breaking news

Exclusive Interview With Tony Fox Sales (Tin Machine, Iggy Pop) And World Premiere Of His New Video For ‘Success’ featuring Clem Burke of Blondie

December 15th, 2022 | by Nick
Exclusive Interview With Tony Fox Sales (Tin Machine, Iggy Pop) And World Premiere Of His New Video For ‘Success’ featuring Clem Burke of Blondie
Interviews
0

Tony Fox Sales, along with his brother Hunt, were the relentless rhythm section behind Tin Machine. Years before, they were playing with Iggy Pop. But Tony’s musical journey began before that, going all the way back to his childhood. Born into show business, Tony had lived beyond his years at an early age. An accident, impressive collaborations and tours around the world became part of his life story. Tony is touring again in 2023 and besides giving us some background on that (along with an exclusive video below) he also traces back with great memory all the key aspects (as well as some lesser known ones) of Tin Machine and beyond.. 

Tell us about Tony and The Tigers, the first band you had with your brother, Hunt. 

Tony and The Tigers was a group my brother and I put together when I was 12 or 13 and he was 10 or 11. We lived in New York City. This was just after The Beatles and The Stones and other English bands had premiered in United States. We were are the famous music store in NYC called Manny’s music. Everybody got their equipment there, Jimi Hendrix got his guitars there. We were in there one day and we met a young guy called Jon Meredith. He became the guitar player in Tony and The Tigers. We started talking with him and he said he was looking to be in a band, so he came back to our home and we started playing and that was the beginning.

His dad was a famous actor, Burgess Meredith. They lived in upstate New York, near Woodstock. We went out there to his house and we were rehearsing. We met another friend of his named Jon Pousette Dart, who later on had a band called The Pousette Dart band, they did a few albums and had success. Pousette Dart was on bass, I was rhythm guitar, Jon was lead guitar and Hunt was on drums. We started playing parties and gigs at peoples’ homes. Then my father, Soupy Sales, was doing a show at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, a big auditorium off the boardwalk in Atlantic City. We opened for the original Animals and Soupy. It was quite an experience. This was our entrée to showbusiness. We shared the dressing room with a jumping horse.  A horse that jumped 40 feet from a platform into a huge pond.

We did a number of Television shows. Our first record was called When The Party’s Over and was produced by a guy called Artie Kornfeld,  the man who produced the Woodstock Festival. It was the first recording session I’d ever done. Artie and I still talk to this day. Such a great guy, leading us through our first session.

Who were the musicians and bands that shaped your playing and your enjoyment of music? 

I guess my favorite musicians were Miles Davis, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Charles Mingus, Keith Richards, I like his songwriting. Those are my main guys. There are a lot of rock players that I’ve enjoyed over the years. I like jazz players too, I listen to a lot of jazz, as well as some classical. Rythm n’ Blues is a big favorite of mine.

What attracted you to bass? 

We needed a bass guitar player in the house. Hunt was playing drums and we were trying to write songs. I played guitar and thought “well maybe I’ll change to bass, that way I can be a rythm section with my brother and we can find a guitar player to work with later” and that’s what we did.

Tony, you have a very distinctive voice, what is your approach to singing? 

I fill my lungs full of air! (laughs). My approach is, I like vocalists. I like jazz vocalists. I like Sarah Vaughan, I like Sinatra. I like the way these people phrase their lyrics. That’s sort of my approach. I like balladeers, that’s why I changed a couple of songs, leaning towards a ballad rather than leaning towards a rock song. I used to sing House of the Rising Sun the same way! I sing songs differently every time I sing them. I like that kind of freedom.

You had an accident that resulted in a coma. What was it like trying to get back to playing music when you awoke? 

I was in a coma for about a month and a half. Some people tell me I never came out of it (laughs) but when I came out of the coma I wasn’t playing guitar right away, I was lying in a hopsital bed for a while. They were taking care of me, I was in Los Angeles. My wife at the time brought a guitar to the hospital room to see if in fact I had forgotten how to play. I picked it up and I played right away. I felt very fortunate. What’s interesting to me is that I was a bit terrifed; the day that she took me home I had trouble turning on a light switch, I had trouble picking up a glass with both hands. My visual connection with my motor skills was a bit shaken, but that came back. But I could play guitar right away, that was sort of intrinsic, which I’m grateful for. It would have been horrible to not be able to play music, to not remember music.

