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July 15, 2022 35 mins

Founding members Robert Lamm, James Pankow and Lee Loughnane discuss Chicago's new album 'Chicago XXXVIII: Born for This Moment' as they gear up for a new tour celebrating the band's 55th anniversary.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Inside the
Studio on iHeart Radio. My name is Jordan runt Dog,
but enough about me. My guests today are three founding
members of one of the most successful American bands in history.
Their plaudits are practically endless and well deserved. They've sold
over forty million albums in the U s alone, not

twenty gold records, eight teen platinum, and eight multi platinum.
They've had five consecutive number one albums and twenty top
ten singles on the Billboard Hot One early hits like
twenty five or six to four? Does anybody really Know
what time it is? And Beginnings Solve Them Somewhat simplistically
labeled the rock and roll band with horns, this really

under sells the event of arrangements and delicate melodies of
songs like Color My World or If You Leave Me Now.
They've had many different eras and many different members, but
these three guys have been there since the very start
in nineteen. Now they're helming a brand new album called
Born for This Moment, which is out now complete. His
can rest easy because this their thirty eighth album, also

bears the label Chicago thirty eight in their trademark Roman numerals.
I'm so thrilled the welcome Robert Lamb, James Panco, and
Lee Locknane of Chicago. I mean, it's congratulations. I mean
there's just so many new moments that I discover every
time I listened to it. Listened to it a number
of times. How did this project begin for you? Was

this a quarantine lockdown project? Pretty much? I mean I
think we had all gone home after after it was
our touring was interrupted. Um So speaking personally, I just
went home and after a couple of days, you know,

I got I was drawn to the piano in my
studio and I just started, you know, working on not
even working on music, just sort of rediscovering older pieces
of music that hadn't been made into songs yet. So
I just started a very long process process of doing that,
and it was I found it refreshing to not be

under a time constraint I had all day every day.
My wife was very indulgent if I if I, I
spent most of the day at piano, and as a result, uh,
some songs started to make themselves done, and I just
you know, just began, you know, on my my little

laptop studio kind of composing what essentially were demos. Now,
how much of this was done through file sharing? Because
those those horn parts sounds so tight. I mean, you
know one set of lungs that had to be together.
Was that? Was that done through file sharing? We we
made records in the studio as a band for fifty years,

and yeah, it was. It was a little bit different,
a little challenging, uh to a degree of to compose
um a little uh little snippets of pieces of songs
remotely and then um, you know, get them to Joe Thomas,

our producer who kind of uh so things together. We
did the Brass live at Lee Lot Main studio in Sedona, Arizona.
I was in the process of building the studio in
Sedona before the pandemic started, and then this was just

uh continuation of that when all of a sudden we
weren't working. I was at the studio all the time,
and we had by the time Jimmy had charts together
to be able to record. We had myself, Jimmy and
Ray Herman. We all gathered at my studio. We recorded

eleven tracks. So that's how it's got on the record.
I don't think that we intended to record an album
right away. I think everybody was sort of working individually
and it wasn't until uh, you know, maybe maybe six

months into the pandemic that the idea that hey, this
could be this could be an album, and uh, Joe
Thomas approached us and asked if we were interested. So
I called these guys and said, you know, are we
are we interested in doing an album? Or what you

mentioned the charts earlier. I mean, something that I've loved
about your arrangements throughout your career is just the interplay
between the voice and the brass. The brasses is a
full on co lead. It's like the singers doing a
duet with the brass. That has to be a challenge
to make those pieces fit together. Is there a key?
What's the process like of of arranging the brass parts
for this? When I, uh, when I approached this unique

brass situation, I just inherited the chair because I had
been arranging as I was in college and even before.
And it's a lead vocal. Basically, it's a main book

character in the song, and along with the lead vocal,
it completes the melodic journey from beginning to where the
lead vocal leaves off, the brass picks up, and where
the brass leaves off, it leads into the vocal and

remains thematic to the vocal melody. So it's it's one
smooth process, you know, vocals, horns, vocals, ones. And then
basically when I when I arranged this Breath, I picked
up my trombone and I played a solo along with

