It’s rare that I get the opportunity to talk to a living legend and it’s even rarer when I get that opportunity twice. Captain Beyond’s Bobby Caldwell is the only surviving/active member and in 2017 it was announced under the radar that Captain Beyond would be making a return to the road. With this huge news, I had to reach out to Bobby and see if he’d be willing to talk to me. To my surprise, he was and I couldn’t wait.
Bobby, as always, was a great guy to talk to. His positivity and humor is absolutely contagious and hearing him so excited to talk about the return of Captain Beyond was a real treat. We talked about why Rod Evans wasn’t interested in a reunion, the latest collection of demos and unreleased tracks called Lost and Found, and we talked about why now was the perfect time for Captain Beyond. This was another great one with Mr. Caldwell and I hope you all will dig on this one.
Bobby, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today! This is interview #2 for us. I feel like I should’ve bought you flowers or something?
<laughs> Hey, Don. It’s great to talk with you again.
The last time we talked was back in 2015 and you were telling me about a planned Captain Beyond re-emergence. Here we are in 2017 and Captain Beyond is NOW! What made this the right time to do this?
Well, the last couple of years I have gotten so much interest from people wanting to hear that music played. I’ve toyed with the idea trying to figure out if I could find the right people. It was really about finding the right people and really, the people wanting to hear Captain Beyond’s music played live.
What were the criteria that had to be met by these guys to be considered to be part of Captain Beyond?
They actually had to be nice people, to begin with, because you can’t do this business with people that you don’t like or that don’t like you. They also have to be able to not just play but to excel at playing. Furthermore, they have to have few, if any, vices. It’s a bit more daunting than I make it sound because you really have to dig hard to find these kinds of people.
Bobby, what can you tell me about this new line-up of Captain Beyond?
The bass player is Jeff Artabasy who played with Rhino (deceased Captain Beyond guitarist) and I in Captain Beyond previously. Jamie Holka, a guitarist out of western New York, is playing with us, the singer is a guy named Simon Lind who is English, and the other guitar player, Don Bonzi, is someone who actually played with Rhino the last couple of years.
How hard, if at all, was it to gel with these guys to make it natural as opposed to just making it sound like a bunch of guys doing Captain Beyond covers?
That’s a very good question, Don. The thing is, one must establish from the beginning that you’re not looking for people to just copy something. You have to have people who identify with it and it’s something that they actually feel in their souls so to speak. That’s pretty much how that works but again, Don, no matter how one tries, you never know how it’s going to be. You do the best you can, you go out there and do it, and you hope that everyone likes it.
I’m sure there are a lot of folks who are super critical about the fact that you’re touring with a whole new Captain Beyond lineup. What would you say to those people to convince them that this is a good thing?
I would say nothing. It’s not my job to convince anybody of anything. If they don’t like it, don’t listen to it. It’s pretty simple. Honestly, I haven’t seen that many cynical people out there. They’re so happy to hear it and see it happening.
The other big question that is being asked is “Where is Rod Evans?”
He’s under “R” in the telephone directory [laughs].
Has Rod shown any interest at all in participating in even a show or two?
Not in the slightest. Rod is retired from the music business and he’s just not into it anymore. I’d love to have Rod in the band. He’s an immensely talented guy but you can’t force somebody to something that they have no interest in doing.
In my mind, this is a tour that should’ve been made a bigger deal than it was. Why keep this thing so far below the radar?
Yes. It doesn’t serve any purpose to make a big deal about something like this. It’s far better to let the whole movement of it sort of unfold in front of people as it’s going. In this day and age, the music business has changed and not necessarily for the better. What was once quite easy if you wanted to accomplish something may take a bit more time to get it together now. The people that once ran the music industry have retired, quit, or passed on. A lot of those people that you could just pick up the phone and call aren’t around anymore. You’re always trying to play the best hand you can with the cards you’re dealt.
I just remember seeing a notification from the Captain Beyond page on Facebook that said, “Captain Beyond is Now!” I was like, “I guess this is happening!”
[laughs] As I said when we first talked, it’s been all about finding the right people. That’s huge. It’s like saying, “I need a babysitter for my two kids” and having lots of people interested in doing it. That doesn’t mean you’re interested in them so you get a lot of people that responded. This isn’t the first group of people that I tried out for this gig. There were a lot of people interested in this but it just takes time to make it right. There’s a serendipity to it. When the time is right, it all happens. It’s all moving forward now and there are a lot of great people involved and everyone seems to be getting more and more excited about it.