It probably helped that I was taken care of in the hospital. They were very supportive of my overcoming the difficulties that I had. I was knocked out into another world. I came out and I could walk, speak, I didn’t have too much trouble. Many people don’t come out of a coma, that alone was a miracle for me. The fact I had all my extremities and I could walk was good. English didn’t become my second language!

What made you pick Vigier as your go-to bass guitar? 

A guy came to my home in Los Angeles one day. He said “I got this bass, this french bass called Vigier, let me show it to you.” I said gee, It’s a fantastic instrument. They’re pretty much hand-made and hand-painted. The pickups are made by the company alone. It sounded great and it looked great. It was a wooden body with a graphite neck through it, so the sustain was forever. I just loved it and said yes, I’d like to use it. He said “Well, if you’d like to endorse the bass we’d like to sign you up for it.” I said sign me up. So I started using them, and I still use them. I’ll be using one when I get to England and Japan on this coming tour. I just re-signed with them to endorse it so they gave me a really nice bass I’ll be using. Patrice Vigier and his wife are wonderful people.

What was it like for you meeting Bowie for the first time, were you a fan of his music at that point? 

Yes, of course. I was a big fan of David’s. I was fortunate enough to get to work for David. I was fortunate to befriend him, we were friends for 40 years. He was a great guy. Very talented, very intelligent and he really helped everybody that worked with him.

I met David when I was working for a guy called Todd Rundgren. I was in NYC in a club called Max’s Kansas City. I was sitting back at one of the booths and Bowie walked in and he sat down at the big table I was at, we met at that table. I was thrilled to meet him. I’d been a big fan of his songwriting and his performing. I had seen Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, which really knocked me out.

By the time you met Bowie you had already met a fair share of famous people, hadn’t you? 

I had met a lot of entertainment people in my life from the time I was a kid, because my dad was a big entertainer in America. I used to drink with Frank Sinatra! It’s great to meet someone that you admire and respect personally.

When I met Jimmy Hendrix I felt like that. I went to one of his recording sessions, House Burning Down in NYC. The night we met Todd Rundgren, Hunt and I jammed with him for about 20 minutes at a club called Steve Paul’s “The Scene.” The audience were a couple of guys from Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin was there, Hendrix was there, Van Morrison was in attendance too. Those were the kind of people that were there all the time. At the time we were like 15 or 16. Then we moved from New York to Los Angeles. Three weeks later we got a call from Todd saying he was in LA and he wanted to do his first solo album, Runt. We jumped right on board, went into the studio and cut the album in like two weeks.

What was it like touring with Iggy Pop, accompanied by Bowie on keyboards? 

It was great touring with those guys. But it’s rough being on the road. The best two hours of the entire day are the two hours when you’re on stage, with anybody. The other twenty two hours are surrounded with getting it together, figuring things out. There was a lot of time in the bus with all of us together, a lot of time traveling, doing interviews. I tell you what, with Tin Machine we did hundreds of interviews, we also made videos and gigs. There weren’t many seconds available.

Above, David Bowie performing on The Idiot World Tour with Iggy Pop at the Tower Theatre. Philadelphia, by Scott Weiner.

Were you surprised by Bowie’s invitation to play again after several years? And from your perspective, were you eager to work with him regardless of the terms, or were you very clear about what kind of music you wanted to play or not, or the kind of role you wanted to have in the band? 

We always had, the three of us (Bowie, Tony and Hunt) an idea of where we were going musically. Since soundchecks with Iggy Pop, before Tin Machine, we were throwing pieces of music around. Some of the pieces actually were included on Tin Machine. We shared a love of music, we shared a love of jazz, David loved jazz. More of an improvisational approach, which is what Tin Machine actually was, including Reeves Gabrels.

