Ringo Starr will tell you with a grin that he’s really good at hanging.
He might go for a walk on the beach with Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, a member of his All-Starr Band for a decade, given the appropriate location. Or engage in some of his other talents, such as painting or photography. Of course, the gym always beckons the Beatles icon, a seemingly ageless 82.
“I don’t like that word, ‘rest,’ ” he says.
On this day, Starr is checking in from a hotel room in Florida, where the legendary drummer and his All-Starr Band – Colin Hay, Edgar Winter, Hamish Stuart, Warren Ham, Gregg Bissonette and Lukather – are playing a round of shows on the tour that runs through October.
Starr is disappointed that rain and lightning have thwarted his beach strolling plans, but the eternally chipper, “peace and love”-spouting musician is happy to talk about his third extended play in two years – cleverly titled “EP3” – a four-song release featuring Lukather, Linda Perry and Dave Koz.
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Question: You are in amazing shape. What kind of regimen do you adhere to?
Answer: I go to the gym a lot. I work out to get my heart racing to shift the stuff that gets jammed in your arteries. I’m a vegetarian and I (drum) when we’re on tour. If I’m at home, I’m painting, I’m doing something. I have two ways: I’m busy or I’m not. I can handle both of those; it’s the bit in the between that gets you crazy. … Just keep moving as much as you can. If you’re in the gym, you’re on the treadmill and lifting weights and you have a program. When I get back to LA, I have my trainer three times a week. I work out nearly every weekday, sometimes six days a week. How hard is it to go and do something good for yourself for an hour?
The four songs on the new EP all have an element of positivity and hope, especially “Let’s Be Friends.” Did you look around at the world at the moment and think, OK, let’s try to find some unity here?
I think I looked around the world many years ago. I think we, as far as I and the band were concerned, started looking in the ’60s in San Francisco with the hippies and we wanted a lot of peace and love. Every song I’ve done on this EP leads to peace and love. I was offered songs that I didn’t like the attitude of the song, so I didn’t (record it).
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I’m not sure people would expect to hear Dave Koz with you. How did it come about to have him on the album?
Dave Koz is getting me a lot of publicity (laughs). He’s America’s premiere sax player. (“Free Your Soul”) is quite a long track and we felt like jamming through it. When Dave came in, it worked perfectly.
Do you think you’ll add any of the new songs to the setlist on this current tour?
No. I used to say (in concert), “I’d like to thank the five of you for buying my CD” (laughs). People are there to see me from the Beatles days and (hear) the Beatles songs and some songs through the rest of my life. This year for the first time, we’re doing “Yellow Submarine” and I put in “Octopus’s Garden.” I never wanted to do two underwater songs. But the audience, thank you, Lord, they love it.
You’ve been doing the All-Starr Band tours for 30-plus years. Did you ever envision it going on this long and with this type of variation in musicians?
It was a good idea in 1989. Someone asked somebody to ask me, would Ringo go on tour? I didn’t have a band but I said yes. Then I said, “What have I said yes to?” So I had to start calling people like Dr. John and Billy Preston and Levon Helm. The first band had three drummers. I was so insecure. … But then everybody was saying yes. I had to close up my phone book. Then I decided we’re going to change the whole band every time. You have to have hits (to be in the All-Starr Band), that’s part of the deal. I’ve had some really incredible players and several who didn’t want to put in 100%.
And they were not invited back?
What’s it like backstage before you all go on? Any rituals?
We all get backstage and the band runs on and then I have 30 seconds of fear.
Still! It’s so far out. It’s like, oh, God, it’s not going to work. My brain takes over. That’s why I run on stage. My aim is to be Frank Sinatra and just stroll on, like (affects a smooth-crooner-with-cocked-eyebrow voice), “Hey, how are you doing?” I saw him once and I wish I could do that. He started singing behind the curtain, so relaxed. He was so great. I still haven’t managed to do that. I have a moment of fear and then I run on and as soon as I grab that mic, I’m home. It all just fades away and we’re there to have fun.
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