Interview with Con Moerenhout

2003

More than Just the 5th member of The Who

The reason why I wanted to interview John “Rabbit” Bundrick was because he wasn’t on any pictures after The Who’s return to the stage in 1979. There was just Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Kenney Jones. But I did understand that The Who had a “5th member”, a keyboard player, called “Rabbit”. Even in the program booklet “Summer of ‘79”, there was only one picture with Rabbit on it. Last year I asked Rabbit via e-mail how he felt about that.

And on July 21th 2002 he wrote me: Rabbit: “You are right, I am not featured very often in them, but don't worry, they know they need me on stage, and I'm ok with that. It would be nice to be on more pics, but I don't mind, cause I am the only keyboard player on the Planet that these guys want on stage with them, and that is saying a lot ”.

His teaming up with The Who created new opportunities. It was also possible now to play songs like “Drowned”, “Sister Disco” and Rabbit could let himself go on a solo in “Music Must Change”. In an interview  with Marc Cohen from “Who’s News” in 1981, The Who’s late bass player talked about the question if Rabbit was actually a member of the group.  Entwistle said: “Yeah, I mean he’s not a participant in The Who, he’s a member of The Who but he’s on salary. Kenney is a 25% shareholder of The Who. Rabbit hasn’t got any shares of The Who, or any say in The Who.”

His teaming up with The Who created new opportunities. It was also possible now to play songs like “Drowned”, “Sister Disco” and Rabbit could let himself go on a solo in “Music Must Change”. In an interview  with Marc Cohen from “Who’s News” in 1981, The Who’s late bass player talked about the question if Rabbit was actually a member of the group.  Entwistle said: “Yeah, I mean he’s not a participant in The Who, he’s a member of The Who but he’s on salary. Kenney is a 25% shareholder of The Who. Rabbit hasn’t got any shares of The Who, or any say in The Who.”

That’s why I wanted to put Rabbit in the spotlights. So I got the idea of this interview. But what to ask him? Of course, as a Who fan I ’d like to know about a new Who album… And I am a musician myself,  with a small demo studio at home. I want to know what kind of keyboards he uses performing with The Who and in his own studio.  How to begin?  Well, everybody has to start sometime, so the first question was the simplest one.

When did you start playing the piano?

Rabbit age 7

Rabbit: “I started taking piano lessons when I was seven years old, in my neighbourhood called Northshore, in Houston Texas. I ’m 54 years old now, so you guys work it out how long I have been playing.”

Who first inspired you?

Rabbit: “Ray Charles, Floyd Cramer, Billy Preston, Jimmy Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis and a lot of Classical piano I listened to as well, I listened to all music, Country and Western, blues, gospel, rock and roll, soul music, classical, you name it, I have listened to it. ”

What kind of keyboards and equipment do you use on stage with The Who?

Rabbit:” One Hammond Organ B3, the original, fitted with a wah-wah and running through a Line 6 Guitar Pod, for extra bite and distortion, and a Line 6 delay moddeller pedal....... One Roland RD600 stage piano....... Two Kurzweil K2500 Sound Modules for pads, etc. ”

On your webpage you once  wrote  there is a keyboard in every single room in the house. So what kind of keyboards do you have at home and in your studio?

Rabbit:”Well, let's see. I've got a Kurzweil K2500 fully loaded keyboard, and fully loaded K2600 module, a Hammond XB2 organ keyboard, a Wurlitzer electric piano, a Hohner Clavinet, a Korg fully loaded Triton Studio  keyboard, loads of Emu sound modules, Roland sound modules, 10 various guitars, a Technics stage piano, a Roland RD700 piano,an Italian 'Real Piano' sampled keyboard, a Korg DW8000 synth, a Roland Harpsichord, etc, etc, etc. I love gear, so I get lots of it.

What kind of recording stuff do you use in your own studio at home?

Rabbit: “Protools Digi 002 running Protools LE, linked up to a Mac G4 Titanium Power book,an Atari running cubase 3 for midi purposes, 3 Adat machines and a 24trk Alesis hard disk recorder, Alesis Masterlink cd burner, a PC for cover artwork etc, a Soundcraft 24 channel Spirit Studio analogue desk, yamaha ns10m studios monitors, 3 pairs of JBL monitors, Line 6 pedals, Spider amp, and their new Variaxe guitar, plus 3 of their pods, and a bass pod,and other assortments of Line 6 gear, some Behringer outboard gear,compressors etc, some TLAUDIO compressors and outboard.Lexicon Reverb units, and other brands of processors from Yamaha, Alesis, Art, and Digitech. 2 reel to reel tape recorders...teac and fostex.  And too many goodies to list in this interview. “

What I do know about your own music is that it's very soft/ quiet/ relaxed music (I don't know how to say it otherwise).  In the past you played keyboard with groups like Free and now with The Who. It's not heavy metal but it is very loud. Can you explain the difference?

