Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interview with Casablanca Co-Founder Larry Harris

from Legendary Rock Interviews
Larry Harris is more than just a record company executive. He's a survivor of the seventies' most notorious record label hands down, CASABLANCA Records. When we heard about Larry's book "And Party Every Day- An Inside Look at Casablanca Records" we knew we had to chat with him. There's no way to boil down the whole essence of the book into one short interview so instead we asked him a few pointed questions and got a few pointed answers, he did not hold back.....read on

Q: At what point did you consider that the story of Casablanca was a story worth telling and how did you go from concept to actually writing the book?, (which is now available in audio and kindle versions)

A: After many years of people asking me if certain things they heard about Casablanca were true I decided I better write what I remembered down before I started to forget them. I wrote just random stories and then over the years compiled them into some kind of cohesive flow. I put it all away for years and then during a down period I began to put it into a book form. It took about 10 years to accomplish this.

Q: The book is filled with not only lots of inside info on the bands but also the day to day goings on of the record label itself which was wilder than even what most people would imagine. Was the old adage of "If you lived through the 70s you don't remember it" an issue in piecing together the book?

A: When I wrote the stories I did not think so , but after the book came out people began to tell me what they remembered and sometimes certain facts differed- I still think my memory was correct as everyone sees things thru their own minds eye and what was important about a certain event to me may not have been for them and visa versa.

Q: There were both rock and disco rosters on Casablanca. Did that kind of mixture ever lead to any interesting encounters or relationships between the acts or the label staff?

A: There was a rock contingent at the label and a disco contingent- I had to straddle the line for the sake of continuity of the label. Some of the rock people hated the fact that we had so much disco stuff and they even balked at some of the R&B stuff but once we had hits everyone was happy whether it be disco, rock, R&B or comedy stuff like Robin Williams or Rodney Dangerfield. I was really more in the rock camp and tried my best to get us some additional rock acts but due to the fact we were so heavily associated with disco it was hard for us to convince rock acts to sign with us. I was offered both Billy Idol and Billy Squier but due to the fact that they were both managed by Bill Aucoin, who managed KISS and Sean Delany, I decided it would not be a great idea to load up our roster with only his acts and he was asking a great deal of money for them anyway , more than I thought we could afford. There were never any outright confrontations between the rock and disco groups though...everyone wanted the label to succeed so they pulled together.

Q: It's a known fact that KISS took quite some time and quite a bit of money to break as a band. From what you could tell did any of the other acts or label employees start to express annoyance or resentment towards the efforts to break KISS??

A: Nobody at the label ever mentioned it and I do believe , especially in the early days they all knew that the band could deliver that live performance that would be so important to garner those die-hard fans that eventually helped break the band. And beside that, we had no choice as that is what we had to do to break them...so we went after it..I would also doubt that other bands would complain as that would have put them in a very tenuous potion to stay on the label. Negativity was something Neil Bogart would not put up with. Beside all that, we spent tons of money on ANY artist we got a glimmer of success with, some made it others did not.

Q: The band was helped considerably by Sean Delaney not only with staging concepts but also with songwriting even. To what degree do you think Kiss owes some of their success to people like you, Joyce and Neil Bogart, Bill Aucioin or Sean Delany? Do you think they would have eventually made some mark without those early "helpers"?

A: I would say it was an equal partnership in all respects.... without Sean working on the show and writing with them they would have suffered. Aucoin was the perfect manager for them and Joyce’s relationship with Neil was something that helped to keep the checkbook opened to them during the breaking of the band period. I feel that the favors we called in and concepts that Neil and I contributed, along with a ton of money was instrumental to their success. Remember, no other label wanted them in fact CBS records ( now SONY) paid for a demo when they were called Wicked Lester ( many of the same songs that appeared on the first album) and passed on the band. Saying all that, without the bands willingness to stay out on the road and at the same time deliver an album every six months along with never really complaining about the crazy things we asked them to do certainly was instrumental in their success.
Read the rest here http://www.facebook.com/notes/legendary-rock-interviews/interview-with-larry-harris-co-founder-of-casablanca-records/243729955653637

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