There are a good number of high profile musicians out there that have pledged their allegiance to Captain Beyond. Did you ever entertain the idea of putting together something with a group of more famous musicians?
Actually, Don, it wasn’t even really publically known. I could have used every means possible to announce this whole thing but I didn’t do that for a lot of reasons. It was really not something a lot of people knew was going on.
Looking toward the future, do you ever think you’ll work with bigger name artists or do you like keeping Captain Beyond this contained entity?
Captain Beyond was an insular type of band. We didn’t co-mingle with very many people. Not because we thought we were special but just because we were the kind of people that would be more creative if we just tried to perfect what it was we were trying to perfect. That was trying to create something musical first that was not predictable when you listened to it. I mean, I know a few people in the business and if they said they’d really like to play with Captain Beyond I don’t know how that would be as a full-time thing. If they just wanted to come in and sit in for a song or so that would be fine.
Are you guys doing anything to capture and archive any of these live performances?
I think most of its being recorded whether we want it or not [laughs].
What do you think about all these people who film the full shows on their phones?
I think it’s kind of corny actually. I’m not really a big fan of it but I’m also not really against it. I mean, if you really want to go see it, go see it. To televise every freaking performance I just don’t think is that cool. Besides, it doesn’t do us any justice anyway. You really have to be there in person. I guess it’s just the day and age [laughs]. I don’t know why people are so into doing this. It’s boring to me. If I was going to see somebody, I would want to watch and enjoy the show but that’s just me.
This year a collection of Captain Beyond rarities surfaced including the stellar song “Uranus Highway.” Are there any more unreleased gems from those sessions lying around that may see the light of day?
It’s possible. I’ve got enough stuff around there [laughs]. The real title is “Uranus Expressway” by the way [laughs]. It’s actually a misprint on the album cover and it wasn’t corrected in time for the release. We’ll see if it’s corrected on the next round. All of those demos, not “Uranus Expressway” or “Icarus”, was exactly what we played for the various people in LA when we were shopping it around. These are the actual demos. That “I Can’t Feel Nothin’” segment is what Rhino, Lee, and I played for Gregg and Duane Allman over at the Hyatt House one night when they were in town. Duane lost his mind and called Phil (Walden; Capricorn Records) telling him to sign us.
What kind of emotions, if any, were brought back to you while sifting through these demos?
Well, of course, there’s a certain amount of reviewing it from a musical point of view. Some of that stuff was not finished. “Uranus Expressway” and “Icarus” were just demos. My first thought was, “Is it in fact good enough with a bit of modern day technology to put out there.” After Live at Arlington came out a few years ago, the sound on that one was not very good but it sells a good bit. I thought the sound on Lost and Found was infinitely better so I figured that if I thought it was that much better, it’ll probably be ok. Also, with Rod singing on these two songs that nobody had ever heard before, I figured a lot of people would be interested in this. So far nobody’s complained about it [laughs].
What songs can we expect to hear from Captain Beyond on this tour?
Well, we’re doing some Village People tunes. I’m just kidding [laughs]. We’re doing some new stuff that you will not have heard. We’re doing a pretty wide cross section of stuff. We’re doing “Raging River of Fear” and “Mesmerization Eclipse”, “Frozen” parts of “I Can’t Feel Nothin’”, “Distant Sun.” The show is about an hour and a half long.
What songs have you, yourself, been excited to play again after all these years?
Well, “Dancing Madly Backwards” seems to be a cult classic of sorts so lots of people want to hear that one. It’s like a hit without being a hit [laughs]. I think all of them hit home but you find yourself more concerned with it being a great experience for the people. So far it has been.
I am so excited to see you guys here in Atlanta at the Earl.
I am too. Captain Beyond used to be huge in Atlanta. Every band, I don’t care who it is, there are certain places where they just seem to be bigger there than any place else. Captain Beyond had several places in the US where were really popular and Atlanta was one of them. I’m hoping for a good diverse crowd. When we played in Maryland, the age range of the audience was 16 – 60 [laughs]. I’m hoping for something like that in Atlanta and that everyone will come out and have a great time.
Bobby, what can I expect from seeing Captain Beyond for the first time?
Don, honestly, you’re coming to hear the music played and you’re going to hear it played and I think you’re going to really enjoy yourself. That’s really all I can say.
Bobby, as always, it was a great time talking with you and an honor. I’m so looking forward to seeing you here in Atlanta soon!
Don, thank you so much. You’re a real delight and a pleasure to talk to. I always enjoy it and I look forward to meeting you in Atlanta. Cheers, my friend.