• Home

Black Swan – Reb Beach

Black Swan – Reb Beach

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

When you have the ability to create music naturally, you’re going to crank out some amazing tunes. Guitarist Reb Beach (Winger, Whitesnake) and fellow Black Swan bandmates Bassist Jeff Pilson (Foreigner, Dokken), Lead Vocalist Robin McAuley (McAuley Schenker Group, Survivor), and Drummer Matt Starr (Ace Frehley, Mr. Big) are proof of this, as these extraordinarily talented musicians are releasing their second phenomenal rock album Generation Mind on April 8th.

Catching up with Beach, he revealed a bit about the new album, how the music came together and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: Tell me about the new album Generation Mind. How did it all come about?

Reb Beach: Well, it’s in the contract. When I signed the contract, it was a three-album deal and I didn’t read the fine print which said, oh no, it’s this album, plus three albums. So, it’s actually a four-album deal. After the first record which went really well because I came in with like fifty ideas that were Winger rejects that Kip (Winger, lead vocalist, bassist, bandmate) said was too 80’s for Winger. He didn’t want to go in the 80’s direction. So, it was kind of easy. It came together like super-fast. On this record, I didn’t have anything. So, I had to you know, it starts with me. It starts with guitar riffs. It’s a guitar riff band with guitar riff music, so there has to be a good riff in every section, and a good riff that you can sing over. So, that was my challenge, and knowing that I had to do another record, whenever I was recording something else, sometimes I come up with an idea and I’d record it and then put it in a little Black Swan folder. So, I brought that Black Swan folder to Jeff for the second record and he loved it, and I guess it inspired RobIn to do really great melodies. I think we’ve got a stronger record than the first record ‘cause I was really worried man, you know the second album is the toughest one almost, especially ‘cause all the ideas were from scratch. It wasn’t you know, kind of ideas I had forever. It was all just new ideas and I think it’s stronger. I was going for like a Boston thing where every song is a good song. That’s what I always try and do and especially with Black Swan. Black Swan’s kind of my baby ‘cause it starts with me and it’s all about the guitar and I wanted every song to be hooky, and Robin was able to write just the melodies, perfect melodies over this stuff. So, there’s not a dog in the bunch. I listen to the whole thing when I work out now. It’s like wow, every song is really good! It’s a super strong record.

SFL Music: I heard “Generation Mind” and I really liked it.

Beach: Yeah, there was a couple comments. You know how it’s really weird when they post a song, there’s always great comments? Like five hundred great comments and then the bad guys come in and start saying its cheesy, and then all the comments stop. After the bad buys come in, that’s when all the comments stop. I don’t know why that is, but one guy said it was cheesy, and I thought “More Than a Feeling” was cheesy from Boston when I first heard it, and now of course I think it’s like, you know, awesome! It’s not indicative of the whole record “Generation Mind”. That’s the pop song. That was our strongest chorus I think, so if you listen to the whole album, there’s way more cool jams and cool spacy sections and you know, sounds more like a live rock band.

SFL Music: Are there any new singles?

Beach: The new single comes out on Saint Patty’s Day. It’s “Eagles Fly” which I like better than “Generation Mind” as a song because it’s got a wicked guitar riff. The only thing is I look like crap in the video. Like, I look really, really bad in the video (he laughed).

SFL Music: I’m sure you don’t but…

Beach: No, because I had a stye in my eye. Like, I’ve never had a stye before in my life. I have no idea how I got it. Like a giant bump on my eye and it like made my whole eye puff up, and they filmed me from underneath. So, not only did you get like these baggy old eyes. You got like my double chin and my belly and its very unflattering. The song is good though.

SFL Music: Well, that’s good. I’ll have to see it. I bet it’s not as bad as you think.

Beach: You’ll see. I think it comes out Friday. I look like twenty years older. Like, ninety-year-old Reb Beach. This is what Reb will look like when he’s ninety. Can’t wait to see the comments. Comments about walkers and, you know.

SFL Music: Now when Black Swan came together it was because Jeff and Robin were friends, and then Jeff contacted you because you guys wrote Erase the Slate for Dokken and everything.

