Interview: Jimmy Waldo of Alcatrazz | “We did want it to be harder and more focused”

Jimmy Waldo co-founded Alcatrazz in 1983. At that point, he had already made a name for himself with the band New England and later went on to play with bands such as Quiet Riot, Blackthorne, Graham Bonnet Band, Rock Island Orchestra and many more. Alcatrazz is now recording a studio album, its first with new frontman Doogie White, which is expected to be released later this year. Roppongi Rocks boss Stefan Nilsson checked in with Jimmy to hear more about the progress with the new album and what we can expect from Alcatrazz once they are back on stage.

I have heard five new Alcatrazz tracks from your current recording sessions. They sound fantastic! Tell us about the musical approach to the forthcoming album. Did you set out to make it more powerful and harder or is that just the way things are shaping up? “We did want it to be harder and more focused, but ultimately that is just the way we all wrote and played on this record. I’ve always been into heavier music with Alcatrazz, so this was really a natural progression from ‘No Parole’.”

Now you are creating new music with input from Doogie White. How has it been working with him on the creative process for the forthcoming album? “Doogie is a great, great singer and a total pro to work with. He’s really into the details of his performance and the music, nothing gets by him. He brought some great songs to the record and great performances.”

You have been deploying your keyboard wizardry in combinations with some terrific guitarists over the years, including Vinnie Vincent, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Bob Kulick, Carlos Cavazo and now Joe Stump. How do you as a keyboardist manage to create, record and perform live with some of these larger than life guitarists? Is there a lot of friction or can you easily find a balance between keyboards and guitars? “There was and is no friction, with these guys. This is heavy guitar driven music. I happen to love great guitar playing and it has always been fun and a challenge sometimes to make keyboard parts work around the guitar, but all the guys you have mentioned are real pros and we always worked together to make it right for the song first and foremost.”

Alcatrazz has performed some covers live in the past, such as some The Animals, Rainbow, MSG and Blackthorne classics. Now with Doogie White fronting the band, can we expect some non-Alcatrazz songs from Doogie’s past to turn up in the setlist? “Yes, a few Rainbow and MSG, but mostly songs from our new record, ‘No Parole’ and a few from ‘Born Innocent’. We are all writing all the time, so it’s possible something new may show up in the set, later on.”

Do you think that recent songs from last year’s “Born Innocent” and the forthcoming album will dominate the setlist or will it still be heavily focused on the 1980s Alcatrazz songs? “We will do a few, but they won’t dominate the setlist. It will be a combination of songs, some from ‘No Parole’ will be in there, but we can only play so many songs, so we will find a balance that works for everyone in the band.”

You’ve been off the road due to the pandemic for a long time now. Are you keen on getting back on the road and up on stage? “Absolutely! I have always loved touring and playing live, it’s much more fun than making records.”