NATIONAL ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: SRO Catches Up With Original Cheap Trick Drummer Bun E. Carlos

Cheap Trick’s longtime drummer, Bun E. Carlos, isn’t quite sure what the future holds, after it was announced by the band in 2010 that he was being replaced in Cheap Trick by guitarist Rick Nielson’s son, Daxx. However, Bun E. is still holding out hope that he will one day, be able to rejoin one of America’s most enduring and iconic bands, for which he is an original member. Standing Room Only recently caught up with Mr. Carlos to talk about his career... and coffee?


Interview by Joe Milliken * Photo with Ringo Starr courtesy of Ludwig Drums

Standing Room Only: First things first, "Brad M. Carlson," how did the name Bun E. Carlos come about? There must be a story behind it...
Bun E. Carlos: When I was in pre school I really liked Paul Bunyan. That's the first name. When Rick (Nielson), Tom (Peterson) and myself first got together, it seemed like one "son" too many. That's the last name. My sister, Jan, used to call me "Benezuela" and that's the middle initial.

SRO: Who were your musical influences growing up? What music/bands did you dig?
BEC: I'm (in the) class of 1969. My favorite bands were the Beatles, Rolling Stones and MC5... then The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Cream.

SRO: You joined Rick Nielson and Tom Peterson in the band Fuse before Cheap Trick was formed. How did the connection come about?
BEC: I knew both Rick and Tom in school, and came on board when I subbed for a missing Fuse drummer.

SRO: Why did original Cheap Trick singer Randy “Xeno” Hogan leave the band and how did Robin Zander come about joining the group?
BEC: Robin and I were in a band a couple years before Cheap Trick. When Rick and I started the band in June of 1973, we intended to get Robin as our vocalist. However, he was unavailable for two more summers. I knew Xeno from gigging around town, so we hired him. Then, in September of 74’, Xeno left to join Straight Up, a Minnesota band featuring the former drummer for The Litter... a band that paid better than we did! Robin, who was now available, then joined Cheap Trick.

SRO: Cheap Trick's self-titled debut was produced by the infamous Jack Douglas, before Tom Werman took over the controls for the In Color, Heaven Tonight and Dream Police albums. Why did the change in producer come about?
BEC: For whatever reason, our first album didn't get a lot of radio airplay. CBS Records thought Tom Werman's production would somehow get our music on the radio.

SRO: Although Cheap Trick did not have any single chart in America until "Surrender" in 1978, "Ello Kiddies," “I Want You To Want Me" and "Clock Strikes Ten" all charted in Japan, previously. Any thoughts on why the band garnered such success overseas before America?
BEC: We were told that Japanese kids liked our "iconic American looks and characters," as well as our "American rock" sound and songs.

SRO: As with the singles, none of Cheap Trick's first three albums charted in America, until Cheap Trick At Budokan exploded onto the scene in 1979 - going triple platinum within months. Might you have an explanation as to why it took a “live” album for the American masses to finally realize the greatness of this now legendary band?
BEC: I think the live album sounded much more like us than our studio albums and our live versions, or arrangements, of songs like "I Want You To Want Me,” "Come On Come On" and "Surrender" went over better than the studio versions... which we had considered rather tame.

SRO: Dream Police is this interviewer's personal favorite Cheap Trick release, as I feel it revealed the band at its most diverse. What might your thoughts be on the recording of this album... or might you have a cool in-studio memory or story of the Dream Police recording sessions?
BEC: When we finished cutting the basic track of "Need Your Love," I remember we all ran into the studio lounge to watch the new KISS movie on network television. Also, the drum set I played on the album was the same set used on Toto's first album by their drummer Jeff Porcaro. I told an interviewer about the drum set and he subsequently wrote that Toto's drummer played on the Dream Police album... that story went around for years!

SRO: Fast-forward to the present. There are rumors and/or questions as to why Rick Nielson's son, Daxx, was brought in as Cheap Trick's touring drummer. What would you like to say about this, as well as your current status with the band? (Editor's note: Can't blame a guy for asking)
BEC: Due to our lawyer’s wishes, I can't comment on that at this time.

SRO: Fair enough. While researching for this interview, I discovered that you offer a line of gourmet, Italian-style coffee! How in the world did this venture come about and what makes your brand of coffee unique? (Additionally, I will be placing my order soon!)
BEC: A friend of mine from the twin cities (who owned a couple coffee shops back in the day) urged me to have my own brand of coffee. If you Google Bun E Blend you'll find a link to a hilarious YouTube video regarding the fine brew. Mmmmm coffee!

SRO: I will leave you with this... tell me about your encounters with meeting a Beatle!
BEC: In 1980, I worked with John Lennon on the song "I'm Losing You," which was released in 1998 on the John Lennon Anthology collection. Then, in 2010, I met Ringo Starr shortly after his 70th birthday. It was at an All-Stars gig in Hammond, Indiana. I brought him a birthday present, a Ludwig snare drum made four weeks after he was born in 1940. That's the drum in the photo. Two of the coolest days of my career!