An Interview with Tod Howarth of Frehley’s Comet

EMG Pickups / Artist View / Electric Guitar Pickups, Bass Guitar Pickups,  Acoustic Guitar Pickups

Tod Howarth is a true Rock ‘n Roll warrior. A veteran of the decades, who has been in countless awesome and successful bands over the years. As a kid growing up, I loved Tod’s fantastic song with Frehley’s Comet ‘Calling to You.’ So, when I began this interview series, I knew that I had to reach out to one of Rock music’s most versatile and genuinely nice guys. When it comes to Tod’s music, there is something for everybody. If you’re a fan of Cheap Trick, he’s got you covered. Those that like to rock out to Ace Frehley’s 80’s jams will feel right at home here, too. Tod has worked with some of Rock music’s true greats. His career and legacy is one that stands toe to toe with anybody, and yet is he criminally underrated. All that aside, Tod has had a long and hard rocking solo career. So, today I would like to treat you to my latest “sit down” with one of Rock music’s true blue collar guys. Still kicking after all these years and with more new music on the way! We don’t always get to meet some of our childhood favorites, so for me, this one is pretty cool. Tod is a great guy, with some awesome stories to tell, and I truly hope you enjoy getting to know him a little bit better. I know I did.

Andrew:
Tod, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. It’s been a weird year. What have you been doing to pass the time?

Tod:
Thank you for asking me and I’m glad to be here. Weird year? Yep. Crap year for most unfortunately and then again for many performing musicians that make their money solely off of live performances, but most of us know that. For me, my routine has been more of the same. I had told my ‘Return of the Comet’ band members late in 2019 that I was going to take a break from most all live performances, and concentrate completely on my 3 solo CD’s that I was working on, along with my autobiography, so for me, the lockdown really didn’t affect my work schedule, this being both music and managing my family’s commercial business real estate properties. Initially, I really hunkered down at the studio, property and home, and I got a lot accomplished. Then, I started having studio equipment failures where I would lose COMPLETE songs and had to start over. Eventually, I planned some fun trips for the wife and me…a 3,000 mile Harley ride with pals, an 8 day trip with the motorhome and boat to Lake Havasu, AZ, and then a big trip to Sturgis, South Dakota with the motorhome, trailer and three Harleys. So, I was fortunate enough to have some fun times besides my frenetic schedule here at home.

Andrew:
How did you get into music? What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Tod:
When I was young, my father listened to big band stuff all the time and I was intrigued by all the sounds, melodies ascending, descending and threading their way through arrangements – that was my first early schooling on composition. Then, when I was living with my aunt and uncle for awhile, my older cousin came home from school yelling about how The Beatles were going to be on TV that night. That of course was on Ed Sullivan in 1964. I watched and I was hooked. My mother could sing and her father sang a lot as well, so it ran in that side of the family.

Andrew:
Growing up, who were some of your favorite bands?

Tod:
By years, it varied but started with The Beatles, The Cowsills, Jackson 5, then into Marc Bolan and T-Rex, Sly & the Family Stone, Black Sabbath, Humble Pie, then Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Styx, The Baby’s, Kansas, Cheap Trick, Jeff Beck. Enter Van Halen!  Again, just SOME of the bands.

Oldschool Sunday: FREHLEY'S COMET [Former Members Unite In RETURN OF THE  COMET] – Riff Relevant

Andrew:
In the early 1980’s, you were a part of a group called 707. Can you tell us more about that?

Tod:
Yes, my “big break.”  I loved this time period in my life. It’s where I left the multitude of cover and original bands, and hoisted myself onto the real stage! I had heard about this band when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and went to see them at the now gone Starwood Club. They were very good, not anywhere near as heavy as I wanted to be at that point, but they had a charting hit with ‘I Could Be Good For You’ so I thought, “I could fit with that band. I write, sing, play keyboards and guitar.” I felt it would be a good business move for me to pursue if and when the time ever arose. Well, a year later it did and after two auditions I was in. Although not “in” at first because I was a bit too “Hollywood” and they were more Midwest rockers.  The managers loved me and told me after the first one to tone it down a bit and come back. Bam! It worked. After meeting with the guitar player, Kevin, about my songwriting ability, I was then part of the band. We hit some of the biggest stages ever when we toured with REO Speedwagon in 1981, and I learned so very much during those few years that I was with them. One of those things was that ALL was fleeting and everything ended for 707 in 1983 after moving to San Francisco circa 1982.

Andrew:
You also performed with Cheap Trick! What was that like?

