We interviewed drummer and singer Ringo Starr at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan recently. He just released his latest album, “Y Not,” which we liked a lot.
Was the song “Peace Dream” on your album “Y Not” inspired by the Imagine Peace Tower?
That started in the ’60s and the band I was, in The Beatles, we tried to do what we could for peace. And we do it best in song. Every concert I do, I’m always just giving that sign of peace. That’s the way I do it. The world’s been a wacky place for many years, and we do what we can and that’s what I do.
In what ways did music and working with the Beatles change your personality? Do you think the person before the Beatles and before music was very different from who you are right now?
I was me. I was a musician, but are you the same as you were at 5? No. So that’s what happened to me. You change as you go on. I’m sure the opportunity to do what I love to do, which is play drums to bigger and bigger audiences gave me confidence, at least. I think basically I am this person who loves to play drums. But it’s a natural thing that you change as you grow older.
Of the songs you have composed, what is your favorite?
Well you always love the ones you just composed. Like the ones on this album. They’re like your new babies. But I’m really proud of a song I wrote called “Photograph” and “Back off Boogaloo.” I love them all really, because I put time and energy into them, to write them. But right now the new album is what I’m focused on.
Was it enjoyable to work with Paul McCartney and others on “Y Not”?
Yeah. It’s always great to work with Paul. He’s an old friend of mine. We were in the biggest band in the land together. He’s an incredible bass player and he’s a great singer too. He’s written many more songs than I have. When he was in L.A., and I’d say, come on over, it wasn’t like any big deal. Come on over and listen to this track. I’d like you to play on it, which was “Peace Street.” He said sure. He could always say no, but he said sure.
What do you do in your spare time between writing songs and playing in the band?
I do what everybody does. Watch some TV, we go to the movies, go to restaurants, I’ve got a great dog. I have a home in L.A., which is great, so I plant things. In England we have a very big garden. Everything you do I do.
What is your favorite song that you have performed?
Performed? I love to perform “With a Little Help From My Friends.” It’s great because everyone enjoys it, I enjoy it and everyone understands it.
There’s a remake of the 1968 “Yellow Submarine” movie. Are you involved with this movie?
I am. In October I had lunch with the director to see where it’s going. So we’re involved that way. I didn’t pick this guy who’s going to be my voice. But this is going to be incredible because now it is in 3-D.
Are you going to go to see it when it’s released?
I am, and I’ll probably see it before it’s released.
Why did you take up percussion in the first place?
I was 13 and I was in the hospital a long time. . . . This teacher would come with instruments. A drum, and triangle and stuff like that. If she pointed to yellow you’d hit the triangle, if she pointed to red you’d hit the drum. Anyway, I had this little drum and I played the drum for the first time. And I wouldn’t be in the band unless I played the drum. And from that moment, I only wanted to be a drummer. And look what happened.
Besides your own, what type of music do you listen to? What artists?
I just love the blues and country music. I just love music, and Ray Charles, you can never go wrong. Al Green . There’s just so much music for me that I’ve listened to over the years. . . . There’s so many people I would like to play with. There’s so much music that I love.
Do you and your son Zak still get together?
He does come over, and I’m his dad and we hang out. We don’t play drums together. We don’t do that, no.
What was it like to be in the Imagine Peace Tower?
The Imagine Peace Tower? In where, Iceland? The light, the big light. Yeah it was great. As again it was just something we were doing to focus on the other side of the islands and this planet we’re living in, which is peace. My dream is one day, at one hour, one minute, everyone in the world will go like this, and we’ll have just a complete moment of peace. It’s up to you every day in school, anytime. The “V” sign. Just do it. Peace and love brothers and sisters.
Do you usually do the instruments first when you’re starting a song or do you usually figure out the lyrics?
I play very bad guitar and very bad piano, but I play the notes I’m playing and the melody comes at once to me. Or I’ll just have a line. I’ve got a book I write lines that I think of.
Is there something about it that you really love about , Like the lyrics or a drum solo?
I like the lyrics because we get by with a little help from our friends and that’s my philosophy really. I have a lot of good friends and they help me all the time.
What was it like producing “Y Not”?
Well it was great because it was the first time I’ve ever been a producer.