BILLY SHEEHAN Says MR. BIG's Record Label 'Ruined' 'Defying Gravity' Album: 'We Got Screwed'
May 29, 2020
In a brand new interview with the "Music Mania" podcast, MR. BIG bassist Billy Sheehan was asked how he looks back on the band's latest album, "Defying Gravity", which came out nearly three years ago and marked late drummer Pat Torpey's final recorded appearance with the group. He responded (hear audio below): "We fell into a trap again with the label, [where they] had to have the record by a certain day. And that has ruined so many records. If the label would just realize, 'The record isn't ready to go yet. You've gotta give us more time.' Instead, they insist on having it and putting it out when it's not ready. 'Cause we had a problem with mastering. We took it to a mastering place. I was there for the final mixes, and they were killer. The mastering came back, [and I thought], 'What in the world happened?' It was unlistenable. And so they tried to do a second mastering, and that didn't quite work, but then they had to ship it off.
"The label ruined the record, because they insisted on having it," he continued. "If we had another day to get it to proper mastering and get it done right, it would have been fine. 'Cause I was there for the final mixes — I went in there every day and listened to mixes. Pat was there with us too. We went through the mixes, and they were sounding great. And, unfortunately, we got screwed.
"I've seen it before in many other situations with many other bands," he added. "We've got the marketing department and they're ready to go and they've gotta have the record now. And then I've also seen other bands just say, 'No. The record is not done. You're out of luck.' And I wish we would have just said that, because I just don't think the record had the kind of life it had when I heard the final mixes.
"I thought there were some great songs on the record," Billy said. "I thought 'Be Kind' was a great piece of music. I thought that could be kind of a hit anywhere — really, really great. And there was some good stuff on there. Some stuff I didn't really… I thought the title track, 'Defying Gravity', didn't do much for me. I wouldn't have picked that as the title track. That little oddball time signature thing didn't work for me as a regular straight-up rock song. So it's certainly not my favorite MR. BIG record, but I think if we wouldn't have gotten screwed on the mastering, it would have been a lot better. We had to defend it — a couple of people were commenting right away, 'Oh, man. This record sounds horrible.' And what am I gonna do? Agree with them? I've gotta defend it and stick up for the record, but in our hearts, we knew — I knew it didn't sound like the final mixes I had. So the producer, Kevin [Elson], was heartbroken, because we couldn't get the label to give us more time to get it mastered properly. So there went that record."
Sheehan also once again addressed the possibility of MR. BIG carrying on following the passing of Torpey. The drummer died in February 2018 at the age of 64 from complications of Parkinson's disease.
"I don't know," Sheehan said when asked if there is a chance of MR. BIG embarking on a "proper" farewell tour. "There's no reason why myself, Paul [Gilbert, guitar] and Eric [Martin, vocals] couldn't go out — get a drummer and go out again, or just go out on our own. But I don't know what Paul thinks and I don't know what Eric thinks about it. I'm open to going out and taking care of the fans as best as we can, because they really put their hearts and souls into this band and we'd love to go see them again."
In a recent interview with "Music Mania", Martin was also critical of "Defying Gravity", saying that he didn't enjoy "the pressure and [being] thrown against the wall to hurry up and do this… We only had, like, six to 10 days to write, record and mix it, because of some… I don't know why. Maybe some of the guys had some tours that they had to go on, or the producer had some other projects… I just felt a little pressured."
"Defying Gravity" was released in July 2017 via Wowow Entertainment, Inc. in Japan and Frontiers Music Srl in most of the rest of the world.
After announcing his Parkinson's diagnosis in 2014, Torpey continued to write, record and perform with MR. BIG, who also recruited Matt Starr to share drum duties.
MR. BIG, formed in 1988, produced numerous hit songs that ranged across a wide array of rock genres — be it ballads, heavy metal, or blues rock. Their hits include "Alive And Kicking", "Just Take My Heart" and the chart-topping ballad "To Be With You".