At the 2005 Anime Expo, Harmony Gold held a Robotech concert where Michael Bradley, the voice of Yellow Dancer, headlined along with singer Khristina K. Michael and Khristina sang all of the classic Robotech songs to over 500 fans in attendance, but with new arrangements and new vocal stylings. After the concert ended, fans were clamoring for Michael to release an album with the new versions of the classic Robotech songs. Following appearances at other conventions such as Kunicon, Michael then attracted about 1500 fans at FanExpo in Santiago, Chile. Finally after a year and a half, we're excited to celebrate the release of Michael Bradley's new album, Lonely Soldier Boy!
Lonely Soldier Boy, now available at MichaelBradleyMusic.com and Robotech.com, features his songs from Robotech, Robotech: The Movie and Robotech II: The Sentinels, completely recorded from scratch with all new production and freshly recorded vocal tracks featuring Michael Bradley and Khristina K.
To commemorate this new album, we interviewed Michael Bradley to ask about his experiences in the music industry, his brief but popular stint as Robotech's singer and his discovery of Robotech fandom!
MICHAEL BRADLEY INTERVIEW:
STEVE YUN: What was the thing that first got you interested in music? Was it a particular song or performance?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: It was definitely seeing the Beatles on television. I was real young, but I was immediately hooked. They had great songs and had a great look. They were funny and had an incredible wit. This was the early Beatles, of course. Later on, there music became darker and more experimental which just drew me in further. Nobody looked or sounded like them before... although, in retrospect, their early stuff was obviously influenced by the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, to name just a couple. Anyway, I've heard so many famous musicians... from Billy Joel to Sting say that when they saw The Beatles they knew that's what they wanted to do for a living. And the same goes for me.
STEVE YUN: What was your first music gig?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: I think I was about 10 years old. I was always very rhythmic and used to beat on pots and pans and boxes and table tops along with records or songs on the radio (that sounds a little insane when I think about it... but, come on! I was a little kid... and a little nuts)! Anyway, to keep me from destroying everything around the house, my parents bought me a set of drums. Of course, they would yell at me to stop whenever I played them... but that was part of their harm... uh, I mean charm.
I grew up in a small, rural community and I was the only one around who had a set of drums. A lot of local teenagers played guitars... but nobody in my neighborhood was a drummer. So, one day, some guys dropped by my house when I was banging around on my drum set and asked me if I wanted to be in their band... which was just two guys playing cheap electric guitars and one guy with a portable "Farfisa" organ. I was kind of shocked because they were so much older than me... and I immediately said yes. They knew all these songs that I never heard before... old R&B stuff... and a lot of songs by the Ventures. They just played them and I made up the beats. I only knew a couple of kinds of "feels" or beats... so pretty much everything had the same feel... and tempo. Anyway... the oldest guy arranged for us to play at a party for teenagers at a local church. And that was my first gig. We got a lukewarm reception from the crowd... that is, until I sang my one song that they let me sing. It was Otis Redding's "Sittin on the Dock of the Bay." When we went in to it, it was the first thing we played all night that made people stop and actually listen... and they actually applauded at the end of the song! I was shocked. After the gig, all these teenagers came up and talked to me. They never noticed me before because I was just a little neighborhood kid. But now, they were actually treating me like I was special. And that just fueled the fire. That particular group only played one other time in public... and then, as would happen, I moved on and met other musicians, but didn't really start gigging regularly until I was about 14 years old. By then I was playing keyboards. In various bands, I would play the local Elks Lodge and Moose Lodge... high school dances and later on, nightclubs. I was big for my age, so the club owners thought I was older and would serve me drinks... they had no idea I wasn't even old enough to drive!
By the time I got into college, I switched to guitar. I learned to play guitar when I was about 12... but I never really played it full time in a band until then. But, I was never really a great keyboard player or drummer OR guitar player, for that matter. I always stood out as the singer. But I never went out "front" without an instrument until I joined the band "Spats" in Washington D.C. The drummer for that band, Mike Zack, was kind of famous in the area. He played for Nils Lofgren... who is now in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. We got a record deal in Miami and were recording in a big time studio, Criteria. We would run into the Bee Gees, Crosby, Stills and Nash... Joe Walsh walked in one day. I was totally star-struck and intimidated at the same time. All the big stars at the time were recording there. It was an amazing experience for a 19 year old kid from Virginia!
