MITCH RYDER: STILL TURBOCHARGED

By Paul Freeman [August 2010 interview]

Mitch Ryder is, was, and always will be Cool with a capital ďC.Ē And, at 65, this Detroit Wheel has plenty of mileage left.

Before The Stooges and MC5 had an impact, Ryder rocked the Motor City. He may have been born white. But his voice is black... and beautiful in its raw power.

Actually, he was born William Levise, Jr., Feb. 26, 1945 in Hamtramck, Michigan. As a teen, he sang with an interracial soul group called The Peps. He fronted the band Billy Lee & The Rivieras, gaining a following on the Detroit club scene. After hooking up with producer Bob Crewe (of Four Seasons fame), they were renamed Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.

Dynamos on stage, they generated high-octane radio hits in the mid-sixties, including ďJenny Take A Ride,Ē ďDevil With A Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly,Ē ďLatin Lupe Lu,Ē ďToo Many Fish In The Sea/Three Little FishesĒ and ďSock It To Me - Baby!Ē

Later in the decade, Crewe attempted to turn Ryder into a Vegas-style solo act. That was like trying to turn a lion into a whatís new pussycat (Woah, Woah, Woah!).

Unburdening himself from Creweís yoke, Ryder fared far better with a Memphis-based album teaming him with Booker T. & The MGs and The Memphis Horns and, subsequently, with a hard-edged band he dubbed Detroit, which recorded a scintillating version of Lou Reedís ďRock and Roll.Ē

Disappearing from the music scene for several years, Ryder honed his songwriting skills. He returned in the late seventies with a pair of critically acclaimed albums on his own Seeds and Stems label - ďHow I Spent My VacationĒ and ďNaked, But Not Dead.Ē Though deserved commercial success didnít follow in North America, he became a big draw in Europe. Ryder recorded albums for a German label.

In 1983, John Cougar Mellencamp, a longtime fan, produced Ryderís ďNever Kick A Sleeping DogĒ for his Riva label. Highlights included a rendition of Princeís ďWhen You Were MineĒ and Ryderís sensuously soulful duet with Marianne Faithfull on ďA Thrillís A Thrill.Ē

In his live shows, another admirer, Bruce Springsteen, covered some of Ryderís rousing vintage hits. The influence of The Detroit Wheels could he heard in the grittier corners of contemporary rock.

The resilient Ryder continues to perform and to create. In addition to working on an original theatrical musical, Ryder has completed his autobiography. Itís scheduled for publication this fall. Given Ryderís colorful life, unstinting candor and biting wit, itís bound to be a compelling read. Itís timed to coincide with a new album, produced by another legend, Don Was.

Itís time for a Ryder renaissance. In fact, itís way overdue.

POP CULTURE CLASSICS:
Your music holds up so well for multiple generations. Why do you think young audiences respond enthusiastically?

MITCH RYDER:

That hasnít been my experience. Approximately maybe a third of our audiences are what I would term Ďyounger people.í And theyíve probably been induced to come by their parents, and in some cases, maybe their grandparents, to see what they viewed as a very good band and a very good singer.

The reason itís held up, I donít know. I think we created, in our particular case, a very distinctive sound for that era. And what we were after was to try to get a live sound in the studio, because it would make it easier then to perform and sound like the recording. The big problem was, youíd do a studio thing and then trying to get it to sound like the record wouldnít sound right in some cases. It sounded better live than it did in the studio and vice versa. So we said, ĎIf we can create a sound that sounds basically like itís live, then weíre not going to have a problem with pleasing the people, in terms of what theyíve bought. So we managed to actually do that, which was quite different for the time.

PCC:
Yeah, itís something that a lot of bands would strive for, but it seems so difficult to capture. How were you able to manage it?

RYDER:
The energy in the studio and the way we recorded. We would record not in cubicles with isolated sound to stop the bleed, but we would record with microphones in an open studio, with a high ceiling for echo effect. Usually two to three stories high, if we could find a studio that way. Bell Sound was the exception. Then you would put a mic in front of everything and youíd have drop mics, from the ceiling. And youíd do your recording. And then youíd go back and if there was anything that was really faulty, then you would isolate it in a cubicle and do a play-along track. But that really wasnít a problem for us. So thatís how we conquered that.

