By Noe Gutierrez
Paul Gurvitz is one of those rare musicians who every musician needs to know, but is not a household name. His successful multi-platinum songwriting career spans decades and his bass work with THE GUN and the THE BAKER GURVITZ ARMY is celebrated to this day. Gurvitz and his band THE NEW ARMY will be performing at Willie Boys at 50048 29 Palms Highway in Morongo Valley on Saturday, December 16, 2018 at 7 p.m. Cost is $10 and includes (1) well drink. An outdoor BBQ and a performance by the Voodoo Hustlers from 1 to 4 p.m. will kick-off the event.
Coachella Valley Weekly spoke with Gurvitz via phone from his home in Arizona.
CVW: Do you have any connections to the Coachella Valley/High Desert area?
Gurvitz: “Terry Reid and I go way back. We toured together on a 1968 British tour. He’s the only one I know in that desert area.”
CVW: What drew you to the Arizona desert?
Gurvitz: “I had lived in California since 1971, basically, I was living in LA and I finished a recording project just wondering what was gonna be next. My girlfriend had family here and she said why don’t you come out and look at Phoenix, you might like it. That was about eight years ago that I decided to come out and I like it. I just like the slowness of everything. And I like the weather too. I like the heat and the summertime when it’s really hot.”
CVW: What’s your life like now?
Gurvitz: “The great thing about the family that I have is that I can do what I want. I do it when I want, how I want and nobody bugs me. Just great relationships. My wife and my stepdaughter are on their way to China, that’s where they are from. I’m now just here by myself and my guitar player just walked in. His name is ‘Father Christmas,’ I mean Simon P.C. Frost.“
CVW: Tell us about THE NEW ARMY.
Gurvitz: “There’s five of us. We basically do one off shows when we feel like it. I’m not really into touring, I just like to play. But of course it has to be at a certain professional level so I have to have the same guys in the band. It’s how I like it. Everyone knows what to do. There’s no attitude, there’s no crazy stuff going on other than mine. THE NEW ARMY includes
Eduardo Ardon on drums, Mark Klink on keyboards, Simon on guitar and Ken Ronk on vocals and harmonica. I haven’t booked anything for us after this show. I’m working on something else that’s gonna keep me and Simon very busy but I’ll share that with you another time.”
CVW: What keeps you inspired after over 50 years in music?
Gurvitz: “It’s either do music or be a postman. It’s just who I am really. If I’m recording or writing or making an album, I’m always doing something with music. Playing is just…I love playing. I’ve always played since the mid-60’s and I still love it. It’s great fun.”
CVW: Have you been back to England to perform?
Gurvitz: I’m not interested. I hate flying. I don’t like boats.”
CVW: How about a Paul Gurvitz hologram?
Gurvitz: “Like my friend Ronnie James Dio?”
CVW: What are your thoughts on the Ronnie James Dio hologram?
Gurvitz: “I would have to see a show to make a comment. To see how the interaction is between what they’ve got recorded of him and how it works with the audience. I think it would be pretty boring if it was just him singing song, song, song and there’s no talking with the crowd the way that Ronnie used to. I knew Ronnie, he was a good friend of mine for years. I don’t know what they have done to get that aspect across on stage. What they’re using is probably his image from shows he has done. The way that they get his mouth to move with the songs he is singing were obviously taken from previous shows. It’s a little tricky when you’re trying to talk to an audience when you’re not really there. I reserve judgment. I’m good friends with DIO drummer Simon Wright. What I didn’t like was how it sounded, it didn’t seem like it was really live or it sounded like it was a studio recording. It didn’t seem like it married. But you know, I guess they’re on their way, I think for a lot of people, especially people who have never seen Ronnie it’s obviously going to be successful. And knowing Wendy Dio, she’s such a business woman, it will probably do well. It initially started out with her just using the band and getting shows as Dio’s Disciples, which was one thing, with different singers and that was cool. I saw them a few times and it seemed to make sense.”
CVW: We’ve lost many influential musicians recently. Paying homage seems to be a necessity.
Gurvitz: “I don’t know the last time that you saw The Who. The way that they perform even though there’s only two of them left, the way they incorporate the other guys is just very clever and still seems like a great live show and when you see John Entwistle up on the screen and the way that they do it, it works because they’ve done it in a different way because when you’re doing these big shows and you’ve got the screen showing the band that’s playing and all of a sudden it shows a member of the band that’s been gone for quite a while but it seems to work because the way its portrayed onscreen seems to fit what’s going on in that particular show. Watching Keith Moon singing, that to me is amazing. The Who happens to be my favorite band. They can’t do any wrong as far as I’m concerned. It’s been a little different because I’ve grown up with them and seeing them over the course of so many years. And even the way they’ve added people without John and Keith it still seems to work and it is basically because of Daltrey’s voice and Townsend’s stage performance and the songs.”
CVW: What was it like writing music for other artists?
Gurvitz: “A lot of the music I’ve written for other people is a totally different genre. I’ve written music for the bands that I’ve been in, but I was more prolific writing music for people I wasn’t in bands with. A lot of it was pop R&B music which was the biggest part of my writing success. That was just a different time that I was into doing that, not playing my own stuff just focusing as a writer. I wrote for artists like Jody Watley and Five Star, an English group whose second album was quadruple platinum. I also wrote for Jellybean Benitez, who produced all the early Madonna records. I wrote his biggest hit that was actually a huge Billboard Dance hit song called ‘Who Found Who.’”
CVW: THE GUN was a major influence on what we now know as heavy metal. Your other bands have also had an impact on contemporary artists. What can you tell us about the bands you were in?
Gurvitz: “With THE GUN I had my first UK #1 hit “Race With the Devil” which has since been covered and recorded by Judas Priest, Black Oak Arkansas and Girlschool. In 1971 THE GUN broke up and I started a group called PARRISH & GURVITZ, which was produced by George Martin.
There were three major bands I was in, THE GUN, THREE MAN ARMY and the BAKER GURVITZ ARMY, which featured probably one of the most famous rock drummers in music, Ginger Baker, who was the drummer for Cream. Ginger was probably the grandfather of drumming in all of rock and roll. Those three bands that I formed were probably my favorites.”
If you are anywhere near Willie Boys this Saturday, you should consider attending an extraordinary performance by PAUL GURVITZ AND THE NEW ARMY.