Most people know Desmond Child as the mastermind songwriter behind mega-hits like “Livin’ On a Prayer”, “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and many, many more. Most people probably don’t know that before becoming a highly-sought-after songwriter/producer, he fronted his own band, Desmond Child and Rouge. Rouge was made up of Maria Vidal, Diana Grasselli and Myriam Valle and their amazing vocal abilities were a key to the signature sound of the group.
The band was only together for a short time but were able to knock out two excellent records that I still play frequently. Recently the group decided to re-release the two re-mastered sets (the self-titled record and Runners in the Night) for download and on CD. As part of a movement to issue new music, they also recently updated their hit single “Our Love is Insane” and as you’ll hear, there’s more in the can. It was an absolute pleasure to speak with Desmond once again to talk about all things DC&R. Here’s our chat:
antiMusic: Hi Desmond. How are you managing to navigate times in this crazy COVID world?
Desmond: Well, I’m busy, busy, busy doing all kinds of things that I would have been doing anyway because I just go from my home to my studio. I’ve always been a studio rat anyway so it didn’t affect me that much. I mean, I do miss going to a nice restaurant and sitting at a table with a tablecloth (laughs). That’s what I miss the most. And of course, I miss my friends. But we’re on Zoom and Skype and calling. And sometimes you’re more in touch with your friends than before because you realize that you need each other.
antiMusic: How are you managing being empty-nesters?
Desmond: Well, the nest is no longer empty because they went off to college and did their online classes in their dorm room like they were prisoners, where they couldn’t have anyone over. They had to bring their trays up to their room for their meals and it was like going to Rikers. (laughs) So they were finally cut loose to come home for Thanksgiving and they’re going to stay through January so I couldn’t be happier. You know, I didn’t really get a chance to miss them that much because we went and set them up in late August and before we knew it they were back. Back and just as annoying (laughs).
antiMusic: I’m so excited about the re-release of the first two records. these two records plus Discipline are my desert island records. I play them once a month at least still. There’s just something about these records that are completely and utterly magical and I’m so excited that they’re getting a new coat of paint. I can’t wait to hear them. Are they remixed and remastered?
Desmond: The first two records are remastered and so we were really excited to hear it for the first time without putting a needle down and hearing a bunch of scratches. Hearing them come over the big speakers was just so exciting to relive everything again. And then we decided to do a remake, not a remix, a remake of our fist Top 40 single, “Our Love is Insane”. So this one is called “Our Love is Insane XX”.
antiMusic: I heard that. It’s got quite the energy behind it.
Desmond: Yeah, we picked up the tempo. And everyone is singing great, just like always because the sound of Rouge which is Maria Vidal, Diana Grasselli and Myriam Valle….the three of them together are perfectly matched. Because Diana is a coloratura. Myriam is like a dramatic soprano and Maria was more like an alto. So the three voices together is like wow. It’s an orchestra.
antiMusic: I know. Diana sounds exactly like on the first record and even more so.
Desmond: I know!! (laughs)
antiMusic: You met Maria while attending school. Did you know she was into music then?
Desmond: Well, it was a fall in love at first sight, soul-mate, find each other moment, She was in the drama department. I was in the music department but I was always wanting to hang out with the drama kids. So I remember seeing her in a few plays and so I would always sneak into the backstage area to hang out. Her little dressing area was right next to the door that I used to sneak in and out of. So I knocked on it and she opened it and she had little pigtails on and painted freckles and was playing in this comedy as a little girl. She opened the door and said, “Sorry, you can’t come in here.” I just looked at her and it was like, “Wow!!” It was one of those things where you just knew. I just came to life.
And she said that a few days later, she saw me playing the grand piano that it was on the stage. Everyone was gone. There was just a light on the piano. So she snuck into the auditorium and heard me writing and singing. She said that’s when I melted her heart.
It’s really extraordinary because at that time I wanted to be a rock star so I kind of thought of myself as androgynous like David Bowie and sort of like Mick Jagger who I had heard had male lovers and things. And that was exciting. I didn’t identify with the idea of being gay. And I was so drawn to Maria. But eventually, we moved to New York together and lived in a little apartment. I realized growing up, because we were together four years, that I was actually more gay than I was bi.