Beach: Well, we were sitting together in catering. We were out touring again. Yes, but he thought of me. I was sitting right next to him (he laughed).

SFL Music: What made him decide to do this? Elaborate for people who don’t know the story.

Beach: Of how Black Swan came together?

SFL Music: Yes please.

Beach: He has a relationship with Serafino (Perugino) at Frontiers records. Frontiers records is I think, the biggest independent label in Europe, and you know of course, Frontiers has a lot of these projects where they take guys from different bands and make these quote, unquote super groups to pump out some Eighties rock music, and that’s great for me because that’s what I excel at. That’s always what I’ve been good at. I can write all kinds of music, but I’m really good at Eighties music ‘cause I’m an Eighties guitar player kind of.

SFL Music: That’s our genre.

Beach: That’s our genre. Yep. So, he contacted Jeff to put this super group together, and who could we use, and Jeff was on the road with me, and he said, “well, why not Reb because he and I write really well together?” We did Erase the Slate of course with Dokken which was a very good record and had a real rapport on that, so that seemed perfect, and he’s like best friends with Robin. Their families go out to dinner once a week and they live right by each other. He’s a lovely, lovely guy, Robin. So, we got together and like I said, I had the riffs already and we wrote a song a day. Wrote and recorded, fully recorded all the guitars, a song a day. We did the whole thing in ten days. Then Robin came in and did his thing. It all went very swimmingly. Then Jeff knew Matt Starr and said, “why not Matt on drums?” You know, worked out great.

SFL Music: You told me the last time we spoke that when you write with Kip, he’ll leave you to your own devices as you stated, to come up with the riffs and then he works with that. Is it similar when you’re writing for Black Swan?

Beach: Yeah, I wrote ninety percent of the music for Black Swan. Even more so on this record. It’s just I’m really good at coming up with guitar riffs. So, I come in with the meat and potatoes of the song. With a verse, pre-chorus, chorus. Then I bring in like thirty, forty ideas. Jeff picks the ones he likes and says, “ok, we need a solo section for this and we can do it in F sharp or D.” I’ll say well, how’s this in D? And he’ll say, “great!” Then we’ll have the solo. It just keeps going that way. There’s one song where I walked in and Jeff was playing this riff. I’m like, what the heck is that? “It’s ah, just this thing I was working on,” and I said, oh my God. Dude, that’s a chorus! It became a song on this latest album called “Killer On The Loose” which is a great chorus. Really good chorus that Jeff wrote. We’ve been around the block, so this stuff comes very naturally to us, but yeah in answer to your question, it’s basically the exact same thing it is with Kip. It’s just up to me to come up with guitar riffs and then Robin has to sing over it. We sing over it when I’m playing or the stuff that I bring Jeff, he’ll sing over it. We’ll both sing over it and go, is this good for Robin? ‘Cause sometimes you’ll write a riff, it just sucks to sing over, so you just pitch that. Pitch it, you can’t use it. You can use it for like an intro or something, but you know, next, if you can’t sing over it.

SFL Music: Is there a theme to the album? What would you say about this new album?

Beach: There is. We threw away some stuff that was too dark. We threw away some stuff that was maybe a little bit too progressive for Black Swan. Black Sawn is straight ahead, in your face rock and it’s a formula. Jeff is really the man with the vision of what we use and what we don’t use. He’s able to look at the big picture a lot better than I am ‘cause I’ll say, come on this riff is cool! We got to use it! He’ll say, “na, na, na. It’s too devil in your face.” I don’t mean devil in your face. It’s too you know, your tongue out, with the devil horns (he laughed). So yeah, its sounds like a sound in a band and its cool ‘cause you can hear what’s going on. You can hear, Jeff’s bass is always, he’s got this huge tone, so he’s really prominent in the mix and it’s not because they mix him loud. It’s just because his bass is humongous. It just takes up a lot of the spectrum of the audio, and so you can hear just bass, drums and guitar. Its very raw. Big vocals.