And we had people in the studio, people making noises and clapping and just bringing a good sort of energy into the studio with us. It was good.

PCC:
The fact that youíd been in other bands before, did that help, in terms of the learning curve?

RYDER:
No, only in terms of how I sang. I was a solo artist, before I was in a group. And then I went into a trio, a multiracial trio. We sang a cappella. And then I recorded my first record at 16, which was without a group, really. There were some guys from my vocal group and, literally, a garage band.

Then I got together with the group known as The Rivieras, who later became The Detroit Wheels. We put out a recording locally. And that didnít do anything amazingly well on the charts, but it caught the ear of Bob Crewe in New York.

PCC:
And Bob Crewe came to watch you open for The Dave Clark Five?

RYDER:
Right. And we totally smoked them and made them wish they were back home in Britain. They were curling up in the fetal position.

PCC:
Going in there, at the height of British Invasion mania, didnít it seem like a daunting challenge?

RYDER:
No, because we were pissed off. We had a dressing room. It was in a building called Masonic Temple. And they had these little slat windows that didnít open far enough for you to even see outside. There were thousands and thousands of our beautiful native Detroit girls, who were just in love with anything English, you know? All they had to do was have the haircut, an accent and the girls would go wild.

We knew this, because we would stick our hand through the slat and every time the hand would appear, people would faint and the screaming would start. And weíd pull it back in. We did that a number of times and every time, it was the same reaction. And we sat there before the show and said, ĎYou know, this is not f--king right. They donít even know whose hand that is and yet theyíre screaming like crazy.í And that never happened on any of our gigs that we did by ourselves. So it had to be that they thought we were Dave Clark Five.

So we said, ĎOkay, letís show Ďem.í And we did. We drove them back to Britain... or at least out of Detroit [Chuckles].

PCC:
And Detroit, how much did that environment contribute to your energy, your sound?

RYDER:
Oh, a lot. You know, if you study history, it was a very productive period for Detroit music, fueled by Motown, almost entirely, for a while. The problem with Motown was, there was a nine-year stretch from their first hit to the time they signed a white group, period, of white young rock Ďní roll people. And they werenít even rock Ďní roll people. We were the only rock Ďní roll group to come out of Detroit to become successful... and we had to go to New York to do that. But what it did was, it said to all the other young, white rock Ďní roll groups, ĎHey, itís not impossible for us to make it now. Just because Motown wasnít signing us, at least we know thereís a way to do it.í And so it opened that door. And then you had that explosion of music that came out of Detroit. The list is just huge and it still goes on even today.

PCC:
Had you been knocking on the door at Motown?

RYDER:
Oh, yeah, I auditioned for Brian Holland [of the legendary songwriting/producing team Holland-Dozier-Holland]. I made all the moves. And it wasnít happening over there.

PCC:
Prior to The Wheels, with The Peps vocal group, how difficult was it to be part of an integrated act during that period?

RYDER:
The only difficulty we had was with the white audiences. The black audiences seemed to embrace it. I donít know how it worked, but I remember really distinctly, a really nice lady coming up to me and saying, ĎOh, you sing so pretty... and youíre so light.í Iím going, ĎOoh, light? Lady, you donít know the half of it.í

PCC:
Soulful kind of music was always a draw for you?

RYDER:
Yeah, it still is. Iíve made so many different kinds of music. And thatís just me being a kid in a candy shop. If you take my entire catalog and go through it, Iíve touched on every genre, every format that I could, just to see if I could do it. It wasnít about, obviously, commercialism. It was about satisfaction as an artist. And it helped me grow and develop my writing skills and even my performing skills, to a great degree.

PCC:
Your father was a big band singer?