That was very difficult because we were between our first and second albums. So our second record, Runners in the Night, was all about me coming out. The first song is called “The Truth Comes Out” and it’s to Maria. If you look at the album cover, it’s very dark and somber. I’m walking down one way and she’s in the opposite direction heading into the light. So it was very autobiographical. Later on things had to be as they had to be but at the time it was very difficult to continue the group together because, of course, she was very hurt. I tried to be the perfect man. The perfect boyfriend. The perfect leader. The perfect everything.
But it was a very dramatic time. Everything happened in this same year. The two albums came out. We made a stunning debut at The Bottom Line. Lines around the block. We met John Belushi who introduced us to Gilda Radner who was coming to our gigs. And Gilda asked Rouge to be on Broadway with her on a limited run show called Gilda Live from New York.. The show was originally directed by Lorne Michaels and was filmed by Mike Nichols. It’s a documentary called Gilda Live. I was finishing the second album…the two albums came out six months apart because there was something that was happening in history as well.
We had gone through a big dance period. We had all these gay clubs and it was the sound of gay pride. The sound of KC & the Sunshine Band. Shake Your Bootie. Love Unlimited. Evelyn Champagne King. The Bee Gees, There was a DJ named Steve Dahl who decided that he had had enough disco. So he invited all of these kind of heartland people to show up at stadiums where games were happening and they all ran out in the field and threw all their disco records into a big pile and burned them like it was Nazi Germany burning books.
Remember Disco is Dead? And honestly, that was a very racist and homophobic act and all of those artists, their careers instantly died. They just went onto the disco circuit. We didn’t want to get caught in that wave because our music had dance elements. Besides dance beats, we were experimenting with Latin percussion, horns and our guitar work was all these giant power chords. We were combining dance beats with rock, really for the first time. And then our stories were more like singer-songwriter stories. They weren’t really like sex-oriented things. They were unique story-telling things.
So we were also performing live and we realized that the music we were making was more like blue-eyed soul and pop. We fit more into that genre. But we said, we love it when the guitar player turns up and people respond. So we said, let’s make a rock record. Let’s shift gears and became a rock act.
We had also been opening for a lot of the punk groups like Patti Smith at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club and CBGBs and New York Dolls and all that kind of stuff. We were way more pop than them but we listened and we started incorporating punk elements like droning guitars into our music and that’s what you’ll hear with our great guitarist G. E, Smith, who then went on to marry Gilda. See the circle goes around and around?
But then by the end of that year, it was all too much for us. One of the last things we did was we became the music guest on Saturday Night Live. This was all in one year. From nowhere to that. We had a song on the soundtrack to the movie The Warriors called “The Last of An Ancient Breed”.
So it was too much for us to handle, especially emotionally with me and Maria. And also the person I left her for, dumped me. So I had nothing. I didn’t have my soul mate with me. I didn’t have my record deal anymore. I didn’t have our managers anymore. We didn’t have an agent. I had nothing and it took me a very long time to find myself after that. I just completely lost my confidence. And it really took until ’91 when I made Discipline to finally express myself as an artist.
antiMusic: When and how did you meet Myriam and Diana and did you already have ideas about the kind of group that DC&R would become?
Desmond: Diana was in college with us in Miami, in the drama department as well. So we were all best friends. Then I came up to New York for my first year at NYU and Maria followed. Then we were in Rubin Hall in the dining room and looked up and there was Diana with her little suitcase. It was like, “I’m here.” (laughs)
Myriam, I had met two summers before when I had dropped out of Miami Beach High and I took off with my writing partner at the time and we became Nightchild. So I had to become Desmond Child and she had to become Virgil Night. And so we went up to Woodstock and we met Myriam at a commune, a kind of rock band cult, called The Spirit in the Flesh up in Massachusetts, I think it was. And so we were there and she had showed up and it was you worked in the fields for the rock band. (laughs) I mean, it was like….horrible. So we took off and she kept visiting us in Woodstock.
When I went back to Miami to finish high school and college, we stayed in touch. So when Maria and I and Diana went to New York, Myriam was already there. She was a Puerto Rican from Brooklyn. So we just started singing together. I had started first, singing lounge-lizard, songwritery stuff at a place called The Ball Room and then they would get dressed up like they were hookers with a lot of makeup and corsets and this stuff. They would be at the bar making lots of noise and I would say “Hey, what are you guys doing?” And one of them would say, “You think you’re so great. We’re better than you.” Then I’d say, “Oh yeah? Well come up here and show up how great you are.” And so they would run up and sing around one mic in three-part harmony and everyone went crazy. And that’s how we started Desmond Child and Rouge.
antiMusic: So at this point, did you have the songs that would become the seeds of the first album?