SFL Music: I look forward to hearing the rest of the album. I know when you were younger, you were watching T.V. with your family and you went to the piano and played the theme song because you have a natural ear. You did musical theater and stuff like that in school, but what would you say prompted you to do this as a career?

Beach: Kiss, (he laughed).

SFL Music: You did say (during my last interview) that got you into rock and roll.

Beach: Yeah, I wanted to be Elton John. I knew I was gonna get into music. That was kind of obvious to everybody. Yeah, just ‘cause I was born with a great ear and was addicted to music and I could learn instruments very quickly with my ear. So, my brother, when I was very young, I was like thirteen, took me to see Kiss at Madison Square Garden and when I saw Ace Frehley, I just go, oh that’s, of course! You know, like a light bulb. Like ding, and all the obvious and that’s it. That’s what I’m gonna be. That’s what I’m gonna do. I went to Berklee College of Music. I was accepted at Berklee and when I got there, they were trying to tell me that I was doing everything wrong. I was holding the guitar pick wrong. I was sitting wrong. Don’t do that tapping thing. That right-handed tapping thing. That’s ridiculous, and things like my guitar teacher said, “I will make more money than you ever could playing the way that I play as opposed to the way that you play.” I said, really? And I left. I just left the school, and I was on the cover of Berklee College of Music Magazine three years later.

SFL Music: Oh, that’s funny.

Beach: Yeah, it’s funny, but not to put down Berklee. Back then they were strictly jazz. Now of course, they’re whatever you want to be. I’m sure if I went now, they’d accept me with open arms not because of who I am, but if I was a new student and a young person there, you could rock out and right hand tap as much as you want.

SFL Music: That’s cool. So, you taught them?

Beach: No. Times just changed. You know what? Rod Morgenstein (drummer, Winger bandmate) kind of told me that jazz musicians at that time had their nose in the air to rock and roll. That’s just how it was, and then that all changed.

SFL Music: What would you say to a young musician who is going through all that with the trials and critiquing? What would you say to encourage them?

Beach: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like now. I know what it was like then. Back then it wasn’t for me, but you know, I’ll tell ya. I did an audition, I auditioned for Hall & Oates and I didn’t get it because I had to learn three songs and they sent me charts which I just threw away because I don’t read music. So, I learned the songs by ear you know, (he sang) “you’re a rich girl and you know its.” All these happy little songs that I heard my whole life. So, I went to the audition and I played one chord in the wrong position. It was the right chord, but it was the wrong inversion of the chord and I didn’t know that inversion. So, they said, “play up here.” And I’m like, I’d have to learn that. I’d have to teach myself that. I can’t go right to that chord. I don’t know that chord, and I didn’t get it. Of course, when I soloed, they said, “great solo!” I’m like, oh yeah, I could solo all day long. Soloing’s not the problem (he laughed). They said, “what about the charts? Did you read the charts?” I’m like, I don’t read, and so that’s why I didn’t get it and I was really, really bummed. I was also really nervous, so I might have b

lown it just being a wierdo, but I was really, really bummed that I didn’t get it. Although I got Whitesnake three months later, and I met the guys who I auditioned with a year later and they were jealous of me being in Whitesnake. So, I got real lucky with that, but I really was bummed out that I didn’t learn to read music. I kicked myself for not learning to read, so it’s a very good thing. I’ve had friends that went to Berklee or another school and they stayed for the whole four years and they came out just wicked players. So, it’s definitely, it’s like going to college. You have a much greater chance of having a successful career if you can get some schooling behind you.

SFL Music: What would you say is the secret to having longevity and the successful career that you’ve had with Winger and even Whitesnake?

Beach: People ask me, “how is it possible that you’ve been in Whitesnake for nineteen years?” I guess it’s because I’m very easy to work with. I don’t make waves and I’m just a very easy-going person. I think that you kind of need to check your ego at the door when you’re working with other people. It’s a team situation, and you just keep positive.

SFL Music: That’s good advice. Now for Black Swan, are you guys thinking about maybe doing a tour? I know you have a busy schedule. Like, when would you fit that in, right?