STEVE YUN: You were also in a band called Paul Revere and the Raiders as the lead singer for several years. Could you tell us about how you met them and what it was like performing in that band?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: My second record was with a band called Hot Ice. The drummer, a great friend of mine, Omar Martinez, was with Paul Revere and the Raiders years before. He got a call from Paul who was looking to get Omar back in the band... and Omar suggested that Revere take me on as the new lead singer. So Revere flew down to Miami and watched a new band Omar and I formed, called... uh... I forgot. We were only together a couple of weeks. We were appearing on a local T.V. show. We played live and apparently Revere liked what he heard and the next thing I know, I'm moving out west. To Reno, Nevada... and eventually Los Angeles.
The funny thing is, The Ed Sullivan show, where I first saw The Beatles when I was a child, had Paul Revere and the Raiders on, a year or so later. I was just a little kid when they first became famous. My older brother even went to see them in concert... and had a couple of their records. So, when people hear I was in the Raiders, they might think I'm older than I really am. I joined them in the late seventies. I only did one record with them... but I wrote most of the songs. I was the lead singer and it was very exciting because of the thousands of fans that they already had from having several hit records in the sixties and seventies. They also had their own network television show. And they appeared on the Lucy show and others. They also were on the original BATMAN TV series. They played the Penguin's campaign band when he was running for the mayor of Gotham City. But that was WAY before my time with them.
We played the Harrah's Reno and Tahoe showrooms and places all across the country. We played huge outdoor concerts at Disney World and Disneyland, Six Flags, state fairs and special events and festivals. I think the biggest crowd we played for was 18,000. We regularly played shows for 10,000 people or so. When you play in front of that many people... you're kind of removed from it all. Very surreal. You don't see the faces... and the applause is like a roar. Exhilarating... but an odd experience, to say the least.
It was kind of funny... I had never signed an autograph before and a week after I joined that band, we were on a plane to Alaska with Wolfman Jack and The Association (Never My Love, Cherish, Wendy... to name a few hits). When the passengers found out we were on the plane, all these people were lined up to get an autograph... and I was thinking that they didn't even know who I was! At that time, I hadn't even performed with the group, yet they wanted my autograph. Kooky, huh?
STEVE YUN: What other celebrities or musicians have you worked with?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: Well, with Paul Revere and the Raiders, we played shows with Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys and a lot of "oldies" acts. Plus bands like Average White Band and Steppenwolf would be playing on the same night... we would alternate shows with a lot of acts like that when we did the Reno and Tahoe showrooms. In some earlier bands, we were the opening act for Joe Cocker, Boz Scaggs... Wild Cherry (Play That Funky Music White Boy!). I toured with the original lead singer of the Raiders, Mark Lindsay... plus we did a record together in Memphis. We wrote a lot of songs together too. I've played guitar with Sam Moore of Sam and Dave (Soul Man, Hold On, I'm Coming). I sang background vocals with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys... it was for his solo project, but I was watching an old movie on TV one night and heard one of the songs that I did... and when the credits rolled by, it said "The Beach Boys," so, I guess you could say I was on one of their records... although I've never seen it. I've worked with several "one hit wonders" in the studio and onstage.
STEVE YUN: How did you get involved in singing for Robotech?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: I was a co-writer on a song with Steve Wittmack and Peggy March (I Will Follow Him) called "When the Rain Begins To Fall." Before I get into this story... I just want to let everyone know that my partner, Khristina K and I are currently recording a new version of this song that will be available (probably as a mp3 download on MichaelBradleyMusic.com) in the near future.
I originally recorded the song with Peggy March as a duet... and it was going to be our first record with a band called BMW (Bradley, March and Wittmack). We performed in Germany and Japan. When we got back from Japan, we found out that some "back door" negotiations were going on and Pia Zadora, who was being produced by our producer, Jack White, heard the song and wanted to sing it with me. For reasons better left unsaid, I balked at singing the song with Pia... so they got Jermaine Jackson to record it with her... and we lost the song. It ended up being a giant worldwide smash hit. It was the number one song on the charts in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, and Belgium to name just a few countries. The fans in Chile might remember the song because it was also number one there. I think Pia and Jermaine actually toured there to promote the record. Unfortunately, it was not a hit in the United States or the U.K. But, because of it's notoriety, a lot of record company execs knew of the song... including a guy, Jim Moreno, who worked at CBS (Columbia Records). We were introduced to him by a recording engineer friend from Miami, Steve Gersky (Kenny Loggins, The Bee Gees, Crosby, Stills and Nash). As an aside, Gersky ended up being the engineer on the Robotech: THE MOVIE soundtrack.