Desmond: No. We had a bunch of other songs that were kind of….I don’t know. They were my first songs. So when we started getting clearer and clearer about our vision and once we got the record deal, I think I wrote almost the whole album immediately after that. Because then I realized that we needed to come up to a whole higher level.
And it was at that time that I met Paul Stanley of KISS. We were performing in an underground club on 72nd St called Trax. We became regulars there and we started getting more and more people coming and Paul Stanley started showing up. He would always hang out backstage with us. I think he thought the girls were very sexy and sultry. We writes about it in his autobiography.
Then one day he rushed in and said, “George Harrison is here.” It was like, “What???” We all peaked around the edge of the stage and there he was, sitting in the front table. He looked up and gave us that all-white smile of his. We were all like, “OMG. One of The Beatles…is here…to see us sing!” It was a mind-blowing experience and of course, during our encore, he was quickly ushered out…you know, whisked away.
That night after the show, Paul said, “Why don’t you write a song with me for my group?” I said, ‘You mean KISS? Isn’t that for little kids?” (laughs) I didn’t really understand what the band was. “So I said, OK but you’ll have to help write a song for our group.”
So we wrote a song together called “The Fight” and we co-wrote that with David Landau, Jon Landau’s brother, who was one of our guitarists. So then he said, “Why don’t you come to one of our rehearsals?” So I went to SIR Studios and there was the whole KISS setup. And there was Gene, gruff as ever, and the other guys, and they all split. So it was just me and Paul sitting at the piano. We started writing the song that became “I Was Made For Loving You”. So I think I made out better than he did in that bargain.
antiMusic: So how did “The Fight” come together? Did you have the idea for the song in your head first?
Desmond: I think I had a little spark that I might have done with David. Then I brought it to Paul and he helped with it. I wanted to get that whole anthemic rock thing. The song has a chorus of “Left, right left”, that later you’ll hear in songs by Ricky Martin. “Here we go, ale, ale, ale.”
antiMusic: I never thought of that and I’ve heard those songs a million times. You’re absolutely right.
Desmond: (laughs) So I’ve never not done Desmond Child and Rouge music. I just did it with different people, unbeknownst to them. (laughs)
antiMusic: What were your expectations about the offer to write with Paul — an actual hit, a good career move or just an intro to the rock crowd?
Desmond: I didn’t think anything. He was nice and I just thought, “Let’s see what happens.” I really didn’t have any expectations because I was just focused on making myself a rock star. But before I knew it, I heard “I Was Made For Loving You” on the radio. I mean it was like, we wrote the song and they turned that thing around and they launched it so fast, it was unbelievable.
Paul will say to this day that it’s their biggest international hit…to the chagrin of Gene who has never liked the song. He says it vocally. Remember that movie, “Why Him?” and that song was all over the movie and there’s KISS singing the song. And Gene as happy as can be. It’s like…I guess the cheque was large. (laughs)
antiMusic: Were you surprised by anything about Paul once you started to write him considering KISS’ reputation as hard rock wild men?
Desmond: I didn’t know him as anything other than the guy I was hanging out with so he was always very soulful. Very thoughtful. Very articulate and sophisticated. Later on when I went to write him in his apartment, I walked in and it was like, “Is this your Mom’s apartment?” And he said, “No, it’s mine.”
Everything was beige with leopard rug and cases with Tiffany vases and lamps…real ones, that were worth who knows what. And you could eat off the floor. Everything was immaculately clean. The guitars were all on walls. It was like a museum. That’s the thing about Paul. He’s a very sophisticated intellectual really. He’s very professional and he understands what they made and he respects it. And it’s so great the he and Gene were able to rub each other like stones in the river the right way so that they could stay together and make this amazing business. They’ve brought people so much joy and continue to do so.
antiMusic: Did writing “The Fight” have any effect on anything else on the record like “City in Heat” maybe or possibly the more hard-hitting material of Runners?
Desmond: Yeah, I think it was all part of the path. With “City in Heat” we had the big rock guitars. Meeting Paul Stanley, yes. But there was more to it than that because once we started performing and we saw that audiences responded to big rocking out sounds, we started shifting our sound more towards rock. But still we wanted to keep that urban thing.