When David called, we had already worked together. He said Iggy had played him his Kill City tapes and David had asked Iggy “Who are those two black guys singing background vocals?” and Iggy said “That’s not black guys that’s the Sales Brothers!” Bowie said “Wait a minute, those guys are bass player and drummer right? Let’s call them up.”

So he called us and said “come on over, let’s do a record.”

As far as the terms were, yes there were specific terms that were offered and the ones that were accepted were the ones that we stuck to.

What recollections do you have of the recording of the first Tin Machine album? 

Some of it was based on jams. What happened was that I hadn’t seen David in a few years. I ran into him at the wrap-up party for the Glass Spider tour. Somebody told me “Hey, come down to see David, he’s gonna be there today at the party.” I thought nah, I don’t wanna go there. I was driving home but I thought no…go back and say hi to him. I knew where it was, it was near Hollywood and Vine. I found the place, I parked. It was late at night. Huge noise going on. I went in and found like 200 people dancing, going crazy. I didn’t see David right away. I looked over on the corner and saw him sitting by himself, on the floor. I went over and said “you always hang out like this?” he laughed and said “Tony! I was just thinking about you. I want you to meet this guitar player I’ve been working with. His name is Reeves. I want you and Hunt to go to Switzerland with me. You guys wanna do it?”

I said let’s do it. I’ll call the drummer. He said “right, call the drummer.” The three of us got together in Los Angeles, to throw some ideas around for a couple of days at a rehearsal studio in North Hollywood. Then we went to Switzerland. We showed up at the Montreaux studio. The same one Frank Zappa had burned down. The one Smoke on the water is about. They had taken all the Casino equipment out, all of the machines out of the main room. It was huge, like an airplane hanger. They set the drums up in the middle and that’s how we got that big sound, because of that room. That first Tin Machine album…monstrous sound on it.

It’s funny, we had to have cameras downstairs ´cause the control room was out of sight of the main room. So we were communicating by video. That was the experience with that album. Montreaux is beautiful, the studio was right on the lake Geneva. Right on the lake, really. We must have recorded six, seven hours a day…we cut the album in about three weeks I think. We wrote and recorded 36 songs.

Those were truly prolific sessions. Do you recall what songs didn’t make it to the record? 

I do remember them. There’s a whole album that has not been heard. I don’t know if it will be heard. That’s up to David’s Estate if they want it to be released. There’s some good songs.

So you recorded enough material for actually putting together a third Tin Machine album?  

Yeah. There aren’t even titles on some of the songs, but they are recorded with vocals, lyrics, with everything else. The only thing is that some of the songs are untitled.

One of those tracks is You’ve Been Around, isn’t it? That song was intended to be on the record. 

Right. That was one of the tracks that we did. I have it somewhere, that recording has not been released. It’s David in his best voice. He was in his early 40s at that time, singing his ass off, it was great.

There’s also a cover of Waiting For The Man, right?  

Yeah. We did a lot of stuff live that may have been recorded on video. We did some Muddy Waters too.

You guys also did All Tomorrow’s Parties, correct? 

I know we did do that, we cut a recording of that, but I forget if we recorded it out of rehearsal or at a soundcheck, but we didn’t do it live.

Do you recall a song that was titled Now? Bowie later used it for the 1. Outside album. Did you guys cut a studio version of that track? 

My remembrance is that we actually started to write that in the studio in Australia, at EMI studios in Australia, while we were recording there. Now, Tomorrow, Yesterday was the title.

It was heavily influenced by a guitar line from Kevin Armstrong, wasn’t it? 

Yeah, I believe so.

Do you have recollections of the music videos you guys shot for Tin Machine? 

That first Tin Machine video was recorded in Downtow Los Angeles. Julian Temple was the director on that. We recorded it at a club called The Ritz. Where all those people were being thrown off the stage and going nuts. It was a wild shoot, a lot of fun.