the rough mixes with the vocals, and that solo became
an ensemble and voiced we're appropriate, and that underneath the vocals.
Two at substance, uh, I wrote pads to a largely
agree two strengthened the quartal based under the vocal. Wow,

that's so interesting. I mean, how elaborate and intricate it is.
I mean, there's so many great moments on this album,
and one that I keep going track two is for
the Love I mean, those strings that lead into the
horn solo. It's just it's so amazing. And Robert, I
know you've said for the Love of a standout for you.
What is it about that song that really resonates with yeah?
Uh uh. This song actually was born from a recording

of the acoustic guitars a friend of mine who actually
who guitarists who has played h H on Chicago albums,
and someone who's also from Chicago. Um uh sent me.
You know, we were I wanted. I just wanted to
write with people I hadn't really written with for a while.

And ah, he sent me. He sent me basically, he said,
you know, I haven't been i haven't been playing lately,
and I'm having a bit of a problem, but I'll
send you. I'll send you the last stuff that I
laid down just this as a as a start. So

I I took his recording and I I manipulated sections
of it and sort of you know, made meets H
an interesting grid on which I grew huh singing melody
and and as the as the melody and the section

sections began to emerge, Ah, I was hearing I was
hearing a song that was maybe maybe from the Dred
I was I was hearing I was here. I was
kind of feeling like the singer was talking or singing

with his friends, telling telling them about how much the
world had changed, and and the one thing that was
a constant was was the love. So uh, you know,
it was sort of a brick by brick building of

a sum um. And as it happens, the first violent
piece that was put in to the song was played
by I'm blanking on the name, played by a young

virtuoso violinist who happens to live in Italy, and she
she played her solo and sent it to me and
it was like perfect and so so the whole thing
was coming together as sort of a non electronic, non
rock piece, just a beautiful love song, if you will,

with lyrics that talked about how the world was changing.
And in the end all will have is That's an
incredible track. Really, one of my my favorites on the album.
That's my wife, there you go. That's as the highest

praise you need. She turned to me, she said, you
are that's I get highest praise. There's nothing else I
can say. That's all you need. Wow, I mean, good lord,
beautiful track. There's so many amazing songs on this album,
and I'm so fascinated by the many different ways that
people can have these flashes of creativity. I mean, you

mentioned other ways that you manipulated this wholy other song
to create this. I'm curious. I mean I think of
a track like make a Man out of Me, a
song that's so steeped in in paternal love for a child.
Do you have a feeling and go sit down and
sort of play it out of you? Or does the
does the tune come first, and does that give you
a certain feeling and then you kind of right to that. Well,

making that out of me is a love song to
me my new one soon. And we're all fathers. You
might be a father yourself, are you? Are you a dad? Okay? Well,
I don't think that there's any more powerful bond than

apparent to their child. When when when I looked down
at my son in the crib, I was overtaken by
the love I had for this new human being, a
product of my wife and myself, and I looked down

and it's that idea just hit me between the eyes.
You know, this is a responsibility. It's my duty, is
your father, to give you the tools two have a

good life, to succeed to know the meaning of life.
And it inspired the words um. You know, as songwriters
we have we have the joy of experiencing these intimate
moments of expressing ourselves and our feelings about various things

that affect us as people. And I was overtaken at
that point in this instance, with this discovery of how
deeply I love this little person more than just about

any other writing experience I had had. And then they
have the blessing of being able to UH compose a
song about that feeling, and then all of a sudden
it goes on a record and eventually becomes a story

shared by lots of lots of people. And I would
venture to say that it's a commonality of it. Anybody
who's had a child will immediately relate to that feeling.
In fact, when we were in the studio listening back

to UH songs with UM the record Company, one of
the UM, one of the higher ups with the record
company seated next to me, leaned over and saying, Jimmy,

you know that song resonates with me unbelievably because I
have a son, and when I listened to this song,
I was standing over his crib just like you, and
I immediately understood the power of what you were feeling.