Rabbit: “No, some of it is soft and quiet, but the majority of the music I make is rock, blues, and very loud stuff. Because I have listened to Classical music in my past, I can rely on it when I want to quiet down a bit. Music by Free and The Who are my specialties. I love that kind of music best, but at times you need to quiet down, so I can go into my easy listening, classical mode to relax from the loud stuff, but I'm heavy into some loudness. Music is all emotion, and if a musician only felt one kind of emotion,  then he would be a very lonely musician. Versatility is a great thing. If you have that, then you can fit in and enjoy almost any kind of music that you fancy. That's the difference, soft music for 1 purpose....relaxing, and loud music for letting it all hang out. ”

In an interview with Pete Townshend in Rolling Stone magazine on August 8th 2002, Pete said that he had talk to you about a new Who album. He said: "Wouldn't it be great if we could produce a Who album that was like Who's Next?" You are friends, I think, so why wouldn ’t you make an album together. I mean you are both involved in technology. So Lifehouse would be great for a start.

Rabbit: “Well let's get this right. Pete and I are good friends, but he is also my Boss. Pete doesn't need to do an album with me, and I don't need to do one with him. Even Pete's own solo albums are not Who albums, and I don't write Who music either on my albums. He writes in his style and I in mine, and the 2 are totally different. So there will never be a time when we do a Pete and Rabbit album. Pipedreams!.....ha. ”

When you take a look at  Rabbit’s  CV,  it’s incredible. It’s something to be jealous about. Just to name a few: Andy Fairweather Low, Donovan, Jethro Tull, Eric Burdon, Joan Armetrading, Richard and Linda Thompson, Roger Waters, Bob Marley, Crawler, The Free, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and of course The Who. Well, it ’s not bad!

Last year you made a great CD as a tribute to John Entwistle. How come there was so little publicity about that in the music papers?  Even a lot of Who fans didn't know about it. Not everybody reads your webside or has access to the internet.

Rabbit: “This album is very important. All the proceeds go to the Teenage Cancer Trust,and this album should be promoted much more. There is press about it in many music type magazines and on many of their websites. I have a banner to advertise the cd, and pass it on to companies who agree to run it for us. Sound on Sound ran it on their website, as did many other magazines of that ilk. The only reason some Who fans don't know about it is because they haven't bothered to visit my website. My web man, Dave Van Staveren, has done a professional, fine job on building my website, and he should win an Oscar for his work. It's really a fabulous site, and the John Entwistle Tribute cd has it's very own section within my site, so the Who fans that haven't seen it, either don't care about the tribute, or don't think my site is relevant enough for them to take a look at it. Well, they are costing the Cancer Trust money, because this cd will be on sale via me and my site forever. It's not a one time thing. If you want it in 20 years, I will still have it for you. This project is also 'My' project and the Who aren't directly involved. I am their keyboard player, and this is my way of saying goodbye to John. We all have our own ways of doing this, and mine is this cd. It usually gets noticed most by word of mouth, so spread it around ok? Everything about me is on my website, and the albums I make, our Who tours, John's tribute cd, my diaries, everything. No stone is unturned on my website. ”

Through your website we can buy a lot of CD's concerning Indians.  What's your relationship with Indians?

Rabbit: “ I have always had an affinity with the Amercian Native way of Life, since I was a kid, and still do. So I make albums in tribute to them and their cause. Most people who have bought these cd's love them, and come back for more. They are like TV documentaries without the visuals. You listen to the music, and it conjures up your own images in your head, so you write the script, and I provide the music.

They see you as the 5th member of The Who. Why? Your contribution is considerable on stage.

Rabbit: “Who says that!? Find them and tell them to say that to me. I've never heard the Who camp call me the 5th member....ha. They know better than that, cause they know that I would be hard to handle if I was given that power by them..ha.ha.ha. Pete seems to like working with me by his side on stage yeah, and I love it. I work very close with him and follow his every musical move, to support him to the best of my abilities, and I think he likes that. ”

What every Who fan wants to know is, when will there be a new Who album?

Rabbit: “Only the Boss knows the answer to that. I wouldn’t even want to speculate on it. No comment.”

Is there anything else you want to say to the Dutch Who fans?

Rabbit: “Yeah!......how come you guys ain't checked out my website yet? Come on ya'll give us a helping hand. Get on my site and buy some cd's, John's tribute cd in particular, and help me raise money for the Charity.....oh yeah, hello to Juan Van Emmerloot and Walter. ”

Thank you so much for this interview, Rabbit!

Rabbit: “You are most welcome.”

For me it was the first time I did an interview. And I’m sure I forgot to ask so many things. But who knows, I might get a new chance to do it. At first you look up to him and say to yourself: Christ, he ’s the keyboard player of The Who! He played with Bob Marley and Andy Fairweather Low! Thank God he is a person just like each of us. So the next time, maybe I can ask him  better or other questions. For me as a musician, of course there are many more questions still to ask him. It will never stop.

He said to me “You are most welcome”, but I feel I had to say that the pleasure was all mine.

I want to thank Bert van Laar for his editorial help. And most of all Rabbit.

© John Rabbit Bundrick 2017 all rights reserved.

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