Anyway, Jim Moreno was good friends with Thomas White, who was the music supervisor at Harmony Gold, where, as everyone knows, Robotech was produced. Jim called Thomas and set up a meeting for us. Thomas was looking for some new writers for the second season of the show. He wanted to add a more "contemporary" sound to the series... so he wanted "chart-oriented" songs (as he put it). That's why all of my stuff sounds so "eighties," while Minmae's songs were more... uh... "standard" sounding... if that's the term. The stuff we came up with was much simpler than the songs that Ulpio Minucci had written earlier. He did some fantastic music! We just stuck to the rock/pop formula... and for us, it worked.
Now, to answer your question (you knew I'd get around to it eventually)... Thomas White heard my voice when he listened to the latest song Steve Wittmack and I had written, called "Gimme Tonight." He apparently liked what he heard because I ended up singing the Lancer/Yellow songs. I don't remember exactly how that came about... I guess because of my background... that I wasn't just a songwriter... I was also a performer. I don't know if Thomas thought I wanted to be the singer... or if I just wanted to write. When we brought in songs, I had sung the demo. Thomas may have asked me if I wanted to be the singing voice... but I'm not sure, to be honest. I don't really remember. It just happened, I guess.
STEVE YUN: What was it like writing music and performing for Robotech? What kind of music did Harmony Gold tell you they needed? What equipment did you use? How long did it take?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: Hmm... well, the first song that we wrote for Robotech, was a song that was to be sung by a female character, Musica. For some odd reason, I still have the original memo from Carl Macek to Thomas White. He wanted a song called "Flower of Life." In parenthesis he wrote "nice title, huh?" It went on to describe what the song should be about. I think Thomas gave the memo to me just so we could refer to it during the writing process. We hired a session singer, Joanne Harris, to sing it. We had to pay her out of what little budget H. G. gave us to work with... I think she got fifty bucks. We recorded it in my townhouse on a Fostex 8-track recorder. I remember renting a good microphone (AKG 414) and a two-track machine (Otari 5050) to mix down to. I have no idea how long it took. I'm sure Steve and I wrote the piece in one setting... and Joanne never took more than an hour to cut a vocal. At the end of the song we slowed the tape down and then sped it up while she was recording the last note so it went impossibly high... just wanted to see if we could make the dogs start barking next door.
They ended up using Flower as an instrumental theme (Invid theme) and as background music for the "Next time on Robotech" voice-over, describing the upcoming episodes.
The other songs we did for the series were just songs that we were told they needed. They wanted a song to be sung at a concert... we gave them "It Don't Get Any Better." They needed an uptempo song with a long instrumental break in the middle, to be used in a battle scene... we gave them "Look Up! The Sky Is Falling." They wanted a song titled, "Lonely Soldier Boy," we gave them a song titled "Lonely Soldier Boy."
STEVE YUN: You've got this new album coming out, Lonely Soldier Boy, which is a collection of new recordings of songs you performed in Robotech. What first gave you the idea to make this album?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: Well, after being contacted by Tom and Dennis Bateman in 1995, I first discovered that there were fans of the show who knew my music and actually liked it! During the making of Robotech, we never spent a lot of time on the recording. There wasn't much of a budget either, so I thought it would be cool to "revisit" the songs and maybe spend a little more time on the arrangements and maybe there would be an audience for something like that. I always thought the songs were good... I just wanted to see if I could update them a little... maybe look at
them from a different perspective... and give the fans something new.
STEVE YUN: Could you tell us about some of the tracks in the album and how you've decided to update them? Which will see the least change and which one will see the most change?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: "Underground," from Robotech: The Movie, probably is closest to the original. Vocal performance is pretty much the same (if it ain't broke... don't fix it)! There is a lot of guitar... as a matter of fact, I don't think there is any guitar in the original. But, as far as "feel," it's still got an eighties vibe to it.
This entire CD is fairly guitar-heavy... still a lot of synth... but definitely features the guitar more than the original versions.
By far, the most different arrangement is We Will Win. It's the same version Khristina K and I sang at the Kunicon conventions (Atlanta and Denver) a couple of years ago. A lot of people have heard this arrangement... there's a video floating around of us singing it live. It's now a duet. Synth/orchestral track. Slow ballad. Kind of sad, yet hopeful sounding. I like it a lot. Definitely not the rock guitar version that I did in the 80s.
STEVE YUN: At Anime Expo, Harmony Gold held a large concert featuring you and your band. Could you tell us some more about the band? Do you guys regularly perform together?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: The band is called RK Project. Khristina K, Ricky Katz, Richard Shipiro, Thom Salisbury, Pat Wilkins and myself. We play around LA once in a while. We're not really a full-time working band... just a part time thing. I'm really the only full time (if you can call it that) musician in the group. It started off as just a fun thing... but we seem to be working more and more... so we'll see where it goes. It was great playing the Robotech songs in Anaheim. We would love to do that again sometime. We're actually looking into performing this year in Long Beach if we can find a venue close to the convention. Still in the talking stages, though... but, you might see us there!
