Tom Hooker was one of the leading Italo Disco performers and music producers in the 80's. He conceived a number of noteworthy projects: Eddy Huntington, Den Harrow, Lou Sern just to name a few. His greatest hits are "Looking For Love", "Feeling Okay", "Atlantis" etc.
You will have a chance to read Tom's candid answers and I hope that you will get some new insights on what was Italo Disco music in the 80's. Thus, I suggest you to read this interview through fan's eyes and without prejudice.
Zeljko: Dear Tom, thank you very much for this opportunity you gave
me. Can you tell me who is Tom Hooker?
Zeljko: Where and when you had your first music experience?
Zeljko: Please Tom tell me in more details your start in Italo music?
Who helped you to start your great career? Tell me the names?
Zeljko: Your first song was "Looking For Love", released for
Baby Records. Your impressions please?
Tom Hooker "help me" 12"
Zeljko: You recorded great songs: Looking For Love, Feeling
Okay, Atlantis, Help Me, just to name a few. However,
you were not only a singer but also a songwriter and producer. Tell me
about this side of your work? Which song is your favorite?
I wrote so many songs with so many people under different names. I also wrote with Novecento. Dora Carofiglio/Nicolosi has a beautiful voice. I've written over a 100 songs that came out. My favorite songs are songs you probably wouldn't know. I liked "Talk with your body". I released it with FullTime in 1981. I liked "Love is Life" with "Elastic Band" in 1995.
"Bad Reputation LP
Zeljko: I know only one of your albums, it's Bad Reputation.
Could you please tell me a little bit about that album?
Zeljko: Tom could you describe for me and for others fans of Italo
disco music that time, the gold era of Italo disco in the mid 80's through
Zeljko: Your publishing label was Baby Records. Eddy Huntington, Den
Harrow, Albert One and Gazebo worked for the same record label. Were you happy
working for them?
Zeljko: Did you have wish to work with someone else and you didn't have
We HAD to write songs to the dance beat of the moment. We were all catering to the D.Js! If the tempo was not right, the song would be a bomb. Is this how real art is done?..
Zeljko: Tom, I have information that came from a famous Italian
female singer. I don't know if it is true or just a rumor, but I've heard
that Den Harrow actually doesn't exist as singer. Den Harrow is... you!
Could you please tell me what is true?
"Future Brain" 12"
"Don't Break My Heart"
"To meet me" and a "Taste of love" was Chuck Rolando's voice. He had a contract with Durium record label and had to stop. Then came Silvio Pozzolli from "Dream". He sang "Mad Desire" the single's version. Although a very talented singer, his English wasn't very good. I remember in "Mad Desire". He sang "Ear I Ham" instead of "Here I am". Freddy bought my contract from Merak at the time and bought the whole Den Harrow project with his money, and I sang "Future Brain". I don't think Den (his real name is Stefano Zandri) ever came to the studio. "Future Brain" was a huge hit in 1985. We had to do the album. I re-sang "Mad Desire" for the album. It wasn't any better than Silvio's but we wanted some continuity. It couldn't go from fluent English to an Italian accent. Too many people in Germany and Scandinavia can speak English. Then came "Bad Boy" and all the rest of the hits.
After two albums of good hits, and making money, I wanted "Don't break my heart" to be a Tom Hooker's song because I felt close to it. I also felt, Freddy was not pushing me because of the money machine of Den Harrow in Germany and France. We got another singer from England who had a much higher voice than mine. I can't remember his name. I still co-wrote the songs. The Album was "Lies". I think, this was the end of Den Harrow's run. It was not at all what it used to be. Maybe it was the songs, maybe it was the different voice. Who really knows...
After Den Harrow left Baby Records, the records sales were small numbers. I think he sang on "Ocean". He continues to make records that don't really sell to do his live shows because it's easy money. Basically, he still has a name. He is human, he wants a nice car and all that stuff. It's a shame he can't really sing, because he makes a good star.
Everybody wants to make money. When I had the success with "Looking for Love", my old record company Full Time, released an unauthorized album with demos and tried to pass it as the new Tom Hooker album. This album was called "Only One".
This really ruined my career at that time. The distributors who bought it after the success of "Looking for love" were taken aback with this crappy album that came out way before "Bad Reputation". FullTime management sold crap but it was easy money and it ruined it for the real one, of course. But hey, you see it as music Zeljko. As a professional, I saw it as a business.