Tod:
At first I thought “Great, one of my favorite bands!” And it was great. I worked very hard to get into the band because when I first met them, they were not overly impressed, but their manager knew that I could fit right in and convinced the band to let me in. I auditioned again at the sound board in Irvine, California when they opened up for Night Ranger and he was even more impressed. So, I rehearsed for weeks and flew out to one of their tours where they let the other guy go after two days of my “observing.” I jumped right in the very next night, the classic “Out of the frying pan and into the fire.” It went fantastically and I had some great adventures, and on occasion tense band scenarios, but that’s nothing new with most any band. Again, I learned one hell of a lot and will treasure those times forever.

Andrew:
In the mid 1980’s, you were a part of Frehley’s Comet. What a great band. The debut album is easily one of the best of the decade! How did you end up with the band?

Tod:
Thank you! I met John Regan when he was with John Waite, from The Baby’s, and I was playing with Cheap Trick. We met and talked at one venue where I was listening to their sound checks and was LOVING the fat bottom-end sound of that band! I mentioned that I wrote songs, sang lead and played mostly guitar then. He said, “Oh really.” Later he told me that he was working with a secret project that I might just fit into and would be in touch. About four months or so later he called, and told me who it was and that I should fly out and audition. I did, twice, and once again after the second meeting, they knew they had their member. It was the next best time in life for me, my music and the business of said music. But I knew that nothing’s forever by now after 707, Ted Nugent and the Cheap Trick gigs. There is a pattern of successes and lack thereof unless the band is real good, lucky and in the right place at the right time. The life of the music biz.

hennemusic: VIDEO: Ace Frehley reunites with Frehley's Comet members

Andrew:
What was it like working with Ace in Frehley’s Comet? That band had some incredible chemistry and you wrote some great songs together! Why did you end up leaving the band?

Tod:
Ace was the best, most giving, generous artist of the bands I played with when it came to letting me do what I did best and through most of my tenure with the band it was great. He was fun, driven about music and the band’s future, and I think we had a great chance after the first album. Dynamics changed, some styles didn’t blend in some eyes, but I had real high hopes to what would be the third Comet album after Second Sighting, but quite frankly- we ran out of money. Then, I was informed that I wouldn’t be handling writing songs, or singing lead vocals because the label wanted Ace to sing and write all on the next LP. That left me no future on many levels so I had to leave, and strike out on my own. One of the hardest, unfunded journeys ever for me.

Andrew:
After leaving Frehley’s Comet, you released five really great solo records. Silhouette is my personal favorite and I really enjoyed West of Eight as well! You haven’t released any new solo material since 2010 though. Can we expect any new music soon?

Tod:
Thank you again! Silhouette was a fun effort that I recorded (not too well) all by myself and I was relegated to programming the drums on one of my keyboards because I had no real set to actually play. Cobalt Parlor was next and it is still one of my favorites from the personal accomplishment level. It was dark but I played real drums and loved it! Winter came next with me doing all except for one drum track where my local band mate Bob Sale from our 70’s cover band Cocoa Blue did the track. This was an adult contemporary style. West of Eight followed with an almost full band, fun tunes. Opposite Gods was next with me doing all again. I love this CD as well, and then I took a break. A long break. Then, the bands Four By Fate & Return of the Comet came into play which took up about 5/6 years of multitasking property business, music and then trying to write and record. Which brings us to now. I am recording those three CD’s! One Rock, one Easy and the last one is acoustical renditions of the Comet songs that I sang/wrote. The process is exhausting.

Andrew:
In 2016, you reunited with John Regan to form Four By Fate. Can you tell us more about that band?

Tod:
John and I had spoken over the years about hopefully getting together to do some music one day again and John had the idea to see if Ace might want to do a 25th year reunion around 2012. So, we finally got a hold of him and he pretty much declined by way of telling us how much money he wanted per show. It was unrealistic, so it never happened. In the meantime, John and I had thought about putting together a band to play Comet and maybe a few KISS songs to please the fans. With the help of new acquaintance, Danny Stanton and writer/friend/fan Mitch LaFon, the first incarnation of the band was put together. Stet Howland was the first drummer and we did a few great shows, but he had an auto accident right before we went into the recording studio. So, we had to replace him. Sean Kelly was the first guitarist and like Stet, was world class. However, once in the studio, Sean realized that the band was a bit heavier than The Comet and bowed out of the group. The late A.J. Pero stepped in to do the first six tracks and he killed it! Pat Gasperini joined the group after we recorded one of his songs and we had a great solid six tunes. Then of course A.J. unfortunately passed, and in came Rob Affuso from Skid Row fame. With this final lineup we did another six tracks and had Relentless. We did many shows and even a short tour in Australia with Bruce Kulick. The band ran its course the best that it could, given the times and interest, and we shelved it late 2018.