Beach: Exactly! That’s the thing. Who’s gonna book us? And if they did, how much are they gonna pay us? Crap! They’ll pay us crap. Black Swan is, we’re gonna sell more records in Europe probably than we sell in America. Most definitely. So, that means we have to fly to Europe to do gigs. Who’s gonna pay for that? You know, and hotels and the whole thing. They’re paying us a thousand bucks a night to open for someone. It’s not feasible and also, Jeff Pilson’s the most touringest guy on the planet. He’s never home. Yeah, and its big bucks. I hate to say that’s the situation. There might be one show or two shows. Like, if Frontiers has their big Frontiers party that they used to do once a year. They haven’t done it since Covid, but they’ll probably want us to play. It’s kind of just a pain because you know, we have to learn all that stuff. We have to rehearse. Someone has to pay for the rehearsal studio. Getting everybody there and together. We all live in, not Robin and Jeff, but me and Matt live in different places. So, right now it’s not a feasible thing. Look, if the album went platinum, sure! (He laughed), but it ain’t gonna. Know what I mean? It is what it is.

SFL Music: The collaboration is awesome. What would you say benefits musicians when you guys collaborate like this?

Beach: That’s a good question. I had a student yesterday who wanted to write songs, but she kept writing herself into the wall. Like she would come up with one section and then she never knew where to go. She doesn’t really have a great knowledge of arranging and it happens to me all the time too. That’s why I bring Jeff you know, I got a verse, a pre-chorus and a chorus and then I’m like, I,I,I don’t know what to do. Jeff, with a fresh new outlook on it. Hearing it for the first time it’s like “well, I know exactly what to do. Go to F sharp and do a solo section,” and I’m like, yes, yes of course! I’ll go like (in an animated voice) why didn’t I think of that? When you have a guy, another person to bounce your ideas off of, it’s like night and day. You can actually finish a song, and finishing a song is like climbing a mountain you know, getting to the top, and it’s just that feeling of wow! We did it and we have this to show for it. Also, when you’re sitting there with a guy, he’ll say,” ok we need a solo section in F sharp” and I’ll play four different ideas until the fourth one, he’ll say, “that. That’s it!” He’ll say, “no, not that. No,” and I’m, ok how about this? “Yes. That’s it!” That’s how it happens, and so I could not have done it without Jeff Pilson. I came up with all the riffs, except one, but it’s because Jeff told me they were good. I wouldn’t have known (he laughed).

SFL Music: Its team work then?

Beach: Exactly.

SFL Music: Are there going to be other videos coming down the line?

Beach: No. They just do two. That’s what they did. It’s in the contract. Next album.

SFL Music: So, there will be another album coming down the road?

Beach: So, I got to come up with two more albums of Eighties rock riffs and gosh, they’re all so similar. I’m always really nervous about it, but the last one you know, I was really nervous about that and it came out fantastic. I like it better than the first album, and that was my goal.

SFL Music: SHAKE THE WORLD (first album). So, in the next couple of years, we’ll see more?

Beach: Same time next year. That’s the way its gonna work. I mean, how long before the last? Was it a year? Maybe it was two ‘cause of Covid.

SFL Music: Yeah, exactly.

Beach: Yeah. Next year around this time, we’ll get together and write it. So, it will probably be out you know, in the Fall 2023.

SFL Music: Any new things coming up? I know Winger is on tour and Whitesnake may be touring?

Beach: No, Whitesnake world tour starts in April. I’m gone for four months playing Latvia and Greece and Italy and you name it. Then I’m sure there’ll be some kind of American leg on that at the end of the summer. So, my whole year is full with Whitesnake, and then you know, back to Winger. Winger in the Fall, and then Winger’s gonna release our new album that we’ve been working on forever. It’s very epic and grandiose. It’s you know, Kip Winger’s Swan Song.

SFL Music: You’re still teaching too?

Beach: Yeah, yeah. Officialrebbeach@gmail.com. Of Course, after April 18th I’ll be gone, so I won’t be teaching then, but you know, teaching from Czechoslovakia (he laughed). Who knows with the war? I just, I don’t know. Let’s hope that gets better.

Share It!