RYDER:
Yeah. Not nationally. He was only singing on the radio here in Detroit, for a radio station. I believe it was WJR. Danny Thomas and other people like that would come through and stop in and sing. So he was like a semi-regular on there. And thatís how he met my mother. She heard him on the radio and said, ĎIíve got to have that voice!í

PCC:
Did your parents encourage you to get involved musically?

RYDER:
Not really. My passion was in animation. I wanted to be an animator, especially for Disney. I received a scholarship to their school, where, upon graduation, they would pay for my education in animation, take me out to California. Between the time I got that offer and graduated, I discovered music.

PCC:
What was the big revelation with music?

RYDER:
Applause. When you come from a family of eight kids, itís hard to get attention. So that mass acceptance really was like an instantaneous injection of some mysterious drug. Even today, thatís the payoff. Because I can tell you from experience [Chuckles], itís not about the money. Itís the applause. And I think deep in their hearts, thatís what every artist wants - the applause. If theyíre simply up there doing it for the money, then they donít have a right to be there.

PCC:
And the audience usually can tell.

RYDER:
I think, in some cases, you can. Some people, you canít.

PCC:
Who were the artists who made a big impact on you, early on?

RYDER:
Early on, itís like James Brown, Little Richard and Hank Williams were the big three. Those were the artists I chose to use as my schooling. I took little bits of everything that I liked about each of those individuals and tried to incorporate it into what already existed as my native talent. And what came out is Mitch Ryder.

PCC:
And the name Mitch Ryder, that actually came out of a phone book?

RYDER:
Yes, in New York. I remember there were five people in the directory who had some form of M. Ryder or Mr. Ryder. One day, I actually felt so bad that I tried to call each of them and apologize for any inconvenience I had caused them.

Originally, we were in the Rís. They wanted to call me, if you can believe it, Michael Rothschild. That was supposed to be a stage name. Seriously. I donít know. It doesnít ring any bells for me.

Once we came up with the name Ryder, it was easy to call the band The Wheels, The Detroit Wheels.

PCC:
And during that time, how much impact did Bob Crewe have?

RYDER:
Well, he ran everything. He was in total control of everything. He was old school. Because of his publishing interests and his writers - he had like a little Tin Pan Alley of his own. The thing that bothered me most about the relationship was, at a time, especially with the Brits, when their management was encouraging them to write and produce and develop their own music., we were being dissuaded from doing that, because Bob had his own self-interest at heart. He was envisioning making a star, but not making a multifaceted star. He wanted to make a little star that he could absolutely control in every facet of a career.

PCC:
Were you actually presenting him with songs and he just wouldnít consider them?

RYDER:
There wasnít much of that going on. What I had when I came to him was about six originals, four of those had already been released locally. And he listened to them and was sort of very patronizing about it and dismissive.

He did share my love for Rhythm & Blues. Our first release was a sort of Rhythm & Blues-oriented song called ĎHelp.í And then the second one was also in that R&B direction, called ĎTakiní All I Can Get,í which Aretha Franklin was considering doing a cover of, once she had moved over to Atlantic. And we kept heading that way. But after that attempt, he tried one with the group and that one took off. So we did another one with the group and then heíd make another stab. So he shared that vision of me being an R&B singer. But I was thinking more along the lines of James Brown or Wilson Pickett. His vision of an R&B singer was more along the lines of Tom Jones. So it was two different visions of what we wanted me to become. And that would later on cause a deeper and deeper separation between the two of us.

PCC:
The hit singles, did you know instantly that they were going to have an impact?

RYDER:
No, not until we got to ĎDevil With A Blue Dress On.í Of course, he knew. ĎJenny Take A Rideí became a hit in, I think, January. I had just turned 20 that year. So it would have to be in the Top 10 around February of Ď65. As soon as it started to fade from the charts, he immediately came out with a cover version of ĎLatin Lupe Lu,í which shot back into the Top 20. So he knew that that sound, that combination of me and the band was a success.

