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Elliot Easton Interview

The New Cars

By

Elliot Easton Interview

The New Cars (l-r: Prairie Prince, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sulton)

Courtesy Special Ops Media
During the life of the original band known as The Cars (1976-1988) most of the band's best known songs prominently featured Elliot Easton guitar solos. Ever since The Cars drove their separate ways, Easton has played in several bands, most recently, Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

In 2006, The Cars rose from the ashes as The New Cars, with original members Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes being joined by vocalist Todd Rundgren, drummer Prairie Prince, and bassist Kasim Sulton. Original Cars Ric Ocasek and David Robinson signed off on the new band's use of music by The Cars, but declined to participate in the new group. The band's original bassist, Ben Orr, died of cancer in 2000.

An album of new songs and original Cars tunes, It's Alive was released, and the band set out on a summer tour with Blondie. The tour ended abruptly soon after it started when Easton was sidelined with a broken collarbone.

With the Road Rage Winter Tour underway, Easton is happy to talk about how happy he is to be back on the road.

About Classic Rock:
So, the health report. All better now?

Elliot Easton:
Yeah, I’m fine! I’m all healed up and ready for some more abuse!

About Classic Rock:
Abuse in a good way, of course!

Elliot Easton:
Of course!

About Classic Rock:
You’re a couple of weeks into the tour now, are you still happy about it?

Elliot Easton:
It’s going great. The shows have been really good and the audiences have received it really well, great response. It’s been fun to play again. We’re just having a blast playing, really. It’s been 16, 17 years since Greg [Hawkes] and I have played this music. We’re just kind of having fun with it.

About Classic Rock:
I seem to recall that The Cars were known more as a studio band than a touring band. What makes it more fun now than it was then?

Elliot Easton:
I think that this lineup is a more engaging live performing band. Todd [Rundgren] is a consummate performer and a great front man and I think this time around we bring the audience more into the experience.

About Classic Rock:
Speaking of that, you’re playing some great venues like House of Blues [Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas], State Theater in Detroit, Riverside in Milwaukee, Nokia Theater in Times Square. Do you prefer that atmosphere to the big stadium venues?

Elliot Easton:
You know, they both have their advantages. Clearly, it’s fun to play in an intimate setting and see all the faces. It almost takes us back to our club days, which is very enjoyable for me. And playing large places is fun and exciting and it’s fun to do a big show. I mean, we can’t really take our whole stage set with us to the smaller venues, but I think the immediacy and the up-close contact makes up for that.

About Classic Rock:
The last date on the current tour schedule is December 17. What happens after that?

Elliot Easton:
Well, we break for the holidays, and then I think they’re putting some more dates together for us later on in the winter and early spring, and we hope to do a summer tour.

About Classic Rock:
Is there a point where you decide, yeah, this is working and we’ll keep it up or, hey, we gave it a good shot, but …

Elliot Easton:
We’re at that point now. I mean, this is what I do. A musician plays. So, there’s really no reason to walk away from it. This is what we do. If I wasn’t playing in the New Cars I’d be playing with somebody else. So why not play and perform your own recorded legacy?

About Classic Rock:
Are there any more new albums under discussion?

Elliot Easton:
Not formally, but we look forward to recording some more, recording some new music. We did three studio tracks that are on the It’s Alive record and we’re performing those. With a band as talented as this, with songwriting abilities and production abilities and Todd’s expertise, certainly the possibilities are still there. As we become more and more unified in the group chemistry, I would think that we would be inspired to write music for this particular lineup, optimizing and taking advantage of the musical abilities of the players in this particular band.

About Classic Rock:
Do you see a noticeable difference in audience reaction when you’re doing old material versus new material?

Elliot Easton:
Actually, no. I think a lot of the fans have the [new] record and, of course, the single that came out in the summertime, "Not Tonight" is pretty familiar to them. The thing about the summer tour was that we had Blondie on tour with us, and this time we have an opening act that is starting out in their career and they play a half hour, 40 minutes, and we have an opportunity to go deeper into the catalog and play longer. I think the fans are enjoying all of it. They enjoy The Cars classic songs, we play several of Todd’s songs, and they enjoy the new material. I don’t sense any discernible difference in response.

About Classic Rock:
I understand that [Ric] Ocasek and [David] Robinson have both blessed this union of The New Cars, but for whatever reasons didn’t choose to participate. Do you foresee that there is ever going to be a configuration that includes all four of the surviving original members?

Elliot Easton:
I don’t say “never” but there are certainly no plans afoot and no discussions in that area. Not saying it would never happen, but there’s no plan at the moment to do that.

About Classic Rock:
Okay, sell me. Tell me why I should want to go to a New Cars concert.

Elliot Easton:
Well, I would say just come with an open mind and you won’t be disappointed. I think we do great justice to the old material and perform it with real energy and creativity. Just come and see the band and decide for yourself.

Road Rage Winter Tour Schedule

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