The Scribblings of a Hopeful Journalist: Relentless- Four By Fate review

Andrew:
Four By Fate’s first record, Relentless, was released in 2016. Will we see a second album soon?

Tod:
Unfortunately, no, not as this point. The variables and times now are too great to undertake that project again.

Andrew:
The original Frehley’s Comet reunited in both 2017 and 2018. What was it like to play with those guys again. As I’ve said before, you guys have incredible chemistry. Any chance we see you all working together again soon?

Tod:
You know, it was a great feeling and I was happier for the fans, because I think they really enjoyed seeing us all up there. The performances could’ve been better, but Ace declined any rehearsal time so it had to be winged. Especially with Anton…man we could’ve killed it had a little work been put into it. I’ve no idea about the original lineup going out again. If Ace was smart…it would be a good draw, but it’s his name, his band and of course- his decision. Last we heard, he had no interest. A shame.

Andrew:
Do you collect vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Tod:
No, I don’t collect much music at all oddly enough. Hard back books, yes!  Once in a great while, I’ll find vinyl I like and that’s where I’d go if I really went into it. I’m not all about digital. Like books, I like to have the product in my hands. I hear that the youth is getting back into that – all the way into cassette tapes now! Wild. I don’t really shop for music unless I hear a new song that makes me say “Wow, who the Hell is that?” Then I research and try to find the CD…generally on line.

Tod Howarth - Wikipedia

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you, and why?

Todd:
Meet The Beatles. 1964 Songs, melody’s harmonies!

T-Rex. Gritty, bluesy, haunting, and way cool chicks singing backups. Wow!

Court and Spark. Joni Mitchell, wild emotions and melodies like no other

In The Court of the Crimson King. King Crimson, ambience, melodies, haunting songs.

 Led Zeppelin IV. Balls, Plant and great girlfriend experiences then.

 The Baby’s. Waite’s vocals, heavy solid backbeat English Rock.

Get Your Wings. Aerosmith – Real American Rock, melodies, indelible songs.

Blow by Blow. Jeff Beck, instrumental. Wow, his style, I cut my teeth on this album and then the song ‘Diamond Dust’ and the orchestrations…freakin’ epic.

 Pretzel Logic. Steely Dan. Yep, listen to some of my piano chords or guitar chord transitions – not the brilliance of their chord changes, but I applied the ‘interesting’ inversions thereof, simplifying it and melding into heavier rock. Regular shit bores me to death.

In Color. Cheap Trick, Great songs, energy, Robin’s voice, cool characters.

Van Halen. First album. BALLS, DRUMS, VOCALS, GUITAR!!! And riveting SONGS.

These are a few prior to my career that made indelible impressions on me, in some sequential order.

Andrew:
Its been a weird year, but we’ve still seen a lot of great music released in 2020. What are some of your “must haves” of the year?

Tod:
Strange, yes. Must have music?! I need time here. I need to finish my three CD’s. So, it’s hard for me to really think of other music, unless I hear it, then I investigate and get! So I guess I’ve no answer here!

Andrew:
You’ve had a long career, with hopefully many more years to go! Looking back, what moments are you most proud of?

Tod:
Thank you! Yes! 707, when we played live at Capital Records in Los Angeles right after I joined, and then months later opening a box with our albums in it for us and hearing our songs on the radio.

Touring with Ted Nugent nearly half of 1984 and seeing the world.

Screaming crowds with Cheap Trick in Japan at Budokan (twice).

Frehley’s Comet. Starting my song ‘Something Moved’ at the Hammersmith Oden and the crowd screamed because they knew it. Wow!

How I treated the great fans and still do to this day, thankful that they’re still around.

Andrew:
Last question. Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Tod:
Thank you for the opportunity here. I’ve worked hard all my life at music since I had decided it was what I really wanted to pursue and I’m still working very hard at it at 63. After these three CDs, I don’t know how much more I will record as this current task is kicking my ass. But as always, I hear a new song in my head and have to get it down on tape, because in my head I complete it, and then have to bring it to life. This is a mixed blessing as my biggest fear is not getting that next new song out for someone to enjoy. Much love to you all.

Tod Howarth - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Andrew has always loved writing, music, drumming and collecting music on CD, tape and vinyl. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing over 3,000 albums in under two years, he knew it was time to finally follow his dream of being a music journalist, and thus, Vinyl Writer was born.

Andrew’s not only the go-to friend for music trivia, but his intricate knowledge of the ins and outs of the music industry allows him to develop engaging questions that really tap into each artist and individual to deliver insightful and enjoyable interviews. He’s proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts.

Andrew lives on Long Island, NY, with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie and Kevin. Andrew’s collection of over 4,700 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of his passion for all that is music. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: