Interview: Stan Bush, singer/songwriter of "The Touch" from TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE
Stan Bush is an Emmy award winning musician responsible for songs like "Dare" and "The Touch" from the original Transformers animated movie in 1986. Since then, Bush has gone on to record many albums and his anthem rock style has earned him a solid following over the past couple decades.
Stan sat down with me at in Hollywood to talk about his career and his new album "Dream The Dream," available at StanBush.com, in stores, and on iTunes September 15th.
GT: Stan, thanks so much for stopping by to talk with us. I really appreciate it.
SB: Oh, my pleasure.
GT: I'm going to try to mention all of "The Touch" [above] stuff at the very beginning, front load that and get into the rest of the interview afterwards.
SB: Sure, yeah.
GT: I read that you originally wrote "The Touch" for the Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra. Is that right?
GT: That movie seems very dark for such an inspirational song. Had you seen a cut of the film at all before you wrote it? What was the process like for that?
SB: No. Well, that was not too long after Rocky and all that, so we were probably going off of Stallone's reputation. We were writing it with that movie in mind mainly because of Sylvester Stallone.
GT: OK, cool. Mark Wahlberg's character famously covered "The Touch" in Boogie Nights. Did you feel any effects from that at the time of that movie's release?
SB: Well, I got some nice songwriting checks.
SB: No, but it was very funny. I think the whole point was kind of a spoof on the 80's, you know. But it was cool.
GT: It seems like today, with the rise of internet and the instantaneous culture that we live in, I almost wish that movie would have come out now, where people could have checked out your original version a lot easier. It's a shame that movie didn't come out later.
SB: That's true. It definitely would have been a big event now because of the social networks and stuff.
GT: So you re-recorded "The Touch" in 2007 in the more familiar style, replicating the 1986 style a little bit.
GT: And then you altered the feel of it for another version you ended up doing that was intended to be on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Is that right?
SB: Right. We were rearranging it with that in mind, trying to do a modern approach and so forth. It's a totally different song, obviously, just the lyrics are the same. But that was the idea, though.
GT: And then very recently you released it again with the rap section taken out [above]. So I was just wondering what are your final intentions for the song itself? Are you trying to have it span generations and keep preaching that message to different types of genre listeners? Or was that something that was done more specifically for the film?
SB: Yeah, it was kind of that, you know. Trying to do it for the film was the idea.
GT: So you were born in Orlando, Florida, is that right?
GT: I'm actually from Florida. I was born and raised there and lived in Orlando for a year after college. I was wondering if you could talk about growing up there and your "breaking in to the industry" story.
SB: Well, mostly Gainesville is kinda my home town -
GT: Oh, nice! I went to school at the University of Florida, so I spent a lot of time there as well.
SB: Did you? Cool. Yeah, that's a great town. It was a cool place to grow up. During school I played in bands and everything, and went on the road through nightclubs all across the South. Later, I joined a recording group in Colorado called "Boulder." We were called "Helix" at that time. Anyway, I spent a couple of years recording in Colorado and we got signed and came to L.A. So after that one album, I sort of went solo and started doing records - I did a deal with CBS Records, and after that, Scotti Brothers Epic.
GT: Could you talk a little about your musical influences, both lyrically and musically?
SB: Well, I grew up listening to obviously The Beatles and Zepplin and all of the great bands from back then. But also Motown, and all of that stuff. Really great songs from back then. To me, it's always about the song rather than the band. There was a lot of great music during that era.
GT: Is there any particular aspect of creating music that you prefer? Do you like the writing process, the recording process...?
SB: It's kind of all of the above. Writing songs is fun because it's like a puzzle. Often, you'll get a chord thing and melody that catches you and you really think, "wow, this is going to be great." And then once I sort of get a melody honed, sometimes a title will emerge and then I kind of work backwards and write the lyrics. Usually the chorus first and then the verses. It's kind of the "chicken or the egg" thing with people. But performing is great, too. It's so awesome, the tours I've done. One of the coolest things is when you look out and see everyone singing your songs, and they all know the words!
