together. Very sad—I loved that band, and Schenker. Seeing it up close as a dysfunctional, drug infested catastrophe was very disappointing. It broke my heart actually.
full in bloom: What was a typical day like for you during that period?
Billy: I just tried to keep my end together and help the band get through the songs in a show.
full in bloom: How long did you tour with UFO? How many shows?
Billy: About 20 or 30 shows.
full in bloom: When you returned, you reformed Talas. Why did you change the lineup of the band for the Live Speed On Ice album.
Billy: I didn’t. The other guys quit & I was left holding the bag. I got some new guys to continue on. I had no choice.
full in bloom: Eventually Mitch Perry, who previously played in Steeler, had joined the band. Why was he chosen as the guitarist and how was it to work with him?
Billy: Recommendation from a friend. Too much drinking, so we replaced him.
full in bloom: Describe the process leading up to your days with David Lee Roth. What was it like to work with him?
Billy: Process? I don’t know of any process. Talas opened for Van Halen; we kept in touch; Dave called to start a band. Pretty simple really—no “process” involved. We had a blast.. He was & still is a hero of mine.
full in bloom: What was the songwriting process while you were in the band?
Billy: The band would jam in the basement, Dave would run down when we hit on something he liked, then we’d piece it all together. Lots of fun, really.
full in bloom: Describe a typical day on tour, while you were supporting Eat Em’ and Smile. How long did that tour last?
Billy: The same as any other tour. Get in, sound check, show, travel, repeat. Sometimes there’s time to hang & celebrate. (Toured) Many months.
full in bloom: While you were in the band, did you receive a monthly salary?
Billy: I was paid very well. I own all my publishing.
full in bloom: Where was Eat Em’ and Smile recorded.
Billy: Some at Fantasy studios in Berkely, CA, some at the Power Station in NYC. It was a lot of fun & very creative.
full in bloom: Do you remember hearing the finished album for the first time?
Billy: We loved it. We drank, listened some more & celebrated heavily.
full in bloom: What was Dave’s after-show routine?
Billy: We had a lot of fun. Lots of beautiful girls, but none were ever disrespected. We raged.
full in bloom: What was the state of the band when you began recording Skyscraper?
Billy: We were in good spirits, initially. Things changed though. Dave took a different direction.
full in bloom: Why did you leave the band?
Billy: Two different paths. I wanted a different style of music—more like Eat ‘Em & Smile.
full in bloom: 3 fond memories from your days with David Lee Roth.
Billy: Being with him when he went on the Tonight Show, hanging with the band telling stories, the tour.
full in bloom: How much did being in the DLR band affect your Talas record sales?
Billy: A boost for sure
THE FAST 5
full in bloom: What is your most disgusting habit?
Billy: None! I lead a clean life. I’m polite, helpful & considerate of my fellows.
full in bloom: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Billy: Talk baby talk to my cat Spooky, who is the best cat in the world.
full in bloom: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Billy: When will you go down to Earth and slap all the people who kill in your name.
full in bloom: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Billy: Impossible to say.
full in bloom: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Billy: Playing a sold out show in Budapest, Hungary w/ Steve Vai.
This interview was conducted in 2005.