Rock icon Ian McDonald passed away on February 10th after a long battle with cancer. He leaves us with a legacy of music and love for his family, friends and colleagues. Today we share our interview with Ian from 5 years ago, originally published June 11, 2017. #RIP
British Rock Icon Ian McDonald of HONEY WEST
Every day is Father’s Day for British Rock icon and proud Dad Ian McDonald. The multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer has a new spring in his step, a new band, new album and a new father/son experience to boast about. His latest venture is the band HONEY WEST, the New York group formed with his musician/actor/neighbor Ted Zurkowski (The Actor’s Studio). His son Maxwell plays bass in the band, and directed the inventive lyric video for their debut album, Bad Old World‘s single Dementia.
We met up with Ian McDonald (Founder King Crimson/Foreigner) after his album release party at Bowery Electric a few weeks ago to get the 411 on his latest venture and newest band mate — son Maxwell. Here’s what he has to say:
SIDE ONE: Ian McDonald the Musician/Songwriter/Producer
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Your focus over the last several decades since Foreigner has been producing for some of the all-time greats. That seems to be your preference?
IAN: I love producing or co-producing records.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: In terms of producing records, you’ve been referred to as the “secret sauce’ for musicians and bands. Can you elaborate on this?
IAN: That’s a term my publicist dreamed up. It’s simply fun for me to do and I love making records.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Tell us what changed to excite you so much so to be part of a new band. Why now? Why has Ian McDonald stepped back out in front of the studio – so to speak?
IAN: I never felt I was finished with my career. Ted and I were neighbors in NYC who passed each other on the street for years. We started jamming together and it was so fun. I’ve never just jammed like that. When I found out he had a band (HONEY WEST), I went to see them play and I thought there was a lot of good energy and a lot of potential for something really good.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: As a music producing guru, what specifically is it that you saw in HONEY WEST?
IAN: With HONEY WEST, it’s your basic two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. It’s not all hard rock beginning to end — there’s a variety of different styles. I saw it as a great opportunity for me to get involved in something serious and major again. I’m really enjoying being in a band like this again.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: On the debut album Bad Old World, you and Ted co-write the songs and you produced this album?
IAN: Yes. The new album consists of 12 songs. Order and sequence are very important. For this album, I conceptualize as a whole, and think of the songs in terms of Side One and Side Two. It’s very important in that regard. Whether that’s a new thing again -– I don’t know. I do think Bad Old World is some of my best work!
SIDE TWO: The Father and Son Dynamic
Speaking of McDonald’s best work, we thought our readers should get the skinny on his influence on one of his own – his son Maxwell (Max). The bassist in HONEY WEST as well as the creative director for the band’s lyric video for the single Dementia.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Since this is the first time father and son are playing together – what can you tell us about Max?
IAN: I am very proud of him. He’s very talented and I am very proud to see him being so thoughtful and tasteful in doing what he does.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Did you teach Max guitar and other instruments?
IAN: Max learned how to play multiple instruments by osmosis. There were always musical instruments around the house. He picks up things quickly. He’d pick up the instruments lying around and just play. I think if I gave him lessons, that would be pushing our relationship. In the back of my mind, I wanted him to develop in his own way.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Did you give him formal lessons?
IAN: My wife and I did, of course, give him lessons by someone else at some point. It was wonderful to see him develop.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: What was Max like as a teenager? Did he want to play with you on stage?
IAN: (chuckles) I’m sure as a teenager, he wouldn’t have wanted to be on stage with me. Max is very talented and has a great sense of humor. He has an amazing way of mimicking well-known characters.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Perfect segue to take us to the humoristic video he directed for the album’s single Dementia. Also his directorial debut, correct?
IAN: I’m beginning to sound like a sappy father, but I am very proud of him and the creative work he has done with the video for Dementia. It was filmed in real-time at my apartment. We did it in one take.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: The record release party for HONEY WEST’s debut album was a few short weeks ago. I was there, and you may not realize this, but watching the two of you – father and son playing together on each side of lead vocalist/guitarist Ted – was pretty incredible. You and Max had the same visual expressions as you strummed out the chords; even how you raise your guitar up at the end of each tune was uncanny.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Did you ever think you would one day actually be playing in a band again; and with your son? Best way to describe the feeling of playing with your adult son on stage?
IAN: Fortunate. We are very close. We talk all the time. And now…
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Best Father’s Day present?
IAN: Every day is a Father’s Day present for me. Max and my daughter in law, Lauren. Every time I see them, that’s a Father’s Day present.
Bad Old World is available today on all major digital services, including iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, and Spotify. Happy Father’s Day to all. — Abbe is #SociallySparked Tweet to @sosparkednews @asparks01. For other one-on-one musician spotlights click here.
Official Lyrical Video 'Dementia' off HONEY WEST album 'Bad Old World'
HONEY WEST 'California' at album release party for 'Bad Old World'
British Rock Icon Ian McDonald was a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer known by insiders as “everybody’s secret sauce.” He passed away yesterday, February 10th after a battle with cancer. He and his musical contributions are forever Socially Sparked! — tweet us @sosparkednews & @asparks01