So hopefully a lot of people will experience that. I mean,
there are so many of your songs that have that.
I mean, I was I'm sure you heard us all
the time. I was a wedding DJ for a number
of years, and the recessional that we would play so
often at so many of these ceremonies and receptions was Beginnings.
I mean, it's just something that just is so powerful,
and you'd see you look out there and you'd see

people crying when that song was was on because it
was such a beautiful. You know, it's my favorite song.
I tell Robert every night on stage and he looks
at me like, Okay, I've heard enough of that, I know,
and I don't blame me. I love that you included
that as a as a little nod in um in

our New York time. I thought was just such a
cool little call back. What let you do include that?
That was a producer call you know, Uh, producers can
be can be creative in that way. You know. They here,
you know, they hear a song that is fairly complete,
and the track may be done, and everything might be done,

but a good producer will well, uh, well, sometimes add
a color of flavor, maybe even a few words here
and there two to make to make a particular song
stand out. It's definitely not a record that's that's steeped

in nostalgia, but there were a few of these touching
little moments, like the opening of that This is Goodbye
to really hit me. Just a bunch of crazy kids,
look at all the things we did wake up playing
in the high school band. Make it to the Promised Land.
I mean to me as a fan, it's hard not
to read that as as autobiographical in some way. Well,
you know this record, you know, as a listener, not

as a composer or a member of the bandit as
a listener. Uh. I found, uh, this collection of songs
to be Um really pretty fascinating because you know, we
delve into all kinds of stuff. Okay, it's not just

love songs or or pointless rock and roll. It's it's
very cerebral, but yet it has the pull of great musicality,
and the grooves go from A to Z. I mean,

this is clad Seek Chicago with a new face. You know,
I can try of m express it in terms of
you know, I I played some of the rough mixes
for my kids, you know, my younger listeners, and they
were wow. You know you guys, you guys have have

a freshness, yeah, that you haven't had in a while.
And maybe it was the desperation of being completely idle
during the pandemic. That made us stretch a little further,
you know, or made us aware of more things that
we were always too busy to realize. And I think

that might have inspired, uh, the courage two push the
envelope and go a little further, you know. Maybe. Well
when you asked about the the Right of Goodbye, which
by the way, is the first single coming out off
the album, Uh, it was written by our producer, and

I think he was probably incorporating when he started as
a band, and I think he had a co writer
and they were both doing a similar thing where they
back to their roots, back to when they started and
went into high school and started further in their career.
And it could be construed as it being only about us,

but I think it's about any band that gets together.
Let's be friends, let's you know, how far can we
go with this and uh see what happens? You mentioned.
The record was produced by Joe Thomas, who has worked
with some of my all time favorite artists, mean, Brian Wilson,
Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty and now you what was it
like working with him? When all did he did he

bring to the table? It seems like he was very
actively involved. The biggest problem is we didn't see each other.
Oh yeah, so we were very rarely in the in
the same room together. We were trying to put it,
get it to a point where everybody would be able
to come to my studio and we'd be able to
do background vocals, which we did a little bit of.

We did most of the brass, all of the brass
at my studio, but getting everybody in the room together
was a difficult process during the pandemic. You know, I
had a lot of conversations with him on the phone. Um,
and I agree with you. You know, I had never

laid eyes on the guide. Uh. We know we had
done some some video projects at one of the studios
in Chicago that that is a venue for for videos. Um,
but I had I didn't have any sense of him

as a as a producer or as a writer or
he actually plays plays a really good keyboards. So so
all of that was really interesting. I have to say,
I have to have to say that in the beginning.
Uh once once we had sort of commuted to let's
see if we can you know, make this an album.

Um uh, I I think uh, not being a tech guy,
completely opposite from Lee. I'm not a tech guy whatsoever.
I thought, well, everybody has a laptop and we all
can do our our demos on the laptop. Will send
him to Joe, and Joe will just you know, make

a do his magic and magically, uh make a finished record.
Well he kind of thought. He kind of thought the
same thing at first, but then as he was getting uh,
as he was getting a file files said to him, Uh,
he discovered everybody's working on a different platform. So it
was like, un, I'll never do that again. But uh,

and being the tech guy, I was trying to talk
everyone out of doing it and sending you know, a
certain file type so we can have consistency going on.
It was a difficult process. Yeah, it was really it
was really you know, it was really a long, longer
process and it really needed to be um. But having

said that, he was very patient. He was he was
very open. I found to be very open two ideas
and you know, he he put his nose to the
grindstone and got this stuff done. Yeah. It was no
easy test, I'm sure for for him because you know,
he received, yeah, he received files from writers and he

would plug in Chicago, Uh, performances into the personal demos.
You know, if I submitted a song all of a sudden, Uh,
you know, a demo's a demo vocal. Uh, you know,
we get a studio sausage or saying or that we

knew to say, a lead vocal, and then we do
some backgrounds and I do a trombone kind of a
thing where the horns section would be. And then it
was not only was Joe getting files from from band
members and then plugging in um Chicago players band members

to do to redo the performance. But yeah, he would
then take that upgraded track with you know, Wally Rays
playing the drums instead of a you know, a a
drum machine or whatever. We have you know, Wally playing

real drugs. We have a real bass player, we have
you know, real musicians. And then he'd take that file
and send it to me, and then I would arrange
the brass to that track which had the real music
on it. So uh, I could create a horn arrangement,

because I cannot create a horn of horn arrangement to
an unfinished demo because there's uh, there's it's got to
be the real thing. I can only arrange to what
the final representation of the song will be. So he
was receiving files, he was putting musicians on those files.

He does send the file to me, I would put
real brass on paper. We take that brass to Arizona
to Lee's we record that real brass. It would then
go back to Joe and Joe would put background love
of those on the track again where the real horns were.

So it became a sceneless result. So it was back
and forth and back and forth. I was doing vocals
in California. I didn't the track for my song on
stage with the with the live band if This Isn't Love?
And I think I did a couple of songs like that,

and if This Isn't Love was the one that made
it on the album. But I think that was one
of the few songs on this record that was done
by our band and band on stage as a band. Wow.
And then we recorded the Breast at the studio in
Sedona and and by the way, well during the pandemic,

I had enough time two build the studio. My UH
engineer Tim Jessop and I were working on a Cardigi
all projects which we we did six days in nineteen
seventy one and uh we were uh mixing and mastering

all six all eight shows that we did within that
six states. So we were immersed in the in uh
deep in a project while this record was going on.
So um, there was a lot going on in the
pandemic amazing productive time. Yes, I loved that Carnegie Hall

box set when it came out last year. And one
one of the things that I really enjoyed about it
was I feel like there were so many moments of
improv in there, which is a side. I feel like,
we don't see a lot from you so often. So
I really enjoyed it so much. I really love there
was a lot from night to night we we just said,
we were uh like this, like good bye, that's crazy
kids just coming up and playing uh, you know, from

the hip and just doing what what came. We had
the the the songs put together, but we played them loosely,
you know. Frankly. I revisited that Cardegie all uh Little
Lee sent us uh the records. I listened, you know.

Of course it was uh you know, it improved, I
mean amazingly so at I started realizing, holy crap, how
did we do that? We I mean, we were a
bunch of kids, and I listened to some of those performances,
and you know, we had no fear. We had no fear. Uh.

And Terry, you know, I mean his his genius and
his his strength within the band. Yeah, I think it
actually motivated me to say, screw it, man, I'm not
gonna worry about rules, you know, with this album, you know,
and I started just taking chances because I listen to Candy,

I'm all right, man, if we could, if we could
accomplish that when we didn't know anything, can we accomplished
when we do know all that? But we had the
same experience when we a couple of years ago we
did Chicago to live on on our tour, and in

rehearsing to play that, played that repertoire. It was like
we did a lot of that, looking at each other saying,
what the hell will we think we're writing these? And
you know, obviously not only the Chicago two situation, but
you know, the Carnegie Hall. Uh, you know, that was

still very early in our career. I mean, I think
probably the most the most recent song might have been
Savory in the Park. That was this was only three albums,
so you know it was. It was a different world,
certainly a different climate in in rock music. It was

funny before speaking to you, I was rewatching that amazing
documentary now more than ever. And there's a great moment
when you were talking about the start of your career
when you played an original song at a club and
you were fired for not playing the top forty, which
is I mean, it's just insane to me to think
of a time like that. What what what was that
like back then for you? What compelled you to make

the jump from from playing these songs to playing originals.
We actually played a Frank Zappa song of uh, how
could I be walls? Rock and roll walls? And that's
where we're go from there quote a Zappa cover. The