Zeljko: Did you have a good time in the studios while you were recording
your great songs?
Zeljko: Tom I guess you did some shows? Please describe me the atmosphere
during the live performance.
Zeljko: Tom which Italo disco song is your favorite and which artist?
Zeljko: Italo disco fans don't have too many opportunities to see their
favorite artists in the newspaper, magazines because Italo was never so successful
in Europe except in the mid of the 80's. I remember that I saw your photo in
German magazine Bravo. This was really great. In your opinion why Italo never
made huge success as today house music doing?
Zeljko: Many Italo fans and I personally think about Italo music and
about their creators as "one community". Did you, and other Italo
artists have chance to meet each other?
Zeljko: On the beginning of listening Italo music I thought that Italo
was popular only in a few countries in Europe but today I know that Italo was
and still is very popular in worldwide: South America, Australia, Asia, USA,
Europe of course. What do you think about it?
Zeljko: As I know your last song was Runaway from year
1994. Am I right? How you made this song?
Zeljko: What was going on after that song and that year?
Elastic Band "Love Is Life"
Zeljko: Do you wish to contact and to see someone who was working with
you in the 80's? You told me in your first mail that you disappeared from music
scene. Why? Is any special reason for that?
Zeljko: Do you follow other Italo artists' work these days?
Zeljko: Tom, Italo shows still happen and there was one big concert
in The Hague, Netherlands recently featuring Eddy, Albert One, P. Lion, and
Fred Ventura. Are you ready and have wished to take part in live show after
so many years here in Europe? I am 100% sure that many Italo fans would like
to ask you to be their guest on concert?
Zeljko: What are you doing today? You are pursuing a very creative endeavor,
as I could see it on your web site. Tell me more about it please?
Zeljko: What kind of music are you listening today?
I honestly don't listen to Italo dance songs. The reality is, it is impossible to be a fan of yourself. To me, singing is very easy to do. It's like driving a car for a taxi cab driver. I can't be impressed by anything I can do. I can only be impressed by what I cannot do.
Zeljko: Do you watch new Italian disco production? For example work
of Mauro Farina (Orlando, Morgana, Radiorama...)?
Zeljko: Italo disco music making me so sunny' and I have feeling
that every time and that is nonstop, when I am listening Italo is summer. What
is the feeling listening Italo in sunny and warm Santa Monica, California?
Zeljko: Do you have any message for Italo fans all around the world
that admire and respect and love your work with the same passion then and today?
Zeljko: At the end I want to thank you so much Tom you contacted me
and you gave me chance to speak with you in such way. I wish you all the best.
Your fan Zeljko.
© September 2001 Zeljko Vujkovic - All rights reserved. Edited for content by EUROFLASH.
There were some comments at I Venti Chatboard about this interview and here is what Tom wrote back:
When I responded to Zeljko's request to do an interview, I was really honest and told the truth. I realize this is difficult to do for most people who have an interest in show business. When I hear Jennifer Lopez say on TV: "I love you, all my fans". I think to myself yeah, right, you suckers. She loves you, but she doesn't even know you all! I am not that kind of guy, sorry. A guy like Sting, would never say "bull" like that.
I didn't mean to offend anybody by saying that I don't listen to Italo Disco in Los Angeles but music comes in different colors and people are allowed to have different tastes. I listen to other stuff. I started as a drummer and would listen to Jazz Rock. Every musician I met loved noncommercial music and did the commercial stuff for the money. James Last is a guy in Germany who became a millionaire doing music and came to LA to play with Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea, and recorded some tapes for his own personal satisfaction.
Eddy Huntington posted a message that I happened to read only because Marcello D'Azzurro told me about the message boards. When I read the post from Eddy Huntington, he sounded a bit tragic by saying "I felt as though I had lost a friend". First of all, to be honest, I haven't seen Eddie in 15 years! Although a very nice chap, I make a distinction between friends and people I meet through work. I've met a lot of people obviously with the work I did for over 15 years but only managed to keep a few real friends.
I honestly don't listen to Italo dance songs... IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BE A FAN OF YOURSELF. Think about it. Does Frank Sinatra listen to "Strangers in the night" when he has to sing it at every show? To me, singing is very easy to do... I can't be impressed by anything I can do. I can only be impressed by what I cannot do. Therefore, I will be a fan of Youssoun'Dour or Sarah Brightman or Lance Armstrong who can win the Tour de France. That, to me, is amazing. Singing, or writing songs is very easy to me.