But he would still go in and throw out a song with horns, like ĎBreakout,í which, for some weird reason, appealed to the British. It had horns in it and we didnít have horns in our band. And yet, the Brits seemed to like it a lot. It didnít do much in America, maybe a Top 30. But the point was, the vision that we shared and the divisive between the band and myself was that I didnít mind keeping the group, in fact I loved it. But I wanted to add and build and make it bigger. Add horns and stuff like that, so my vision could come true. And Jimmy [Jim McCarty], the guitar player, who later found fame with Cactus and a couple of other groups, he wanted to keep it a very simple, four-piece group, sort of like a Rolling Stones or Kinks or something like that. And that was the big bone between the two of us. And that was always there, from the very beginning.

There was talk about The Detroit Wheels having a legacy. And I didnít see it that way, because, after our first hit, two of our boys got drafted. So, before ĎSock It To Meí or ĎToo Many Fishí or ĎLatin Lupe Luí or ĎDevil With A Blue Dressí came along, two of the members are gone. So who are The Detroit Wheels at that point? For me, it was an ever-changing cast. And it was, in fact, an ever-changing cast. Thereís probably about 30 or 40 Detroit Wheels running around somewhere.

PCC:
ĎJenny,í was that always performed at that breakneck pace or did it take shape in the studio?

RYDER:
That was just us. That was the way we played. We didnít think of it as breakneck. In fact, the drummer, a wonderful drummer, Johnny Badanjek, when we first got together, he was only 14. He was maybe 15 or 16 at most, when that was recorded. So youíve got a 16-year-old playing the hell out some drums. It was incredible to watch. We had to forge a cabaret card for him, so he could work in New York. And you had to be 18 to get one. Yeah, it was really cool.

PCC:
And the medley format, had you already been using that, even prior to the singles?

RYDER:
Yeah, we devised that. Thatís a big argument between Crewe and us, even today. Heís misunderstanding what weíre saying. When we say we created the medley, we created the medley in our live show. But what heís responsible for is picking those two songs that became ĎJenny Take A Ride.í And I wonít take that away from him. But Iím not going to give him credit for creating the medley, because that already existed. In fact, we were doing five and six-song medleys when we met him. And we were doing those when we were playing in the Village and people saw those.

We thought it was a lot of trouble to finish a song and then have to start up another one, so weíd just finish up a song and simply segue into another song. We had that much energy. We wanted to just get it all out there. And that came from, I think, we had back in Michigan, before we ever went to New York, what we used to call ĎThe Battle of the Bands.í That was our training period, really. I took all of my sensibilities from my urban experience. And the band took their sensibilities from their basic, native rock Ďní roll, British influence sense of what music should be and their love of Rhythm & Blues, as well. And it went beyond the music.

The Dave Clark Five is a good example. They just stood there in front of their microphones, strummed their guitars and sang. And that was it. Like a bunch of zombies standing there. And we were like all over the stage, musicians trading instruments, jumping around, dancing. We were doing entertainment, as well as singing and performing. So that allowed us to steal that show. It was like taking candy from a baby.

PCC:
Did you do a lot of those ĎCaravan of Starsí type tours?

RYDER:
Yeah, the Dick Clark stuff, yeah, a lot of that.

PCC:
Was that grueling or just fun?

RYDER:
It was fun. When youíre young, everything is fun. Everything.

PCC:
The music was so wild, did you have a wild lifestyle to match?

RYDER:
No, we were pretty mild, compared to some of the people. It was almost like we had been born in a church. I never saw such behavior before. Of course, in the subsequent years, not only have I seen it, but I practiced it. But I got over it, fortunately.

PCC:
Youíre a survivor.

RYDER:
Yup.

PCC:
All the fame and attention at the peak, was it difficult to adjust to all that?

RYDER:
Yeah, it was. And what it did was take our eyes off of the prize, which means, what happened to our money. We were just concerned about girls and playing and having fun. From live appearances, we knew there was more money than we had ever seen. We thought, ĎWell, thatís cool.í But nobody was really thinking about what was going on back at the record shop with the royalties. In fact, we never received royalty statements. So, it was a f--ked deal, from the beginning.