Also, remember that was when I bought my first drum machine. They had a real ticky-tick sound. It was almost like a metronome. But I started writing songs to a beat. Then when we went into the studio, especially with the second album, we were measuring the bass drums so they’d be exactly perfectly in time. And we’d transfer from 24 track to another piece solid so were in fact, programming drums but we didn’t even know it.
antiMusic: You told me before that Bob Crewe gave you the blueprint on songwriting. As a result all of your songs are so visually oriented. Tell us about writing “West Side Pow Wow”.
Desmond: Well, we lived on the east side but we loved going to the west side cuz that’s where the Cuban/Chinese restaurants were. Because Maria and I are Cuban. Myriam is Puerto Rican. And Diana is Italian but she was raised in Kendall in Miami surrounded by Miami Cubans. So she’s almost like a Cuban.
We were a Latino group so that whole imagery of gangs on the street and all of that…I mean, I grew up in the projects where you’d go in the back and there was always somebody playing some kind of drum. If you walk through the park on Sundays, there’d be all of these percussionists. So we started using that kind of atmosphere, that kind of imagery in the songs like “City in Heat” and “West Side Pow Wow”.
antiMusic: You’re not afraid to write somewhat awkward lyrics. Example’ I want your love from my heart erased” from “Goodbye Baby” and the title of “The Night Was Not”. Along with that, you have words that you don’t usually find in a song like, “There was a tumult in the street”. Or “din”. Talk a bit about how you construct a line and do you sometimes try different words in there just to make it somewhat different?
Desmond: (laughs) No, I think when I was writing a lot of lyrics, my chief influences were Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell. They would write these very sophisticated, kind of poetic words that you’d only find in a poetry book or something. So I think they have a big influence on me for that. And of course, Elton John and all that.
But yeah (Laughs) I never really thought about it being proper English. I was writing songs on an instinctual level but when Desmond Child & Rouge broke up, we went our separate ways and I started working with Bob Crewe who had moved back to New York after a very long time and he had pretty much retired, But if you think about it, he was just 61. I was 23. And he took me under his wing. and we started writing Brill Building style. We wrote for almost two years together.
It was Monday through Friday and we’d meet before hand at a place. It was always Dutch. He was in the program and a lot of people had taken advantage of him. I was broke but I paid my share. He had a special apartment, just for songwriting. All it had was his black baby grand piano that all of hits were written on, but he didn’t play piano himself. So there was hard wooden bench and there was a very comfortable high stool with arms, leather bound and really nice for him to sit in. (laughs) And on one side he had a little stack of yellow pads and he would start the whole session by going to the electric piano sharpener.
He wouldn’t even let me put my hands on the piano until we had a killer title, So we could sit there for a whole day going through things. He’d tell me things and I’d say, “That sounds like a title.” And he’d go, “Noooo.” And I’d say, that sounds like a number one hit title. And he’d say, “Well, for how many weeks?” (laughs) “How many weeks at number one would it sound?” And that was his standard. (laughs)
And it might take us two or three days to write one song. He was very careful about copying the lyrics by hand. And if he made one mistake he’d rip up the pages and start over. He was like OCD in that way. By the way, the other person who is like that is Joan Jett. So precise. No scribbles. Everything in the most beautiful hand-written lyrics and if she made one mistake, she’d start from the beginning.
So then Bob would label the cassette cuz we’d have a little cassette recorder, the kind you can just on the piano and it would record our session. He would always make me play the song from beginning to end on a separate tape. He was so professional.
I really grew up not knowing my father until I was 18. So I had a deep need to have a father and looked at Bob as a parent. I took whatever he said. Except for one time when he wanted me to sing the word lady in a song. Because he had a hit with the song, “Lady Marmalade”. So he wanted to rhyme lady with maybe or baby. And I said, I can’t sing lady because I had already come out. I was gay. I’m not singing lady. I’m not going to be in the closet even in a song.
He was so frustrated with me. And he says, “Well!! I don’t know how I had so many hits without you.” He was very haughty and his voice is very loud. I mean, he was a big Viking with reddish hair and these freckles and was very dapper. He was a model. He had great cheekbones, beautiful teeth and blue eyes. He could be very fierce. I remember sitting at that piano and gallops of tears started falling on the keys. He was like “Are you crying? Oh my god. Oh my goodness!” And he came over and put his arm around me. (laughs) And just because I wouldn’t sing lady. Now I wish I had. That was so dumb. (laughs)
That reminds me of when I went to write with Mick Jagger up at the Four Seasons hotel. It was the first time and he was in the top floor suite and he was on the phone and I was waiting on the couch. So he got off the phone and said, “Well, I’ve got this hook. It goes (sings) ‘I’m going to buy me a gun and use it.'” And this was like two weeks after Columbine. And I was trying to be politically correct and said, “Well you know, this isn’t really a message in America that people would want to hear right now.”
He looked at me and before you knew it, I was out. Just gone. Out on the street. And then I was like, “I should have written that song!!!” (laughs) I don’t know if he ever used that hook with someone else. But anyway, those are some times that I should have gone with the flow instead of standing on some dumb principle.
antiMusic: It sort of worked out OK for you (laughs)
antiMusic: Was there an actual muse for “Otti”?
Desmond: Yes. I was working at a sporting goods store and there was this Austrian owner called Otto with blue eyes and he married a Puerto Rican lady, very beautiful — kind of a Natalie Wood type. They had this gorgeous son named Otti cuz he was named after Otto, so Otto Jr. He was a skateboard champion. And also the sister worked at the race track. So she would be calling us all the time with tips of what horse was going to win. She was there in the stables. She knew what horse was well…all this. Then we’d run and go to the little lotto thing and buy the tickets. (laughs)
Otto was a ski champion. He was a very…..Arnold Schwarzenegger type, right? And Otti was a kid with a little afro and thin little mustache. I think I had kind of a crush on him, even though I was with Maria at the time. So I wrote the song “Otti” about him.
antiMusic: Tell us how much time was spent on the vocal arrangements because they are completely amazing.
Desmond: Well, we lived in this little apartment at 309 East 81st street, 2 Front East. I had brought this little Wurlitzer piano that I had stuck between the fireplace and the next wall which had these big open windows and there was an air shaft where we could hear people screaming and fighting. It was very West Side Story. Then there was a little washroom and closet in back. So it was just this one room.
I would sit at the piano with my back to them and Maria was first, then Myriam and then came Diana because that’s how they sang. Maria was always kicking my chair. But she was my girlfriend too so do you know how many fights we had about kicking that chair? (laughs) So we would work out the harmonies. Wr had everything worked out before we went into the studio. It wasn’t an idea of spending endless studio hours or working out the parts or layering like we do today.
antiMusic: Well the vocals are so integral to the songs and it sounds like there was a tremendous amount of care that went into the selection of each part. Did you have to spend a lot of time crafting each part or did it just flow naturally?
Desmond: Yes, we rehearsed it over and over again. We would really work at each one. Then we would get pounding on the ceiling from above. (laughs) From below (laughs) And then from the sides (laughs). Every which way. Then the cops would knock on the door and would say, “He cut it out.” It was just one of those things (laughs) But we didn’t care. We just kept doing it and developed that sound.
We just lucked out that their voices had just enough harmonic distortion to be exciting, not be annoying. Their voices are so different. It’s when people sound the same that you get harmonic distortion that turns into a (grunts) when they sing, But we were so lucky with that.
We had this idea of being street angels and we put that on our cover, It’s printed, “The island sleeps. Our dreams afloat. Awaken as teen angels, resurrect the dead of night on 81st street.” So sometimes we’d go and sing our harmonies out on the street because it was fun. But a lot of times when we’d sing on the street, we’d sing Laura Nyro’s Gonna Take a Miracle album with Labelle.
So many years later, in the early ’90s, Laura Nyro was coming to play in Santa Monica at this jazz club on Santa Monica Blvd. I had tried many times to reach out and I never got anywhere. She was very reclusive. But I went and sent my business card back. By the time I got home, there was a message on my answering machine. In this very soft-spoken voice (whispers), “Hi. It’s Laura.” I got goose bumps on every part of my body! I called my husband Curtis and said, “Listen to this. It’s Laura Nyro.” And I actually started weeping because it had taken 25 years for her to pay attention to me.
So she came over the next night. The girls happened to be in LA that night so they came over and we had this amazing dinner. Then we went to my music room and Laura sat at the piano and we started singing all the parts. All the Labelle parts. We started singing the album, Gonna Take a Miracle. It’s a fan’s ultimate dream. Even our photographer Ciro was in town and he took pictures of me and Laura at the piano which I posted on my Instagram recently — it was her birthday.