What were you up to while Bowie was touring Sound + Vision

I went to Los Angeles and I think I put a band together with Harry Dean Stanton, Slim Jim Phantom and Scott Baxter. We called it The Cheap Dates. Harry Dean was great. We did a lot of Jimmie Rodgers songs and it was really good. We recorded that stuff and put it out on CD.

 

Above, Bowie with Harry Dean Stanton. Little Richard & Tony.

What do you recall about recording Tin Machine II? What was different compared to the first album? 

It was the same approach. We all wrote together. The wild thing about Tin Machine is that we were a garage band with a budget. We could record anywhere we wanted to. The first album was recorded in Australia, New York and Los Angeles. The second album was recorded in Bahamas and Los Angeles. I think some of it may have been mixed in Nashville too. It was a great experience being in the Bahamas. To be able to be that relaxed. We recorded in a studio called Compass Point. It was right across the street from the ocean. We’d take a break and I’d go jump in the ocean, snorkeling. I jumped down and there were three stingrays swimming right by me. It was just wild. I looked down and there were a bunch of lobsters. I thought “how did I get here?” and then went back to the studio, it was fun.

Above, Tin Machine photographed by Sally Hershberger.

Does Tin Machine II have as much unreleased material as the first record? 

I don’t think so. We pretty much cut the songs. We went in and did the songs a couple of times and that was it, we went for first takes a lot of the times. That’s where the magic is, if you start thinking about things too much it completely wipes you out. If you overthink everything including your life, it’s not too much fun anymore. I remember in the first album David would go in and do his vocals and he’d say “listen, I’d like to re-write…” and we said no, that’s it man. That’s how you wrote it, that’s the way it is. We don’t want 14 vocal takes. So he might have sung a song twice, three times at the very most. It was usually the first take with him. We’d say hey, let’s keep it the way it is on first take, even with the mistakes. There were mistakes on a lot of the stuff and we liked that.

What recollection do you have of the rehearsals in Dublin? 

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman came to see us while we were rehearsing. It’s funny ’cause Tom Cruise was like ” Hey. You guys wanna do skydiving? C´mon, it will be great.” I said I’m not gonna jump out of a plane with you, good luck.

Above, Tin Machine in Dublin. Photographed by Brian Aris.

I’m glad you pointed that out because that anecdote is mentioned in the book Bowie Memories by Brian Aris. He documented the rehearsals and mentioned Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise showed up. But apparently there are no photos anywhere. Do you recall if pictures were taken? 

No, nobody took pictures. We were rehearsing and they just showed up. They were actually shooting a movie in Ireland, they were off that day and they came by because they wanted to meet Bowie. They were nice people, but I wasn’t going to jump out of a plane.

Above, Tin Machine during rehearsals in Dublin. Photographed by Brian Aris.

The It’s My Life Tour was quite extensive. What was one of your favorite places that you got to know during that time? 

I think I really appreciated visiting Italy the most with Tin Machine. I had family in Italy. The mother of my children, Taryn Power (who unfortunately died in 2020) had been brought up in Italy. She spoke seven languages fluently. I had my kids on the tour with me too. Her sister Romina Power and her ex brother in-law Al Bano were very big singers in Italy. I had a chance during a break with Tin Machine to play bass with their band in Italy. I got to play in big, beautiful opera houses. That stood out big time for me.

While in Ireland, we went over to one of the Guiness family residences there and it was a gorgeous area. Ron Wood from The Rolling Stones went over with us. It was beautiful. Ireland is like an oil painting of the countryside.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel and see the world. Things that I saw in pictures I then saw up-close. I stood in front of The Mona Lisa. She didn’t say a word.

Above, Tin Machine visits Italy. Photographed by Brian Aris.

I’ve read that when you guys went out with David he was like a tour guide, telling you things about art and architecture right? 

Yeah, we would visit museums in most cities we went to. David certainly knew his fair share as far as I was concerned. He’d explain different art to us, the procedures, who painted it, who sculpted it, where it was from…it was fascinating. It was a great education, very interesting.

Why did you pick Go Now as a cover you wanted to perform during the It’s My Life tour? 