PCC:
On the upside, you must have felt a lot of validation from the fact that your records were equally successful at R&B radio.

RYDER:
Yes, I did. Iíd get some confidence and encouragement from that, because it played right into my dream. But in your later years, when you look around you, and today, not that itís extremely hard on me today, it isnít. Iíve been fortunate that way. But you see what the shape of the economy is and youíre saying to yourself, ĎYou know, I really could have used that seven-and-a-half million dollars.í Itís like stealing was the name of the game at that point. Iím not sitting here, trying to tell you I was the only person who was ever screwed. That was like the m.o. for that period. Thereís thousands and thousands of stories, just like mine, if not worse. Look at Frankie Lyman, my God, for example. Or anybody who worked for Morris Levy [infamous music mogul], who was a very good friend of Bob Crewe.

PCC:
Some artists were able to recoup later on.

RYDER:
Well, yeah. But there was a statute of limitations. So you couldnít really go back to the golden years and get them. We didnít make that move until maybe 14 years ago, which meant that enough time had passed to protect the big money. We get checks now, but theyíre paltry compared to what they would have been when the songs were hits.

PCC:
The ĎSock It To Meí single, that was banned on some radio stations?

RYDER:
There was a very big radio station chain that pulled it. It was number four and we knew - because back then, we had ways of knowing - that it was going to go to number one the next week. And when all of that week of the survey was being taken, and it had disappeared from this huge chain of radio stations, it just stalled and then eventually disappeared. I think Bob created this myth about it having bad language in it, in an effort to sell more records. But it backfired, because the radio stations wouldnít play it. So, you know, screwed and screwed again.

PCC:
And what about Creweís vision for you as a solo artist?

RYDER:
Well, then it did get to the point where it became ridiculous. It was apparent to anybody who was watching. In his world, from his time era, the pinnacle where you could go would be seven months in Las Vegas. I didnít see it that way. That would be like prison.

PCC:
So was there disillusionment?

RYDER:
Yeah... and hereís the biggest mistake I ever made. I filed to break the management contract, instead of filing for the disguised accountings, the royalties. So it went to the Supreme Court in the State of New York and I lost it on appeal. And, it was like chattel. He had control of my career, my life, my destiny. And he was shopping around for people, at a price, who wanted to buy. And he had made such a huge deal with me, with Paramount, they were really pissed. It took them forever to even come close, if they even still have recouped all the money they fronted him for my contract.

So after I split from him, thatís when I went down to Memphis and recorded with Booker T. & The MGs.

PCC:
That had to be an exciting experience.

RYDER:
Yeah, it was. Because the choice they gave me was that or Jeff Barry in L.A. I said, ĎHmm, Iíll go South.í Which, in more ways than one, I guess I did. The whole country then was going psychedelic and here I am, with still some name power, and I decide to do an R&B album. [Laughs].

PCC:
Then you got back into the rock thing with the band Detroit.

RYDER:
Yeah, but that was because of the keen wit and wisdom of Barry Kramer, the founder of Creem magazine. He kind of was in touch with the reality of the time and he said this is the direction we need to go in. And itís a pretty weird record, because itís actually two different bands, two different producers. Eddie Kramer was involved in it, Hendrixís producer, for a while. And then Bob Ezrin, from Canada, he produced a great deal of it. And thereís two different bass players on it. One left and the other one came. And yet we made these recordings. Yeah, itís a schizophrenic album, but itís very, very powerful.

PCC:
After that, you stepped away from performing for a while?

RYDER:
I had made enough enemies in New York at that time, where somebody was looking for a payback. So I went and signed up for a payback... and I got one. [Chuckles], which drove me to exile for a couple of years.

When I came out of that, I started my own label and came out with this thing called ĎHow I Spent My Vacation,í which got great reviews. And itís just been, every step along the way since then, the biggest battle that Iíve fought was trying to purge myself of destructive behavior, because I didnít understand what had happened to me in New York. And when I finally came to the reality and the grips of that whole situation, I began a very strong and steady recovery, especially in the creative area. And Iíve been able to grow as an artist and progress. And what was important to me was to have a catalog to prove it, if anybody cared to take a look, that there would be a line of evidence there for them to follow.