Then she invited me to have dinner at her house. I rented a car when I was in New York and I drove to Danbury, Connecticut. I had no idea of what it was going to be. I had imagined her in this amazing, big country house with a huge grand piano. I thought that she why writes songs better than me when I was writing on this little Wurlitzer Spinet, Mine was from a bar so it still had that tufted back to it. Black with red buttons, right? (laughs)
I said, “Oh, she must be this amazing Italian chef. It’s going to be this most amazing meal.” And I got there and she actually lived in this sort of prefab little….it looked sort of like a railway car that water running beneath it from this pond she had made. It had one picture window and I think it maybe had a couple of small windows looking out the back. She almost had no furniture. She had a futon on the floor in this little alcove. and a little table. She made me penne from the box with I think Ragu spaghetti sauce. And iceberg lettuce with French dressing. I had brought like four Hagen Daaz, different flavors.
We just started talking and she told me all these stories about her life and career. She played me a song she was working on. Her piano was a little Spinet, looking out the little window at the pond…and it was exactly like the one that I had written all my first songs on. And I had imagined all these things. It really showed you that it wasn’t the piano that wrote the songs.
So when she passed, Maria Desiderio, who was her partner invited us to perform at the Beacon Theatre in NYC Oct 27, 1997. We were asked to do two songs and I came out and sang, “The Man Who Sends Me Home”. Then Rouge came out and we did “Christmas in My Soul”.
antiMusic: That was absolutely beautiful. I’ve seen the clip online.
Desmond: Well, this is a great story. It had so many chords, I was a little bit nervous to play it. I had a little electric piano in the dressing room. The girls had already gone downstairs to watch the show from the side of the stage. There had been a big deal because Maria had called me before the show to say, “Listen Rickie Lee Jones has decided she wants to do “Christmas in My Soul”, will you give it up?” I said “No. I’m not giving it up.” She said, “But it’s Rickie Lee Jones.” And I said, “Yeah but we’re Desmond Child and Rouge and we’re not giving it up.” She had even tried to see if she could come onstage and sing it with us and I said no. I was a bitch, I said “This is our moment, We’re not doing it.”
By the way, she ended up doing “Been on a Train” and she did the most exciting version of that song. You know that part on the song where she goes (sings)? Rickie evoked Laura’s voice and she just put electricity right through us.
So she came into the dressing room after that and I was there practicing the chords to “Christmas in My Soul”. All of a sudden she appears in the doorway and she said, “I know you guys didn’t want me to do the song. But can we do it now alone with me?” So she sat next to me and we sang the song through, just her and me. It was just…….beyond. And I was thinking to myself, “Where’s the camera now? Why can’t somebody just walk by and take a picture? It’s Rickie Lee Jones.” (laughs) That was really very touching. I mean, by the end, we both had tears in our eyes and hugged.
How exciting is that, right? You’d have to be a real Laura Nyro fan to understand what that means. Then when Patti Labelle came out and sang “The Bells” and you know that line that says, “I’ll never hear the bells?”, everybody from the audience rushed the stage. People were like crying, screaming. It was like despair over the fact that we’d never hear her voice again.
antiMusic: Wow. Do you remember how you celebrated after the first record came out?
Desmond: Well, what had happened, during that period before the record came out is when I met someone, a very handsome boy who lived across the street. I met him out at a place and didn’t recognize him as a neighbor and Maria was working as a waitress at Once Upon a Stove where her waitress name was Gina Velvet.
So he did me a favor. I fell instantly and madly in love. I realized from the core of my being that I was way more gay than I was bi. I couldn’t keep giving the excuse that I was like David Bowie or something. I was growing up. I was a man and I realized that I had to face who I really was. It was very difficult and especially with him across the street. It was really hard (sighs). And oaf course, it wasn’t going to work out because he was 21 and I was 23 or 24. But still, it was so life-changing. And that’s why I wrote “The Truth Comes Out” and “Runners in the Night”, Because I had to tell Maria, I was running back and forth from one apartment to the other. It was exciting but I felt so guilty because Maria was my soul mate and she still is. So that’s how that happened.
antiMusic: Going back to how you craft such wonderful sonic visuals, tell us about how “Rosa” came to be.
Desmond: Well before that I wrote two songs that were kind of similar. Later on I wrote a song with Paul Stanley and Holly Knight called “Hide Your Heart” that I produced with Bonnie Tyler and cut various times with different people. That’s one of my favorite songs but “Rosa” was kind of the predecessor. It was like a kind of West Side Story. We kind of went into this kind of jazz thing at the end that I sang the highest notes ever. That was one of my things….singing falsetto but remember Paul Stanley used that in “I Was Made For Loving You”. I don’t think that I ever sang that high again. It was so high and piercing. I think that song is a masterpiece on its own.
antiMusic: So what is the plan going forward? You told me last time that the group had five or six songs ready to go.
