I love stupid action movies-- the stupider, the better. I love needlessly ripped millionaires slurring their way through lines written for children by hacks. I love weapon-arming montages and questions answered with explosions and painfully tacked-on love side plots and guns that always slide just out of reach. But most of all, I love the songs in these movies--particularly the uplifting hard rock jams that play during the credits or montages of the really cheesy movies. Thus, it follows that I love Stan Bush, and worship him as my king.
It all happened a few weeks ago, when I made a CD of nothing but these action movie songs. I call them "do that thing" songs--they're always about doing your best, giving your all, taming that mountain, and so on. But they almost never say what thing you're supposed to be doing. Except for the occasional song about love or camaraderie, they stay in the realm of pure belief in yourself. And damn if they don't actually fist-pump the neurosis out of my thin skull. Stan Bush is the undisputed master of this genre. He has three songs on my CD alone, and could have had dozens more (probably). He's most famous for "The Touch,"Transformers movie and, more recently, Boogie Nights. He also did the songs for Kickboxer, Bloodsport, and a handful of other movies. I assumed he lived on top of a mountain and rode a giant eagle to his job at the lightning factory, but upon talking to him over the phone, it turns out he lives in LA and is frustratingly genial.
Vice: Would you call yourself the king of action movie pump-up rock?
Stan Bush: [laughs] It's weird, I just kinda fell into that niche. I love it. OK, maybe it's corny and cheesy, but on another level, it's cool. There's enough negativity in the world, you know?
I know. This CD I made, I listen to it in the morning, it blasts the sleep out of my head and makes me feel great.
Oh, that's nice, thanks.
You said you fell into the niche. What pushed you into it?
I hooked up with a couple different writers--one of them was Lenny Macaluso and he and I wrote "The Touch." "The Touch" was originally written with the Stallone movie Cobra in mind. I remember being a little bit put off to find out that it was being put into a cartoon movie about cartoon robots, but little did I know.... But that was the beginning of it. We did songs for Kickboxer with Jean-Claude Van Damme and others that were also sort of uplifting, anthemic kinds of things.
Thing is, Cobra is a pretty dark movie about a cop who blows away a gang of Nietzsche-reading supremacist types. So wouldn't have "The Touch" been out of place there anyway?
I have no idea. It was the biggest action movie coming out at the time. The inspiration for the title came about from the movie Iron Eagle with Lou Gossett Jr. There's something about this Air Force pilot, and he turns around and says to the pilot, "Kid, you got the touch." And I was like, "Hey!"
So what motivates you? What gets you going? Where's the grit come from?
I don't know... I grew up in a really happy family, had a happy childhood, my parents were always really supportive, and I got that belief in what I could do. There's a lot of people who maybe don't get that growing up and need to be reminded. You know, we use such a small percentage of our brain and our potential is always way beyond what we even attempt to try. Everything I've read and learned in my life seems to point to... if people were motivated to just go for it, there's no limit to what they can do.
Yeah! That's what I was looking to hear. Do you have a family yourself?
I've got three kids; two of them are grown and the youngest one is 14.
Would you consider yourself a supportive father?
Yeah, I try to be.
Did you ever use your music to get your kids motivated? Like, to do their homework or something?
[laughs] No. I mean, basically, the best thing people can do is... well, my dad always worked really hard, and that work ethic thing is really important, and people see that, and emulate it.
Do you have any morning routine? Do you wake up fully on fire, or do you need to gradually ease yourself into the day?
I'll generally wake up fairly alert. Coffee's my only vice. I'm kind of a morning person.
Really? You don't have a power breakfast or anything that you eat to get you crazy?
Nah, not really. Generally just cereal or something. On the weekends I'll make eggs sometimes.
Back to the action movies: this whole genre of uplifting hard rock that appeared almost exclusively in 80s action films--a lot of what you're known for, John Parr, Survivor, Joe Esposito--where'd this all come from? Was the time just right for this type of very supportive rock?
Umm... oh boy. I guess the action movie thing was something that it just kind of fell in with. The thing is, the high vocal, the power vocal thing is something I started to do more of. I can sing smooth and all that, I can sing low, but in the 80s, everyone was trying to sing high like Steve Perry. At one point I auditioned for Foreigner when Lou Gramm left the band and I almost got the gig. It was pretty cool playing with those guys. But that style was just something that was big.