PCC:
You mentioned coming to terms with what happened in New York, do you mean being taken advantage of?

RYDER:
Oh, youíre going to have to read the book. Itís pretty good.

PCC:
Oh, right, thereís an autobiography nearing publication.

RYDER:
Right. Itís going to be cross-promoted with the Don Was-produced CD.

PCC:
Great. Is there a tentative release date?

RYDER:
According to my publisher, fall, which I think is about two weeks away [Laughs]. How about a f--king date!

PCC:
What drives you these days?

RYDER:
Oh, just the insanity that I believe that I still have more to do, in terms of creative stuff. The road stuff is just staying alive. But the creative juices, I havenít really achieved what Iíve wanted to do yet. And itís really fun. It really is a passion for me.

PCC:
Where is that creative passion taking you?

RYDER:
Iím involved in writing a musical at this point. When I first started, I thought, ĎOh, this will be so easy.í And the deeper I got into it, the more I realized that I had really bitten off a big chunk there. So Iíve got a lot of hard work put into it at this point and I donít really see a presentation for it until probably next summer some time. Iím working very hard on it.

Itís just beautiful. The theme is beautiful. The story is beautiful. The characters are wonderful. Everything about the music is fantastic. Iím taking real pains with this. I want this to be the thing that people will look at, as opposed to looking at ĎDevil With A Blue Dress On.í When they talk about my career, I want them to say, ĎMy God, did you ever think this guy was this good?í I want it to broadside everybody, because I believe that I have that ability. And I want to make that come true.

PCC:
And does the show have anything to do with your roots?

RYDER:
No, no, it has nothing to do with my life.

PCC:
Are you writing the book for the musical, as well as the songs?

RYDER:
Iím doing the whole deal. The book, all the dialogue. Itís interesting, because Iíve been looking at how this system works. I didnít really know how to go about this. But Iíve been studying the history of how other musicals were made. And there are a lot of fascinating ways to go about it.

Itís pretty much like when people ask me, ĎDo you write the music first or do you write the words first?í Itís one of those type of questions when youíre approaching a musical. I started actually by putting a little synopsis together, with some main characters with a very brief, but precise theme, storyline. And then I picked the key moments in that synopsis, where I would insert the nine or 10 songs I was going to write for it. And I started doing it that way. But as I became more and more familiar with how you go about doing this process, I realized that, at some point, when Iím ready to present this to a prospective buyer or producer that weíre going to be pulling in all kinds of people from all different areas of talent to make that dream come true.

PCC:
Had you always had an interest in theatre?

RYDER:
Yeah, but I never really realized that dream. When I was with William Morris for a year-and-a-half in Los Angeles, they gave me some of the best breaks you could possibly get, in terms of film opportunities. And I was so immature that I didnít take advantage of this golden opportunity. So clearly, I wasnít taking the acting thing seriously, because somebody who had the opportunities that I had would probably be a big star at this point.

ĎIn Cold Blood,í when I read for that, the director, a lawyer and an accountant were the ones that I read for. So I knew it was serious business. It got down to me and one other guy. They said, ĎWeíve got one other guy we want to have a look at.í So they went and they looked at Robert Blake, whoíd been acting since he was like five.

And then I did a screen test for ĎThe Wild Bunch.í And Samuel Peckinpah came to that screen test himself to direct it, simply because he was looking for my character. And I blew that one, too. So itís not like they didnít give me the opportunity. Itís just that I didnít handle it. Because instead of working on my script the night before, I was busy screwing some babe somewhere. I mean, how stupid can you get? Not much more than that.

So thatís always interested me, though. Itís been a frustrating thing. I think, ĎDamn it. I know I can do this!í But now Iím at the age where instead of acting it, I think Iíll just write it and let some serious actors take a crack at the story. Because it is a fantastic story. A very contemporary story. A story that can last. If itís done properly, it will be a success.

