Monday, May 28, 2012
Sterling Cooke - Don't Need You Anymore - Tomorrow Never Knows
Sterling Cooke Isn't Jimi Hendrix, He's His Own Man
November 30, 1984|by CHERYL WENNER, The Morning Call.
With his shoulder-length, black, frizzy curls, tall, lanky build and casual all-black attire, Sterling Cooke looks out of place sitting in the cocktail lounge of the Allentown Hilton.
Though he may not dress for the role, Cooke, a textile chemist by day and heavy metal guitarist by night, is as ambitious and business-minded as the rest of the lounge's three-piece suit clientele.
For now, the 28-year-old Tamaqua native's business priority is that of booking and promoting his band, The Sterling Cooke Force, whose debut album of heavy-metal rock, "Full Force," dented the charts in England and around the world - even though the group rarely plays in the Lehigh Valley.
"I'd love to get the management responsibilities totally off my hands and just concentrate on writing and playing," he says, "but we just haven't been able to find the right people to take over the business end of things."
The Force, which includes Cooke, guitar and vocals; Michael Dutz, bass, and Albie Coccio, drums, was formed a year and a half ago.
Cooke's previous pop music experience included touring the South in a Top 40 cover band. Successful enough to draw enthusiastic audiences, Cooke remembers wanting the same energetic response for his own band and music.
After forming the Force, Cooke took a full-time chemist's position at a textile company to support himself and his wife Mary, who is due to deliver a bouncing, baby Cooke.
"My family has always been supportive," says Cooke. "When I was in high school, they encouraged me to pursue music, but I wanted to play sports. Later, when I came around to their way of thinking, they must have immediately regretted it because my band started rehearsing in their garage. I'm sure they silently took a lot of flack from the neighbors, but they never complained.
"Now my parents see the album in record stores and they say, 'Hey, that's my kid,' and my dad's office wall is papered with newspaper clippings. Still, they warn us to be careful . . . and they're right.
"This is a ridiculously risky business. People who have the right look and happen to be at the right place at the right time will always make it before the guy with real talent and no connections. It's a crazy field to get into . . . but its what I want to do."
A self-taught musician who started out as a bassist, Cooke thought a three-piece band would be the ideal vehicle for his primarily rhythm-oriented songs. When Cooke decided to switch to guitar, Dutz, a 31-year-old record store manager and music instructor from Hazleton, took over on bass. Drummer Coccio, at age 20, is the junior member of the Force.
The band's first record was a single on Cooke's own E.S.P Records, "Don't Need You Anymore." Cooke dedicated the single to his guitar hero, Jimi Hendrix, in a well-intentioned move that has pigeon-holed the band ever since.
"We're taking a lot of heat from critics for the Hendrix thing. We just got a copy of a review from Kerrang (a British heavy metal magazine). The guy really liked the album, liked the songs, said we played well, but at the end he wrote, 'If only they didn't try so hard to sound like Jimi Hendrix.'
"Honest, we don't purposely try to mimic Hendrix. I sing the way I sing and I play the way I play. Of course, it's a compliment to be compared to Hendrix. Let's face it, the guy changed the face of music.
"We still play a few Hendrix covers," admits Cooke, "because if we don't play them, people start yelling for them anyway, but we're not a tribute band."
Apparently, the group's sound impressed someone, namely Daryl Johnston, president of England's Ebony Records, a small independent label, who signed the band to a five-album deal and offered to produce the records.
"We've got a product that Daryl has faith in and he is extremely good to work with in the studio," says Cooke. "Some producers make you sound the way they want you to sound, but he works with the sound you give him. There's no whip cracking."
"Full Force" was released in Britain, Japan and Europe last July. It is distributed in the United States as an import by Important Records.
The group has taped a video featuring "Hit & Run," the British single that peaked at No. 10 in Melody Maker and No. 20 in New Musical Express's heavy metal listing.
"We made the Top 20 in Japan and have gotten good reviews everywhere except in Britain," he says, "Metal is on a downward turn over there. Also, it seems to them that the record companies favor American bands, so they've got a prejudice against American acts. It's 'Buy American' in reverse."
One place where heavy metal never seems to falter is in the Lehigh Valley. Ironically, the Forcehas had trouble finding bookings here. The group has played in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, New York and New Jersey. On Dec. 14 and 15, the Force will open for guitarist Robin Trower in Brooklyn, and later that month, for Motorhead in Baltimore.
Sterling Cooke - Don't Need You Anymore
Sterling Cooke - Tomorrow Never Knows