But the message of the song... I don't know. I just love saying positive stuff, "go for it" and all that. Survivor probably influenced me a bit. I had a meeting with one of the Scotti brothers and he told me something about "you gotta have the eye of the tiger." I think the guy was certifiably insane, but what he was saying was basically true. You gotta go for it, you know?
Do you think that that "go for it" attitude was more present in the 80s in particular? That there was a positivity there that didn't survive into the 90s?
Yeah, that's really true. Grunge came around, and the Seattle thing, and the anthem rock thing, the power pop thing, it all went away. I kept doing what I did--melodic rock--mostly in Europe and Japan, and kind of kept things alive over there as far as my career and developed my writing skills. It really wasn't until the last few years, with the Transformers remake, that there was really a resurgence of my stuff and my popularity. Also, the internet has really opened things up so that people aren't just listening to what the powers-that-be decide they should listen to.
Yeah, I saw that a while ago there was a large movement to get "The Touch" into Guitar Hero.
Yeah, it was really cool. Activision had a booth at the Transformers convention here in LA in May, and I played "The Touch" on Guitar Hero with the fans. It was really cool.
Do you think there's any new bands that carry on that tradition of combining positivity with rock?
I don't know. Honestly, I don't listen to as much new music as I should. One of the things that I know that's gotten more popular is the Christian music thing. Obviously, it's extremely positive, and it's great. Obviously, it's different, but it shares an element. I don't know what mainstream is anymore, though.
It's all very fractured now. Would you ever consider making a Christian album?
I have actually thought of it, but I'm an artist who's a Christian, not a Christian artist, you know? But some of my stuff has been getting a bit more spiritual. My last album has a song, "In My Life," that's all about questioning, you know? "Why am I here?" and all that stuff. My new album is shaping up to be even more of that stuff, 'cause it's important to be introspective and think about what we're doing.
So you're making a new album then?
Yup--about two-thirds of the way through it, should be out by next year, they can get it at stanbush.com. Also, I wanted to mention: less than a week ago, the soundtrack to the original Transformers movie soundtrack was voted in the ten best sci-fi movie music ever, which was so cool! They had John Williams--Star Wars was number one, and Close Encounters, but it was very cool to be included among those.
The first Transformers remake, years ago, they were going to use "The Touch," and it was all set--they'd done the paperwork and everything--and two weeks before the movie came out, Michael Bay pulled the song. I never found out why. It was kind of weird. A lot of the fans were disappointed. But because of the original film, most of the fans still associate me with the franchise and the whole cultural phenomenon. I've been performing at the Transformers convention, and I was just at ComicCon in July, and tons of people were there getting autographs and stuff.
How do you feel about all the fan response to be in the original Transformers?
It's really awesome. Statements like you've made, about how those songs have maybe changed someone's life, about being positive... that kind of stuff, that's big-time to me, to be able to influence somebody in a positive way. Again, it's kind of cheesy, but hey.
How about Boogie Nights? How did you feel about Mark Wahlberg's character singing "The Touch" at a, uhh, strange part of his career in the movie?
I thought it was hilarious! It tended to be funny, it was kind of a spoof of the 80s. It was very cool. I was thinking how cool it would be to do a concert and have Mark Wahlberg come on stage and do the song with me.
That might interrupt the flow of the concert a bit, wouldn't it?
It might. [laughs] It was supposed to be butchered, more or less, but it was flattering. And again, it was a big movie. The song was also on the show Chuck on NBC in the fall--that was a big feature thing. I think it's going to be on American Dad this fall. It's funny how the song keeps on, how it stays in there.
It's got the eye of the tiger.
Yeah, I did a deal with Hasbro Toys--the song is in two of the Transformers toys that are coming out.
Yeah, they play it. You push a button and the song plays.
But yeah, the song, it's a cool thing to be known for something positive.
For the record, here's the track listing for Fight to Never Surrender the Limit of Love, the wake-uppinest CD yet devised:
We Fight For Love (w/ Dialogue) - Power Station
Fight to Survive - Stan Bush
Danger Zone - Kenny Loggins
Two Heads Are Better Than One - Power Tool
Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
Never Surrender - Stan Bush
No Easy Way Out - Robert Tepper
You're The Best Around - Joe Esposito
(Restless Heart) Running Away With You - John Parr
The Touch - Stan Bush
Best of What I Got - Bad English
Push It To The Limit - Paul Engemann
Burning Heart - Survivor
Heart's On Fire - John Cafferty
The Sweetest Victory - Touch
Transformers Theme - Lion
Princes of the Universe - Queen
Power of Love - Huey Lewis & The NewsEDWARD PETRENKO