I just liked that song. I always liked Denny Laine’s version with The Moody Blues, and David liked it too so we thought maybe we should just do that. David said “you should just do that, you can sing the hell out of it, you ought to just do it.” It was sudden.

What was it like for you to reach Japan with Tin Machine? Did you feel that the reception there was different to the rest of the world? 

I’ve been to Japan a few times. I love visiting there. I look forward to taking the Lust For Life Tour there.

The thing about Japan is that they listen to what you do. They really pay attention to what they’re buying. They are very appreciative of the acts that play for them there. They’re not part of the show, they’re not crazy, loud, running around, throwing things and going nuts like in the United States. They’re not trying to burn down the theater while you’re playing. But after you finish, that’s when their enthusiasm is wild. That’s what I really like, that they respect the artist and what they are doing.

The kind of stuff that we were doing with Tin Machine, some of it was very improvisational. Not two shows were the same. They were really listening and respecting that, and we really appreciated that.

Japan is a beautiful country. We were in Japan in the winter time, so we played almost the entire country up and down. We went to the ice festival in Sapporo when we played there. They had a life-size lighthouse made out of ice…They had the Lincoln memorial (laughs). There was tons of stuff to see, it was fun.

By the time the tour was over were you ready to move on creatively or were you eager to make another Tin Machine record? 

We had plans to do another Tin Machine record and to tour again, but life got in the way.

Above, Bowie with Tony.

What are your thoughts on the live album, Tin Machine Live: Oy, Vey

When we were in Ireland we ran into The Edge and Bono and we went over to The Edge’s house to party. They said “You know, our new album is called Achtung Baby” David and I looked at each other and he went “Oy, Vey Baby!”

Do you recall if there were plans for a follow-up? Something peculiar about that album is that it’s very short. Is it true there were plans to release a second live album to complete the set?* 

I actually don’t remember that being talked about. There are eight tracks but they’re long tracks!

*Editor’s note: According to Reeves Gabrels, plans to release a second live album titled Use Your Wallet were shelved after Oy, Vey failed to chart.

Can you shed some light on the long-awaited Tin Machine box set? It was meant to come out a few years ago and has been on hold ever since.
That’s been postponed by David’s Estate. I don’t know why they’ve postponed it. I have no part of that. Sure, I’d like it to come out, I’d like everybody to hear that stuff, it’s great. But at the moment, that’s not happening.

Above, Bowie & Tony.

There’s a photo of you and David backstage at a Reality Tour concert, could be 2003 or 2004. Can you tell us what was the show you caught and what it was like to see Bowie again after more than a decade? 

That was In the dressing room at the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles. He didn’t know I was gonna be there, I just showed up. And he went “Tin Machine!” with his fist up. There were a lot of people backstage. David walked in and we just talked for a moment. I just went there to say hi and tell him that I enjoyed the show, like you would with any friend. Then I went on my merry way.

Above, Backstage during A Reality Tour.

Please tell us about your current project with Clem Burke. How did you put together this band and what inspired you to go out on the road again? 

I got a phone call from Tom Wilcox from counterculture in England. He said “It’s the 45th anniversary of the Lust For Life album that you did with Bowie, Iggy and your brother Hunt in Berlin. Would you be interested in doing a tour to support the release of that album 45 years ago?” I said sure that sounds great! He said Clem Burke wanted to do the tour. We also got Kevin Armstrong on guitar. Florence Sabeva, Katie Puckrik and Luis Correia. Some of the folks, I haven’t met them personally! I look forward to meeting them face to face. I’m excited about it, I think it’s gonna be fun. Clem and I went in the studio and we did a version of “Success.” He and I worked together in the past, years ago with Nigel Harrison playing bass, Steve Jones from The Pistols and myself on guitar, with Clem on drums. Clem and I get along very well. Hunt was not available to do the tour so he had to pass on it. But I’m glad Clem is filling in for him. I’m the only guy that’s actually on the original album. I’m the only one playing those songs. I like that album very much, I always liked it. We cut that album at Hansa Studios by the wall, at the time. The Berlin wall which isn’t there any longer. It should still be there, it keeps the assholes out! (laughs). It was very satisfying work artistically for me. It was quite an experience working with David Bowie. It was the first time I sang with David in a recording.

