Interview with Vini Lopez
by Torsten Mörke, January 2007
Vini "Maddog" Lopez had been the long time drummer of Bruce Springsteen in the early 70s. He started playing with Bruce in early 1969 and stayed until 1974. His chronology includes Child, Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom, The Bruce Springsteen Band and finally the E-Street Band. In 2004 he formed his latest project called "Steel Mill Retro" to play Bruce's original music from that band and more.
You can visit his Steel Mill Retro homepage here:
Torsten Mörke: Child was formed by Bruce and yourself, after you've played together at the Upstage, wasn't it? How did you come to the idea of forming the band?
Yes, Child was formed after we played together at the Upstage. The idea came after I met Tinker in 1967. He planted the seed. I was in a band called the Moment of Truth with Gary Tallent on guitar. Tinker told us he thought we were good and suggested that we play original music instead of cover tunes. He said we wouldn't go anywhere doing covers and that if we wrote our own songs we could have something unique. Tinker told me "if we ever do any original music to call him." This was because he had enough room in his surfboard factory for a band to rehearse.
I started looking around for musicians who would be interested in playing original songs in a band after Moment of Truth broke up. I heard of a kid named Bruce who was a hot guitar player. He was playing with his band at the Italian-American Club one night so I dropped in to check him out. He sounded great and I invited him to come to the Upstage Club in Asbury where I liked to go to all night jam sessions. Not long after that he showed up to jam and it was great ! The guys who were there jamming that night with us were me, Bruce Springsteen on guitar, Little Vinnie Roslyn on bass and Danny Federici on organ. We played so well together that after the jam was over we decided to start a new band doing original material. Bruce already had some ideas for songs that he wanted to do.
We then went to see Tinker at his surfboard factory in Wannamassa,NJ to tell him that we had accepted his invitation to rehearse at his shop. He was glad to see us and let us have use of the place. We called the band CHILD, but we found out later that year of another band with the same name. We needed a new name and struggled for a while until one night when the guys in the band were all eating at an all-night coffeehouse in West End called "The Inkwell" with my good friend Chuck Dillon. Somehow after tossing around some names Chuck came up with the name STEEL MILL. All the guys in the band liked it a lot. The rest is history. The best band to come out of the Jersey shore in that era.
You have played in Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom and The Bruce Springsteen Band. How would you describe the change in the music in between the bands?
Steel mill was a lot of different music combined together. It was hard rock. It was country. It was jazz. It encompassed a lot of different types of music. We were free to experiment and express ourselves unlike the cover bands. It was riding on the wave of the heavier metal sounds of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and the jam sounds of 10 years after and Canned Heat. It was a hard rocking band.
Dr. Zoom was just a fun band that had all of our friends in it. We put it together quickly to keep working and make an income. It was the jam sound of the Upstage Club brought out to a large concert venue. We did a mix of tunes like Bob Dylan, Chicago blues, Carole King, and Bruce's originals including a song he wrote called the "Southside Shuffle" that featured Southside Johnny on the blues harp for the first time. The band also had a lot of "twos" - 2 drummers, 2 guitarists, 2 keyboard players and 2 saxophone players. One harmonica and one bass guitar. That's 10 members not counting the Zoom Chorus.
The Bruce Springsteen band moved onto Rythmn and Blues and more towards the sound that we think of Bruce today. That band had 2 guitarists, 2 horns (trumpet and sax), 2 female singers, keyboards, bass and drums. If you count Tinker on Conga drums that is also 10 members. It shows up again later on the album "Wild, Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" when David Sancious was with the band and influencing Bruce's writing.
What was it like to play the old songs again, after you have formed Still Mill Retro? Were they still around in your mind?
It's just wonderful we have a great time every time we play. The songs have never left my mind. Everyone in the band was impressed at how good this material is.
What are your plans for the future? I've seen that you're writing a book about the "old days," when can we expect a publication?
We're working on it right now and I will let you know, when we have something concrete.
Interview by Torsten Mörke, www.Castiles.net
This site is a part of Castiles.net (The history of Bruce Springsteen)
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