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Interview: Rhythm Guitarists Brad Whitford and Derek St. Holmes

The classic rock musicians (of Aerosmith and Ted Nugent's band, respectively) discuss their passion for music and having the freedom to run their own show.

Interview with Rhythm Guitarists Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) and Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent)

© Photo by Sherri Tilley | Brad Whitford (left) and Derek St. Holmes (right) | 4/29/16

Tell them to get there early and come see us because we're gonna knock 'em dead.


That's Derek St. Holmes' advice to fans planning to make it out for a night of rock magic after the reunited duo of Whitford/St. Holmes released a self-produced studio record dubbed Reunion and kicked off a tour with Whitesnake.


Whitford/St. Holmes is comprised of Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford in collaboration with Derek St. Holmes, long-time vocalist/guitarist for Ted Nugent. The two rhythm guitarists, widely-known for their 1981 self-titled album which contained tracks like Whiskey Woman and Sharpshooter, have also recruited keyboardist Buck Johnson and Nashville A-lister bassist Chopper Anderson along with Tesla's Troy Luccketta on drums.


In our recent interview, Whitford and St. Holmes discussed having a passion for music, finding new sources of inspiration, and being generous with one another.


TFL: What do you think it is about music in general that affects people so deeply?


Whitford: That's a good question. I think it's the rhythm and I think it's the vibration. Music lives in that vocal range, and it's about the human voice. It fills an ancient need for people to be able to listen to music.


St. Holmes: I think it's the beat; it's the rhythm. It's very jungle-like and very primitive. That's where it all started anyway; it was some man or woman somewhere out in the jungle hitting something and making a rhythm, and that draws in people and animals and everything. So I think it's from a primal beat first.



TFL: What makes you such a good songwriting team collaboratively and what do you each appreciate about the other?


Whitford: It's hard to put your finger on that. Certain people, for whatever reason, just connect with other people in any kind of relationship or experience in life. Songwriting, in a situation like this with two people, come to find out, it's very rare when you really connect with someone. I don't know why, but it really works well for us.


St. Holmes: It's pretty basic. We really do love each other as friends. So starting from there, it's easy for us to listen to each other and to compromise and to create. And, number one, we love the same kinds of things. We're lucky that way. I think that's what gradually drew us together. You know, he comes from a band where he's the rhythm guitar player mostly and plays a lot of solos. Most people don't know it, but he's really a guitar player that holds that band together. He's a super solid, super heavy rhythm player and holds the whole thing together. And in my band, Ted Nugent, I'm the rhythm player. I hold things together while Ted Nugent's running around being crazy; and [Brad likewise] while Steven Tyler is running all over the place and Joe Perry's running all over the place. That kind of was our job, so we have a kinship. So when we get a chance to play together, it's really easy for me to let him create; and then he listens and turns to me and says, You go; you take it. I think that's part of it. So we're the best rhythm guitar players in the world.


TFL: Describe your personal balance of expressing a gift that flows naturally from your soul versus the process of working to hone a talent.


St. Holmes: We are so passionate about music in general, and about writing it and creating the art form and putting things together, taking a guitar and putting it together with a bass and then thinking up a drum track and putting all that stuff together. We're just very passionate about how we handle the end product. I think it's easy for us to create music and it just comes easy, you know?


Whitford: We've been honing and sharpening the blade for 40+ years and working away at that, so now it's about finding inspiration to keep that level of fire going. This new band for us has been a real fire starter. We have so much fun doing it. Some of the other stuff I do in this business sometimes isn't that much fun. It becomes too much work-like, so this is a playground now.


TFL: You guys have more freedom now ...


St. Holmes: Well, we're the bosses.


Whitford: Absolutely, totally. It's our show, and we've never really had that kind of situation. Because we think very much alike and we're very generous with each other, we make it work.


TFL: So, tell me about your new album and what you're most excited about.


St. Holmes: We're excited that some of the guitar work on there is really up to par with things that we used to like as kids: Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck. I think that some of the riffs that we've come up with are enough that guitar players are really gonna get excited. I don't care how old you are, you're gonna get excited about the way we put these things together.


TFL: How would you say the rock 'n' roll lifestyle has changed you as individuals, and do you feel happier now?


Whitford: Oh, much happier. I guess it's just life. You get out there and there's a lot of – in this business, especially in the 70's – surviving all the drug craziness and all that stuff and just thinking every night was Friday night. I lived like that for a long time, and you can't do it. So finally, you develop discipline. You learn how to enjoy life and have fun with it and not destroy it.


St. Holmes: In the 70's, and even into the 80's, almost every day was Saturday for us. We scratch our heads when we watch other people put on a suit and walk out of the house at 6 in the morning. They get in a car and go all day long and they come home and I just go, Why? I wonder what that's like. There's a lot of bumps in the road when you're coming up. There's a lot of drinking and drugs, good people and bad people, good decisions and bad decisions. Life is about making decisions. At this age, we ought to make nothing but good decisions which affect ourselves, our families, and people around us. We didn't used to always think that way. So we're thankful, we're grateful, and that pretty much sums it up.


For more information on the national tour of Whitford/St. Holmes, see additional references below or visit:


Whitford/St. Holmes

Whitford St. Holmes Video by Tammy Vega ALTTEXT
Whitford St. Holmes - Hell Is On Fire Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, teams up with Derek St. Holmes from The Ted Nugent Band, Tesla's Troy Luccketta and the rest of Whitford St. Holmes at Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry N.H. Whitford St. Holmes - Hell Is On Fire
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