Golden Earring, formed in 1961 and famous for their big hits ‘Radar Love, ‘When the Lady Smiles’ and ‘Twilight Zone’, are still kicking it as one of the longest-running touring bands. They are going strong with their new album ‘Tits ‘n Ass’ out this month. We spoke with the hilariously entertaining front-man Barry Hay.
Barry Hay, the infamous Golden Earring frontman, just happened to be at a party for a friend’s CD release party on a boat somewhere off the coast of Holland at the time of our interview. We spoke with him about his involvement with new Pinterest-style site 20blinks.com, recording, touring, tattoos, and basking in the Curacao sun.
PPLA: Hello, how are you today?
BARRY: Hello, I’ll see if I can find a quiet place here. I’m on a boat. A real good friend of mine is releasing her new CD. There’s a lot of people here and a lot of cameras, and they attack me and I’m supposed to… you know. So that’s what I’m going to be doing in about fifteen minutes, so fire away!
PPLA: I understand you’re involved with this website 20blinks.com, could you tell me a bit about the site and how you got involved?
BARRY: Well basically it was an idea of my wife’s; my wife had an idea to sort of make your own treasure chest with all your dearest memories- the favorite films, the best books you ever read, and everything. So when you die, this thing can be opened. It’s virtual; it’s like you can see everything that was your life, that sort of a thing. We have a neighbor, we live in Curacao in the Caribbean, and the neighbor is a guy who just sold something for libraries which is also on the Internet. He got really interested and said, ‘well why not broaden the idea not specifically to when you’re dead, why not do it while you’re alive so people can exchange their ideas on art and on culture basically?’ And so, I invested something in it. Now the way it is happening now is really great, they’ve got this new application for iPhone and Android camera phones. You can actually take a photograph of something…you’ll be at a museum or something where you can photograph, or a nude beach, or I don’t know where (laughs) but I think it’s great! You can take a picture with this application and it immediately goes into your library which to me is really interesting. I can see that for artists especially for painters, designers, it’s an interesting platform because you browse through it and it’s really an eye opener. To me it’s really surprising the way it’s developed so far.
PPLA: How long has the site been around?
BARRY: I think the site is about a year and a half or something, two years old now. At the beginning, there were these difficulties. The original 20blinks started out with twenty windows and within the twenty windows you could do twenty preferences, but this is all past now. You can do as much as you want…you can do anything you want now. In the beginning, I was busy working on music, you know commercials and that sort of the thing. So before, you would pick stuff, put it on the site, and then also on the Internet using YouTube or what have you. But it was extremely difficult. You had to click on this and click on that and bring it in like so…this has all changed now! You can just transport it into the thing! I really was surprised because I was working on a project for Golden Earring and I didn’t really have time to get busy with it then. Now when I look at it, it’s really really progressed and it looks wonderful. And so does my wife! (laughs). The way it is now, you can see when you click on 20blinks what is actually going on with new people that are contributing. You can click on somebody, it could be somebody in Japan or something, you click on the thing and you get to know this guy in a way. You get to know his preferences and what he likes. I think it’s an interesting thing because you can get to know people this way, catch my drift?
PPLA: Totally! What kinds of things do you personally like to post on there when you have time?
BARRY: I’m focused really on silly stuff. I really enjoy this really mad stuff- coincidence, dogs, animals, and things. I like to be entertained and amused. I’m not really that serious in a way. I’m not tormented, you know? (laughs) A tormented artist, that’s not me! I want to enjoy life and the things that I put on 20blinks are things that… for instance, there’s a Buster Keaton thing which I’ve found which is extinct. Nobody knew this- he’s a boxer and everything and it’s incredibly funny, but nobody has seen it.This is what makes 20blinks interesting because there are people that put stuff in there that you have never seen. To me that makes it hot… hot, hot, hot!
PPLA: Why don’t we talk a little bit about your new Golden earring album ‘Tits ‘n Ass’ which just came out earlier this month. How long had you been working on that for?