GT: That's got to be an amazing feeling.
SB: If you screw up and forget the words, you can just look at somebody's mouth! (laughs)
GT: Awesome. I was wondering if you could talk about how you approach guitar solos. Do you play it a few times through and piece together the parts that sound cool, or is it much more planned out?
SB: Some songs, it depends on the song. Really in the last twenty years, since that album came out with "The Touch," I've sort of hired guys to do the guitar work. I mean, I still play, of course. But to me it's easier. I've played guitar and sang all my life just about, so singing's sort of natural to me.
GT: So this might be asking you to give up an industry secret, so feel free to not answer this if you don't want to, but I was wondering what kind of setup and equipment you use? Are there any particular settings or pedals that you use that you enjoy?
SB: I really like the Mesa Boogie a lot. The Rectifier, that sound. I mainly play a Strat, but I've been using Greg Bennett guitars lately. I've been endorsing them and I like them a lot.
GT: Cool. So not only have you recorded music for the Transformers franchise but you also did some music for some Van Damme movies back in the '80's: Kickboxer and Bloodsport. Could you tell me about that experience and your relationship to those films?
SB: Let's see. It was pretty cool. For some reason the action genre seems to be what people are drawn to - or I may be drawn to it, I don't really know. It all started with "The Touch." But I remember those songs and at the screening for Kickboxer, I met Jean Claude Van Damme. Nice guy. Anyway, he was kind of hitting on my wife at the time.
SB: A little bit. Not - just flirting, really. And my wife was like, "who is this guy?" And then she sees him on the screen with his shirt off later, and was like, "Oh!" So it was kind of funny. But I saw him a few years later and I was playing in a bar at Woodland Hills and he showed up with his entourage. The bouncers were giving him a hard time and I said "Let this guy in." So he came over to thank me later and found out who I was and that I had sung on his stuff and talking about [Bloodsport], he said "the music was better than the movie!"
GT: Do you have any plans to return to the film soundtrack world or are you concentrating more on solo albums and things like that?
SB: Well, I've been doing a lot of TV shows lately. "Chuck" a couple of years ago used "The Touch," and also "American Dad" used "The Touch" just this spring. A show called "Neighbors from Hell" just aired "Fight to Survive" from Bloodsport. So it seems like these things sort of keep turning up. My song "'Til All Are One" was in the Transformers: War for Cybertron video game that just came out. As far as films though, I've been hopeful that - "The Touch" was supposed to be in the first Bay film [2007's Transformers]. I'm not really sure what happened. It got pulled at the last minute. But I'm still hopeful that maybe the third one will be the charm. I think it would be a really neat thing to do for the fans if nothing else. It's sort of the unofficial anthem of Transformers, everywhere in the world.
GT: Undoubtedly. Yeah. Getting back to that Cobra connection, what do you think about possibly approaching Stallone for his proposed sequel to The Expendables? He seems to be wanting to go back to the '80's, that might be a good mix with your sound.
SB: Ahh. That's a really good idea. Yeah.
GT: Maybe we could try to get the ball rolling on that.
SB: Absolutely. I'm working on a new song with Lenny right now that's going to be an action-themed song, so I'll probably put that out as a single later this fall.
GT: OK, excellent. So your music is so inspirational, it's very positive.
SB: Thank you.
GT: Thematically, it's always kind of reminded me a bit of Journey, which is one of my favorite bands. In doing a little bit of research, I read that you've collaborated with Jonathan Cain, the keyboardist/guitarist for Journey. Could you tell me a bit about those collaborations?
SB: Yeah, when Journey broke up we got in touch. I went up there with him and wrote a couple things and we were going to do a band, but he would up getting together with John Waite and they did that Bad English thing, you know. But yeah, Jonathan's really talented. It was an honor to work with the guy. It was kind of like a little bit of idol worship or something.
