Four-time Grammy winner Pat Benatar may be a real tough cookie with a long history of breaking little hearts like the one in me, but the diminutive diva with the big voice was only half of a duo that penned hits like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Heartbreaker," "You'd Better Run," and "Love Is a Battlefield," among others. Benatar's hubby, one Neil Spyder James Giraldo, not only co-wrote, but created these songs' signature, hook-laden riffs — riffs as recognizable and powerful as Benatar's pipes.
Flash-forward today and the now silver-haired Giraldo has equal billing with the missus as they celebrate more than 30 years on stage together. Giraldo rang up City from a tour stop in Great Falls, Montana, to discuss new music, the hits, vitamins, and how some people used to think he was Pat. An edited transcript of our interview follows.
CITY: You've promised a new album in 2013. Are you road-testing any of the new material on this tour?
Neil Giraldo: We are, but mostly at sound checks. Unfortunately with this package that were on, we only play 50 minutes. We don't want to leave the people without hearing the hits they like. So we attack it that way.
Do you think your audience prefers the hits?
I think they like to hear a new one every now and then. You know, with YouTube and all the other social media you can actually get away with doing a new song, because they post it and other people can hear it.
What's different about the new stuff? What's the same?
It's the same in that the components are the same. Pat sounds the way she does and I sound the way I do, but I twist things quite a bit. I have a pretty bent sense of arrangement at times and I'm a frustrated drummer, so I base everything around rhythm. So it's probably more rhythmic than it has been in the past.
Is there anything musically in you that we have yet to hear?
Well, I love playing piano. I've been playing since I was 13. Love Count Basie, I love the blues, and that walking left-hand bass line. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to merge that into a contemporary mode.
Like the stuff you did with Roomful of Blues years ago?
Yes. I'd like to work some of the "True Love" stuff into this tour — piano, bass, and drums — but really rockin'.
Who are you listening to?
I like artists like Jack White who don't bullshit around and just go out there and say, This is what I do, I'm gonna throw it at you, I'm not going to autotune my voice, I'm gonna make mistakes on my record. I love all of that.
It's rock 'n' roll.
Exactly right. And it doesn't appear a lot of places. Everything is so tight and tested and pro-tooled. Ech. I still love Roky Erickson. He just gets me. I love the 13th Floor Elevators, too. I used to love "You're Gonna Miss Me" when I was a kid and I still think it's a brilliant song.
How about having Pat sing "Don't Slander Me"?
That's funny you should say that. I'm singing "Don't Slander Me." I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I'm slipping it into "Heartbreaker." It's perfect. It fits really well.
In your spare time you've started a vitamin business. What gives?
I'm a full believer in trying to stay healthy. I didn't think I was going to make it to 30, but then I realized, Holy crap, I've got children I want to see grow, I'd better do something about it. So I developed a supplement company — On The Rock Nutrition — and started working on formulas. It's exciting. It's like writing a song using the creative process. I use me as a guinea pig. And now I'm creating all these crazy formulas. I love it.
One hundred years from now, what will they be saying about Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo?
They will say they didn't understand what we were. Nobody really knew me. In the early days, we were a partnership, but the record company and management didn't want anyone to know that. So they kept it quiet. I'd have people come up and say, Neil, when did you join the band? Or they'd call me Pat. So they'll say, We didn't know the complexity of what they were about. But in the end we got to know them and really liked 'em like they were neighbors.
Depending on who you ask — or when you ask the question — you'll get a variety of explanations of what the Sound ExChange Project really is: A local contemporary classical ensemble; a chamber group; an artist collective; composers; curators; educators; community-investors.