PCC:
And it will have a positive impact on people?

RYDER:
Itíll have a very changing effect on people, I think, in terms of part of our social behavior. So Iím looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

PCC:
As far as what youíve already accomplished in the music field, what have been the greatest satisfactions?

RYDER:
Iím coming to the point where I have full confidence in my ability to write good songs. That was always something that bothered me. And I go back and I look over the years, at my catalog of songs that Iíve created. And some of them are very, very good. And had they been released at the moment they were recorded, and I was in the favor of the music industry and in the favor of the public, and they were waiting for something new, they probably would have been hits.

But, you know, thereís probably 10,000 guys from my era alone, and then you take the other artists from the Ď70s and the Ď80s and the Ď90s, who have no careers anymore, all competing for these little, relatively minute slots that are available, for the record companies to promote, and theyíve got problems of their own, with their delivery systems, nobody really understands yet how youíre going to make the most money on records. The internet came along and changed all that. The music industry right now is in some kind of turmoil. Itís going to settle down somewhere, but nobody knows where yet. So itís not like Iím out there alone in this battle. I donít even place much importance on that.

However, I have a lawyer friend who has managed to get a label for the Don Was-produced recording. And I have a publisher for the book. So thereíll be a cross-promotion. Weíve hired publicists for the CD, publicists for the book. So weíll get some attention. I donít know how much or what itís going to mean to anybody. But there will be some attention and itíll be more than Iíve had in decades. So itíll be fun to watch. For me, itís just another door to open and walk through.

PCC:
So youíre always more focused on the doors ahead rather than regrets of the past?

RYDER:
Yeah. Because itís too scary to look back [ Laughs]. Really. It is too scary to look back. I had to when I was writing the book and Iím going, ĎMy God [Sighs], I actually did that. Thatís incredible that Iím even alive today.í

PCC:
And your ability to survive, do you just chalk that up to luck or is it an inherent strength in you, allowing you to overcome obstacles?

RYDER:
I donít see myself as one of those people on ĎSurvivor,í whoís plotting ways to come out on top. I feel itís more like a fate thing. And itís not about God. I have a real hard time with that word. Itís about whatever is going to happen, happens. And Iím certainly not in control of it. If I was, Iíd be doing a hell of a lot differently than I am now. When the cards are put on the table, you have to play them. If you happen to know that the dealerís crooked, then you should walk away from the game.

PCC:
But the creative spirit keeps you going?

RYDER:
Yeah, like I told you, thereís things that I want to do that I know I can do, that I have to prove that I can do, primarily to myself. The musical is a very good example. If I can prove to myself that I can pull this off, oh, boy, will I be happy! Really, really happy. And then if somebody really wants to exploit it, itís up to them. Letís say, at the time Iím ready to present it, itís put out there and itís weighed against other potential projects from other writers and it doesnít fare well in the minds of the elite around that circle at that particular time, then it wasnít my time. But my satisfaction will come from knowing that I did the best I could do. And whether thatís relevant to the bigger picture, I donít know. But all I know is that, as a person, I have continued to grow and become better over the years. And thereís nothing unfulfilling about that at all.

PCC:
And, in the meantime, you still get satisfaction out of performing, as well?

RYDER:
Yeah, well, apparently I can still sing, they tell me.

PCC:
How do you preserve the voice, with such impassioned performances?

RYDER:
I smoke light cigarettes.

PCC:
[Laughs] How very health-minded of you.

RYDER:
[Laughs] Yes.

PCC:
Do you envision the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calling at some point?

RYDER:
I donít give a f--k. I truly donít. Hereís the deal on the Hall of Fame. The things I mentioned to you about knowing that I progressed, knowing that Iíve gotten better, knowing that Iíve stretched, reached for it and accomplished it, it doesnít have to be validated by an elitist group out of New York who rob the taxpayers of Ohio. It only has to be validated in my heart and my mind for me to have pleasure and fulfillment from it. That along with the relationship that Iím in and my children, thatís what counts. Thatís what I lose when I die. What is that other stuff? Somebody elseís vision of what the hell is going on with me. Itís not mine.