BARRY: We’d been working on it about a year and a half, and we’re going to and fro because again I live in Curacao, I fly back to Holland, I’m in Curacao for a couple weeks and I fly back to Holland for a couple weeks…yep, that’s everything! So we, George (Kooymans) the guitar player and I, we write the songs together. He’s the music department and I do the lyrics. I sort of try and fit the music to the lyrics and such. So we were communicating via email and everything and it worked out perfect. We just started and you get on a roll; it’s like a sort of fever. My favorite past time is doing nothing and then all of a sudden you get focused on something and you start working. The band – we’re always playing, we’re always, always touring- it’s not the band that stops. The band it just moves, always just moves, you know? We were not ready to record an album and then all of a sudden, we were. We did pre-production and made sure we had the songs down pat so we could take them to London and record it there and record it live. To go into the studio and record the album live and pure as band is very important to us. So when you hear the album, you hear a band just in the studio counting ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ and just doing it.
PPLA: How has the album been received so far?
BARRY: The album is number one over here and I just had a phone call with the Classic Rock Magazine in London and they were wanting to talk about doing gigs over there. I tried to explain that we’re not exactly a classic rock band. We’re still fresh and we’re still happening. It’s not like Deep Purple that get together once in two years and do these classic things. For us, it’s like a never-ending thing, and we enjoy it. I had a gig last night, it was really great.
PPLA: Are you on a tour in Holland right now?
BARRY: Well when I’m here -which like I said before is about three weeks or so off and on- we tour. We only do about four or five gigs a week and everything happens in these couple of weeks that I’m here Then I go back to Curacao and do what I most enjoy, remember… doing nothing! (laughs). Basking in the sun! I have eight Chihuahuas- they’re really incredible- and I have three parrots and three cats. I have one daughter over there and one daughter over here and so… yeah, (laughs) I go bouncing like a little ball.
PPLA: Do you have any plans to play in the States again with Golden Earring or are you going to stick to what you’re already doing over in Europe?
BARRY: Yes, but the thing is that production over here is well…large; it’s a big production! It’s like two trucks and shit. It’s a pretty expensive production. We don’t want to…for instance, I know David Letterman and the guy there Shaffer (Paul Shaffer – musical director/ house band leader on Letterman). Once in a while they’ll do a ‘Radar Love’ rendition and that would maybe be interesting just with a small backline for our band to do that. But the production is too large and too expensive to go on a tour over there because we don’t expect as many people to show up whereas over here the average amount of people is two and a half, two thousand people. Then we play gigs for 10,000 or 20,000 which being realistic would not happen in the States. We’d have to play in clubs with a small backline and start all over again. We are too old for that. We did that ten times and we are waiting for an offer, like if a classic band says ‘will you support us?’ then maybe.
PPLA: I understand you have a lot of tattoos, is that something else you’re passionate about, collecting tattoos?
BARRY: No, no, no… this is something that happened purely by accident! A friend of mine, a tattoo artist, twenty years ago asked me to write some words for a book of his about famous people with tattoos. People like Brian Setzer and I don’t know, famous rock and rollers. He asked me to come up with a name for the book and the book wasn’t really that large but I called it the ‘Rock and Roll Tattoo Encyclopedia’. It is really funny because it’s only 60 pages (laughs). And then he said, ‘well since you came up with the title you have to get a tattoo yourself’ and I said ‘well okay’. I decided on the design of the Miami Dolphin. You know the dolphin jumping through a hoop which I thought was like in a way sexy and really cool because I like dolphins. So that was the first one and after that, somebody said, ‘this is like a midget, you’ve got a midget tattoo on your arm, be a man and get something larger!’ so I thought ‘okay I’ll get something larger.’ I got those tattoos for both my daughters and it started, well it took off! And by the way, that Miami dolphin design is probably one of the most copied tattoos in the world!
PPLA: Oh really? I thought you also had some that looked like they might be Maori in origin?
BARRY: Yeah I have two Maori ones because of Gordon Toi (Hatfield). He’s a Maori and he was here and said, ‘I’ll put a tattoo on you for free if you want.’ And that was another sort of ‘wow’ moment and a ceremonial tattoo. And he put it on one arm and I was looking in the mirror and he said, ‘you look like you’re going to keel over, you want me to do the other arm too? That’s going to look good when you’re holding a microphone’. (Laughs) And so I said ‘go for it’. And he did the other arm as well.
This go with the flow lifestyle is perhaps what has made for the longevity of Golden Earrings career. It certainly accounts for his ability to change with the times and capture life with a site like 20blinks.
For more updates on the band please visit Golden Earring and register.