It was nice to read the post that said I was a "no bullshit kind of guy". Honestly, there is so much bullshit in the music business that people are not aware of, because people are a bunch of phonies to their fans. They don't want to upset them to lose any record sales. I, on the other hand, don't care about it anymore, so I am telling you the truth as it is. It's all, over and done with, now. Baltimora was Maurizio Bassi singing and not the Scottish image who died of AIDS a few years later.... Valerie Dore was Dora Carofiglio and later replaced with Simona. Milli Vanilli were not the real singers, the Village People, Boney M in the seventies were an image band etc. etc... I didn't start it all. It's just adults, trying to do business. When you spend all that kind of money, you're doing it to get a return and believe me, if you weren't a professional, you were out!
We HAD to write songs to the dance beat of the moment. We were all catering to the D.Js! If the tempo was not right, the song would be a bomb. Is this how real art is done? I remember talking with Turatti, that Mad Desire did well because the DJs could mix it with "Big in Japan". Songs would do well if we had a good intro so the "inexperienced DJs could mix it. If they couldn't mix it, the song would be a bomb... etc.. If it had the right tempo at the right time, it would do well. If a song came out a month later, it would be too late, etc. The Italian producers were masters at this
The best songs I ever wrote, were the songs that sold the most and my favorite songs were probably the ones that sold the least. That's how it goes. Every true artist knows that commercial stuff sells. But the true geniuses are guys like Bela Bartok whom you guys probably have never heard of. Did you guys know that Phil Collins played drums in a band called "Brand X" and did the commercial stuff with Genesis? When I was a drummer, I would play some really cool stuff in front of 15 people in a Jazz Club and on the weekend I would play some crap in front of 5000 people and get paid triple!
Marcello D'Azzurro, a very nice man I met personally about 10 years ago,e-mailed me and told me about the reactions to my Interview and asked if I would come to Holland to do a show. I could come to Holland, but would I sing Future Brain, Don't Break my Heart or Bad Boy and who wants to see that? Isn't it better if Den Harrow mimes it like he has been doing for years?
Recently (March 2004) I had chance to talk with Gabriele Baldazzi who was the drummer of Tom Hooker. He was very kind to me and agreed to tell me a bit about his work with Tom Hooker, how he met him and some other interesting stuff. What he told me you can read below.
Here is what Eddy Huntington said about Tom:
I recently received an e-mail from Tom, which was really exciting, as I had
lost touch with an old friend. After one exchange though, I felt as though I
had lost an old friend. Tom was a dedicated artist, who loved the music and
the scene. He lived life to the full and a bit more. I only hope that he is
going through a phase of reaction in order to get a sense of perspective in
I met Tom in 1983. Our tour manager, Bruno Gaggiotti, had a pretty good reputation at that time and he was in charge to put together couple of successful shows with well-known names in the industry, to go around the Italian peninsula and islands. I saw Tom in Italian TV couple of time before but I had never paid attention to his songs honestly, especially because he used to arrive on TV stages and perform his song with his roller skates (that was his business card !).
In the band we had a good structure with drums, keyboards, guitar, bass and sax. We had two background voices plus two more background voices/dancers for Tom's number. Beside the concerts we used to find each other on the road or for dinners after shows, Tom was always pretty noisy and full of energy even after the shows. We loved to work with Tom because he used to perform live, no playback what so ever. During the show he used to play guitar and percussion also. A part his most famous hits and part of the new coming album, he performed also some cover from other artists.
I remember we loved to perform a particular song that was Music by Joe Walsh (Eagles). After that experience with Tom we moved with another manager, and we didn't have opportunity to work with other Italo Disco artists. However in the same show where Tom was part of, there was another big name at that time, actually he was the big star of the shows and his name is Sterling Saint Jacques, do you remember him ? The black guy with "blue eyes". But at difference from Tom he couldn't sing so we faked playing while he was going in playback. His hit at that time was Mamalou.
I still like the Italo disco and as for Tom, if I listen to some of those tunes it brings me immediately back in time and I have to say "what a time !!!"
To these days in LA where I live now, I have the XM radio in my car that would be the satellite radio and I get most of the disco tunes from Europe every day, I recognize the Italian "touch" all the time and I love it. I can tell you that we had a lot of fun going around the beautiful Italian territory doing what we loved most and meet people and eat incredible food.»
© March 2004 Zeljko Vujkovic All right reserved