PCC:
But itís got to make you feel good, the fact that so many artists have been influenced by you.

RYDER:
Yeah, thatís kind of a compliment. Yeah. I read that they have been. We donít know whether theyíre lying or not [Laughs].

PCC:
Youíve made quite a mark and itís exciting that youíve got such promising new projects.

RYDER:
Iíd f--king go out of my mind, if I wasnít working on something. What would I do? TV sucks the life away from you. What is the reward for watching TV? There is none. It eats your time up. You could be doing something.

PCC:
We canít wait to hear your new album and, later, the musical.

RYDER:
The musical would be another dream fulfilled. And thatís what life should be about - fulfilling the dreams, whether itís ĎI want to raise the perfect familyí or ĎI want to be the best fatherí or ĎI want to be an astronaut.í Whatever your dream is, when you can finally reach it, then I say, ĎWell done.í Youíve had a good life then. Itís a game. We all go to work every day. Thereís not one of us at any level that doesnít go to work every day and get smacked around by the truth so much that it hurts to live. And yet we just get up every morning and go through it again. And you get those scars and you start counting them when youíre old and wrinkled and you say, ĎWhat the hell happened?í And then you put a judgment on it. Hereís the good parts and hereís the bad parts. At that point, thatís when you need some outsiders to step in and bring some reality, because, if everybody wrote their own obits, everybody would be saints.

PCC:
Well, your autobiography must make for riveting reading.

RYDER:
Yeah, well let me advise you that the legal department already took 55 pages out. And it wasnít any of those like, ĎHere, let me show you this photograph of this 14-year-old girl backstage.í None of that in there. Thereís primarily six characters through the whole book, basically. It runs that experience with those six characters, me being the primary character. Itís well written. Itís what I would call a literary work, as opposed to a f--king chronicle. I didnít use a ghost writer, because Iíve seen too much of their work. Iíve read things of other artists that I know well and read whatís been done by the ghost writer and I know goddamn well itís a f--kiní lie. Somebodyís not telling the truth, either the editor or the ghost writer or my friend. Did my friend lie to him? Was he trying to change the reality for his after-image or what the hell is going on here?

PCC:
That would be a temptation.

RYDER:
Well, it is human to want to look your best. You always clean up when you go to church, right?

PCC:
Did you go through the process of wondering how revealing you wanted to get?

RYDER:
Yeah, I did, but that was years ago. Thereís this box, under my desk, that I rest my feet on, and there are four different completed versions of the book, which began in 1974. This one that is coming out is well over a year old. I submitted it well over a year ago. And, at this point, I could add another two chapters. So I hope to f--k it comes out in the fall or it wonít be relevant to me anymore.

PCC:
Is it mainly about the music?

RYDER:
Thereís a lot about the music, yeah. And it deals a lot with relationships. And it deals a lot with the business. And when I talk about the business parts of it, I include the actual contracts and stuff for people to read, so they can see, ĎWow, youíd have to be an asshole to sign this!í And then I go on and explain why I signed it. ĎUh, there was no bread and we were f--king starving. Iím so f--king sorry. Were you around? Because if I had your number, I would have called you and you could have taken me out to dinner. But you werenít there, you asshole. So I signed the f--kiní contract!í

PCC:
Well, artists have historically been willing to sign anything to get their work out there.

RYDER:
Yeah, I know. Itís one of the weaknesses of wanting to get that attention that we never had. I say, they shouldnít have stopped breast-feeding us that early. Thatís probably the problem.

PCC:
So the five other main characters in the book, are they mostly music associates? Your significant other?

RYDER:
What do you want for free here?

PCC:
[Laughs] Youíre right. Iím going to plunk down my bucks as soon as itís published.

RYDER:
[Laughs] Cool. What a good guy.

PCC:
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

RYDER:
My pleasure.

For the latest news on Mitch Ryderís projects and tour dates, visit www.mitchryder.de.