STEVE YUN: Khristina is also on the new album and has an incredible voice. She's also had great performances with you at KuniCon and Anime Expo. Could you tell us a little more about her? How you first find her? What was it like working with Khristina? What kind of music does she usually perform?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: She is such a PAIN! Just kidding... that's what she would say about me, I'm sure!
I met Khristy (Khristina K) through our guitarist, Ricky Katz. Ricky and I used to jam occasionally in a local rehearsal hall... just for kicks. We would play with different drummers and bass players. One day Ricky came in and said that there was going to be some kind of summer festival at his temple, and they needed a band. And so we started rehearsing seriously. I brought in an old friend, Thom Salisbury, to play keys. Ricky was playing in another band with a female vocalist and he asked her to play with us. And that singer was Khristina K. She was fabulous and after the gig we kept the band together, except we picked up Khristy and Ricky's drummer, Richard Shapiro, a great musician who had made some records years ago and was ready to do it again. We went through a couple of different bass players over the next year or so, and our current guy, Pat Wilkins, is just fantastic.
Khristy is an incredible, powerful singer and I think she would make a great Minmae (singing only... she refuses to act) if that character would ever reappear in future Robotech projects. What I like about her is that she can really belt out a tune and also sing softly... angelic. We've been recording on and off for the last couple of years... Khristy's health issues have put a couple of projects on hold... but she is perfectly healthy now and raring to go! We had been experimenting with different styles of music for her... and haven't yet decided on which direction she should go. She sings rock, country, pop... anything really. She, like me, likes all different kinds of music... so, it's really just a choice of what kind of singer she wants to be. She started off singing in church... and has sung around LA in various bands. But, in my opinion, it all boils down to the song... a great song is what she needs... it's what we ALL need. So we're still plugging away.
Currently Khristina and I are recording a new version of "When The Rain Begins To Fall" which I mentioned earlier. It was such a big worldwide hit in 1984 and has been recorded by over a dozen different artists. I know she and I could really do a killer version of the song. It's kind of like "UNDERGROUND" because it is a duet... uptempo. So, I know it will work fine for us. The original recording by Pia Zadora and Jermaine Jackson was a kind of Euro-disco thing. Our version will be harder (gotta get some guitars in there!) but it will still have the same driving beat. Anyway, I hope everyone around the world will check it out. It'll be available on MichaelBradleyMusic.com within the next couple of months or so.
I've also had dozens of request to do "Lonely Soldier Boy" as a solo acoustic song... like I performed live in Chile. I plan on putting that out as a download on my site also... but not until we get this record out and rolling!
STEVE YUN: At Anime Expo 2005, Harmony Gold sponsored a concert where you and Khristy headlined, and there was a huge turnout of fans. When you worked on Robotech in 1985, were there ever any events like this? Did you get fanmail or have any exposure to the fans at the time?
MICHAEL BRADLEY: When we did Robotech, it was just one of many things I was doing at the time. I had my band BMW and we were performing in Japan, Germany, and showcasing all around LA I had a record deal with MCA/Curb and was working on a soundtrack for a movie called Savage Streets. I was also playing with Las Vegas headliner, Lola Falana... and were playing all over the continent... from Vegas to Atlantic City to Toronto to San Juan, Puerto Rico to Hawaii! I found myself constantly in a limo or an airplane or recording studio or a hotel room in a strange city. We would come into town and have a meeting at Harmony Gold and go write a song and record it and then be off to the next thing. I had no idea that the show was so popular! It really floored me when I found out that I actually had fans out there who knew my music from Robotech!
So, I never talked to any fans or made any appearances for the Robotech franchise until 1995... ten years after we did the show. Like I mentioned earlier, Tom and Dennis Bateman tracked us down and asked us to appear in Anaheim at Robocon 10. That was the first time I ever talked to any fans... and I was never the same after that! :0)
The fans of Robotech are truly the greatest. Loyal and kind ... and sometimes rabid! Everyone has been really good to me and I will never forget it. I hope all the fans enjoy the new CD. Just a reminder that it's available on MichaelBradleyMusic.com exclusively (for now). We might try to get it into some retail outlets... and maybe other web sites will carry it... but for now, it will just be on my site.
So ... (here comes the shameless plug) ... Lonely Soldier Boy is now available from MichaelBradleyMusic.com and Robotech.com!