music business changed, it changed, it changed. By the end
of the seventies, it was really all about, you know,
if you had to hit with one song, the record
company wanted another song just like it, only different if possible.
And and I just think that the uh, the thinking,

the thinking about trying to write a hit song really
kind of really kind of defeated lots of artists as
as the music industry demanded that that procedure. Here was
a strange question that I'm just thinking now and I'm
trying to make phrase it right. I feel like there's

a lot of people who talk about artists who inspired
m to be virtuoso's, But I was wondering, are there
any musical heroes of yours that taught you how to
play together with a band and how to really jel
I mean, I feel like that's something that's so special
about you. And again, I keep going back to the
one set of lungs. Were there any groups out there,
maybe the Mother's of Evntion were one of them that
really showed you what was like to see a group

in total cohesion, total mind melving playing as one that
really showed you like this is what this is how
powerful and musical unit can be. I can tell you
one right, yeah, the Beatles. Oh yeah, when the Beatles
came on the scene, I was totally jaw dropped. I mean,

these guys, uh, they re they reinvented pop music, or
maybe not reinvented it, but took it to a unique
other level. Perfect voicing in the vocals. Well, like Calfacings.
We were listening to Colfaing and we learned how to
phrase by listening to Yeah, I've always in my own mind,

like in your your horn parts to Brian Wilson's vocal
arrangements just the way it sits in the track and
compliments the lead so perfectly. UM. I know he's someone
that you're very closely associated with. He's one of my heroes,
and you're about to go out and do a number
of shows with him this summer. I just wanted to
ask you more about about your your connection with him,
and what it's been like playing with them all these years,

and and just your thoughts on the Beach Boys. But
we did, we did to her with the Beach Boys
extensively in the seventies, and it was they had they
had kind of been in a down phase of their career. Uh,
and we were, you know, we were selling out baseball stadiums.
So our producer at the time, Jenny Garcio actual, she

was playing bass with the Beach Boys and somehow got
them to agree to be our opening end. And that
whole ste summer was just in aasing experience. Uh. Talk
about a band that could throw down live. The Beach
Boys good, and so could Chicago and so could the
two bands when they came on stage together. So I

think that as a possibility, will be doing a little
bit of that this summer. Brian and his band. The
footage from that seventy five when you're on together doing
like Darlin together or something, I mean, you're out there
playing with it sounds like a Chicago song. It's so perfect.
It's such a great blend. I love those those concerts. Wow,
that was that was a phenomenal experience. Were at the

at the Garden in New York and they had to
they had to evacuate the felt for him on the
floor below because the floor of the floor of the
of the Garden was going up and down. The people
that's right, it's on springs, right, and then the the

upper deck was coming loose from the French were shaking
around at Angels Stadium in California when we played that,
because the you know, they were built to withstand a
home run. The excitement of the run, well a three
minute song with it, with its shaking up and down,
it really got going good there where they were. They

were worried that that the all per deck went collapsed.
Oh man, I we all need a little bit of
that energy this summer. I cannot wait to see out there.
My my last question before I let you go. I'm
so excited to get back out on the road. I
want to ask you, what is the title Born for
this Moment mean mean to you? It's such an evocative phrase.
I was thinking a lot about it. I don't want

to ask you what what led you to choose that
title Born for this Moment? Yeah? That was actually that's
actually the title track. That's a uh, you know Robert song.
And before the title was chosen, I as I'm arranging
that Robert song, I'm thinking, wow, what a great title

for the for the record. Weren't for this moment? You know,
this mortality is the reality. You know, maybe this uh
is the last real original plation of music that we
have the you know, the pleasure of doing. Hopefully not,
but uh, this record is a record that I think

was meant to be made for a long time. You
could book had this career with Chicago Transit Authority and
Born for this moment in my moment, because this, you know,
this is the first album of this next thing, hold
long at last. We don't know yet be in the moment,
I think that's a that's a beautiful note to end

on Lee, Robert James, you were the best. Thank you
so much for your time today and most importantly for
your music. You give me so much joy over the years.
Thank you, thank you so much, thank you, thank you.
Joy Speaking. We hope you enjoyed this episode of Inside
the Studio, a production of I Heart Radio. For more

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