(Interview continues further down)

–PRESS RELEASE–

Tony Fox Sales, the legendary bass player from Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life album and David Bowie’s TinMachine is releasing a brand-new version of ‘Success’ from Lust For Life. The single is released ahead of a tour to mark forty-five years since the release of the classic album. The all-star line-up on the single features Tony Fox Sales alongside Blondie drummer, Clem Burke; vocalist, broadcaster and Pet Shop Boys dancer, Katie Puckrik; Iggy Pop and David Bowie guitarist, Kevin Armstrong; guitarist, Luis Correia, who’s toured internationally with Earl Slick; and classical pianist, composer, and touring member of Heaven 17, Florence Sabeva. Success is released on December 16th.

The same line-up will be touring next year, with a full UK tour alongside dates in Ireland and Japan. On the tour, the band will perform the Lust For Life album in full, as well as revisiting songs from across the individual band members’ careers with legendary artists such as Blondie and David Bowie.

Watch the World Premiere of the Video for Success below..

 

When was the last time that you played music with Hunt? 

The last time I worked with Hunt was with Tin Machine. 30 years ago. I mean, we have played music together but not in a professional setting you know, just in a personal setting.

What music do you enjoy listening to nowadays? Which bands or artists do you find exciting? 

I don’t listen to many rock bands. I listen to jazz, that’s my favorite. Also Rhythm n’ Blues is stuff I listen to a lot. I don’t listen to the radio, it has a lot of crap. I have a pretty extensive music collection so I listen to my CDs that I have. I don’t go out to concerts either. First of all it’s too dangerous and there aren’t many places that have good music playing. In Los Angeles the clubs are pay to play and the bands are bringing their own audience. So they sort of messed it up for struggling musicians that are coming up. I feel bad for them, it’s a rough situation. Coupled with the Covid nonsense, that didn’t help any business, certainly not music.

What was your reaction when you heard of Bowie’s passing in 2016? 

I was devastated. He was a friend of mine for forty years, I loved him. It was a real loss, a real loss to everybody. Personally it was the loss of a dear friend. I felt very bad for Iman and his child. We got to go on, same place we all go. He’s very much missed.

Looking forward to next years tour, Tony adds: “I’m very excited to get back on the road. I haven’t been on the road since I last toured with David Bowie and Tin Machine in 1991, but I’ve been a professional musician since I was twelve years old and I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The full 2023 tour dates are as follows:

Mon 20 Feb – Billboard Live, Osaka, Japan

Thur 23 Feb – Billboard Live, Tokyo, Japan

Tue 28 Feb – Exchange, Bristol, UK

Wed 1 March – The 100 Club, London, UK

Thur 2 March – The Cavern, Liverpool, UK

Fri 3 March – Social, Hull, UK

Sat 4 March – Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, UK

Sun 5 March – The Vodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, UK

Mon 6 March – Arts Centre, Norwich, UK

Wed 8 March – Whelan’s, Dublin, Ireland

Thur 9 March – Arts Centre, Colchester, UK

Fri 10 March – The Piper, St Leonards, UK

Sat 11 March – The Lexington, London, UK

Sun 12 March – The Lexington, London, UK

All tickets available via: https://tonyfoxsalestour.com/

Competition:

We have two pairs of tickets to be won, to a venue of your choice*

For your chance to win a pair, simply answer the following question,

What was Tin Machine’s first UK single?

Answers by email to competitions@davidbowienews.com

The competition is open worldwide to everyone over 18.

The prize does not include travel or accommodation.

The 2 winners will be notified by email shortly after the competition ends at midnight on Friday 23rd December, they can then specify their choice of venue. (*excluding Trades Club or 100 Club).

Good luck!

Many thanks to Tony.

Interview by Francisco Beristain & Nick Vernon exclusively for David Bowie News. © 2022.

Edited by Nick Vernon.

 

 

 

Comments are closed.

David Bowie News | Celebrating the Genius of David Bowie