Desmond: Yeah, well they’re not quite ready to go because we still have to mix them yet. We started making them but we had second thoughts about the mixing and now we’re re-mixing them with a different person. But we put out the two re-mastered albums and it’s great hearing them without scratches. And then there was the remake of “Our Love is Insane XX”.
Now we’ve been doing new songs and Maria has been producing them actually. So she is the one that coordinates all the file-sharing to get everybody on board. So we have another song that Myriam sings lead on. We’re just waiting for the new year and then we’ll just keep going. We’re not on a record company schedule. We don’t care. We’re with BMG….they’re distributing us and we just do whatever we want because we’re doing it for us. And for the people that love our music.
Maria did an incredible website with my Venezuelan cousins who are refugees in Sicily. They’re called Waterhouse Entertainment — my first cousin George and his wife and they’ve been doing an incredible job and Maria did a little movie on it. She’s been doing the socials with them and we have Ciro’s entire treasure trove of photographs…like 2,000 photographs of us. Candid stuff, photo-shoots and pictures that we rejected for one reason or the other. But now we’re going, “Wow, we’re gorgeous. Why didn’t we save that?” (laughs) So we’ve been posting those.
We’ve been talking. We’d love to do a coffee table book with interviews with all the different members. We cold tell the same story four different ways and just make a gorgeous coffee table book. We’ve started looking into self-publishing it. I think there’s an art book thing on Amazon that we could do.
So there’s all these things and maybe some day, there will be a Desmond Child and Rouge musical or movie or television series. All about our lives and landing in New York and everything that happened in the club surrounding our starting out in. Then the shadow that fell over all of our lives which was AIDS. So many of our friends that we were hanging out with perished. So I think it’s a good story.
antiMusic: That’s great. But in the meantime, you say you have the music. We want the music, Desmond. Please. (laughs)
Desmond: (laughs) We will. Well Maria has one that is just so stunning. It’s called “No One Can Hurt Me But You”. The one Myriam sings is “Beautiful Like A Storm,”: It’s amazing. But the one Maria sings, it’s like “Wow!!!” It’s an opus. And the way she produced that, it’s just so cool and original. And she has her own studio and her own engineer and she works at these things and it’s just so great. Now we’ve got our kind of original brand we can just continue dropping things into that space. I think I could not be happier.
antiMusic: Aside from your autobiography and your musicals, are there other songwriting or production duties from you that we can look forward to in the near future?
Desmond: Well, you know about “Diva La Diva”, right?
antiMusic: Yes, I’ve heard it. And it’s a great song.
Desmond: Also. I’m an Executive producer in a TV show called Transcon,
antiMusic: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Desmond: Yeah, it’s called Transcon and the Making of Lou Pearlman and a Boy Band Revolution. It’s with ABC and they’ve closed the deal with ShowRunner. I’ve tried to create situations where I’m the buyer not the seller. So with my partner, Andreas Carlsson, we’re going to pick all the songs. And yes, there will be some licensing songs but he co-wrote “Bye Bye Bye” and all that. But we’re writing new music for this show.
And we hope to make a soundtrack record with all the biggest stars re-doing all the biggest songs.
I mean, there’s so much that can come out of a situation like that. This is something that we’ve been working on since Andreas and I met in 1998. We started talking about a movie. Because he was working in Orlando and he told me the story of Lou Perlman. I was thinking, “This is an idol-maker story. This is fantastic! Let’s write a story about it.” And then the story just got better and better. And we bought the rights to a story called The Hit Charade about Tyler Gray and the rights to a Vanity Fare article called “Mad About the Boys”. We’ve developed this and….;.there’s a lot of people who’ve tried doing this project but we’re the ones who have nailed it, so we’re really, really excited.
So that’s the whole thing. If I can get my foot in the door like that, then I can do so many things. We can have the Desmond Child and Rouge kind of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel series like that. There’s so many things. I still have time to live and do great things. No moss has gathered under my feet (laughs). I’m just constantly going forward until they shut me down. Until they close my show. (laughs)
Morley and antiMusic thank Desmond for taking the time to do this interview.
Purchase Desmond Child and Rouge CD here
Purchase Desmond Child and Rouge – Runners in the Night CD here
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