GT: Going back to that inspirational thing, could you tell me a little about what your mindset is when you get into writing these songs?
SB: Well, I mentioned before the thing with "The Touch," with that sort of "go for it, believe in yourself" stuff - it may be a little cheesy, but I love it. There's a lot of negativity in the world and it's cool to be singing about positive stuff.
SB: Also, it kind of goes hand in hand with the search for the meaning in life and that sort of thing. We sort of make our own reality. And a lot of people maybe don't realize how much power we have. We can really do amazing stuff.
GT: Tell me about your new album, "Dream the Dream." That's coming out on September 15th, is that right?
SB: Yes, next week.
GT: Cool. What was your inspiration for that album? How was that different from "In This Life"?
SB: Well, it has the same kind of thread. The title song, "Dream the Dream," is about that. Make your own reality and go for it. Life throws a bunch of challenges at us, but we can make our own way. Some of the other songs have a similar message. There are also love songs, of course. A couple of spiritual things, a little bit. One, "If This Is All There Is" is about that search for meaning. I don't know - I like to try to come up with some important songs. It's not always easy. I just feel like my writing improved and the last couple of albums have been really top notch.
GT: Yeah, they've been very well received among the fan community.
SB: Thank you. Yeah, in fact the last one ["In This Life"] got Album of the Year from RockUnited.com. MelodicRock.com gave it a 97% "must buy." So, you know, it's like when you're trying to come out with something - that's why it took a year and a half to do the new album, because I wanted to make sure that I at least try to match the level of songs and I feel like we nailed it. It's another winner. The fans and everybody seem to love it. I'm very happy. It took a while, though, to go through the process. I should mention: you mentioned the release date, September 15th. For people that buy it on that day, they'll get a signed copy.
GT: Oh, cool. Do they have to buy it from a specific spot to get that? Your website?
SB: Yeah, the website. StanBush.com. Also LARecords.com, either one.
GT: Excellent. People will love to hear that.
GT: So, do you have anything else coming up that we should know about?
SB: I can go ahead and mention this: "The Touch" is coming out on Rock Band.
GT: Nice! That's awesome.
SB: That's overwhelming fan demand. Last summer, it was out on Guitar Hero. It's pretty cool. That song seems to have a life of its own.
SB: I think I mentioned about the Transformers: War for Cybertron game, my song is in that. I'm working on something to submit for the next Transformers game. So we'll see on that. Nothing's a done deal, but they definitely are eager to hear something from me, I'm sure.
GT: What is your favorite track from "Dream the Dream"?
SB: That's a tough question. I really like the title track. "Never Hold Back" is cool, it's a really good opener. It's got that uplifting...the second song, "I'm Still Here"...I don't know if I have a favorite.
GT: You said it took you a year and a half to complete this album, so you've been living with these songs for a while now. I was just wondering if over time, your preference to a certain song has changed now that it's getting closer to the release date having been with these songs for a while.
SB: It's hard when you're that close to it to be objective.
GT: The last question I have: was there anything that you really wanted to get on "Dream the Dream" that didn't make the cut or that you were planning on saving for another record down the line?
SB: There were a couple things that didn't make the album. One of which is kind of an obscure Jimi Hendrix vibe. Totally outside. And the label didn't feel like it fit with any of the other songs. And then this other one, which is really a Christian message, called "The Secret." It's really a beautiful song and I'd like to see something happen with that. Maybe my album is not the right place for it. But I feel like it's a really good song. Maybe get a gospel choir on there. I also just wanted to thank everybody for their support because it's been awesome. I've had a sort of following overseas, but it seems like more and more people from the United States and around the world are finding out that I don't just sing about robots!
GT: Definitely. Well, thanks again for speaking with us and taking the time to come all the way down here to meet up with me.
SB: No problem.
[Special thanks to GeekTyrant's own Alan Trehern (check out his blog here) for his help composing some of these interview questions.]