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ERNST INTERVIEW
MAY / JUNE 2000 - PART 2








WWE: The songs "FOOLS RUSH IN" and "IT'S A SIN TO TELL A LIE" (from the IN A PRIVATE MOMENT CD)sounds much better than any other home recording released thus far. Why do they sound so much better? Is it possible they recorded in a studio after all?
ERNST: No, it's all home recording. It has a backing track that is pre-recorded and that gives you a better music situation and from one day to the next the quality could differ a lot, depending on where Red put the mic, or whether they were playing piano or not. That ruined it quite often.

WWE: Will you be putting out more material from the home recordings?
ERNST: We have very little left. There's one or two that will end up on the GOSPEL set, but apart from that I don't think we have very much any more.

WWE: What you've got is just not worth putting out?
ERNST: Yeah, it's just another version of the same song, just in poorer quality. We try to take the best version whenever we had it and we've also used most of the little bits and pieces that were in there.

WWE: Why has BMG still not released a professional live recording of Elvis "The Concert Tours"?
ERNST: Because that's not our decision to do that. We don't own the rights to that, the estate does, and the musicians do and it has never been possible to come up with a practical and financially agreeable way of doing this. There's been a lot of talk about this, but it just doesn't meet on this. I think it's very much, at this stage, a financial consideration that it just doesn't work. The musicians need to be paid and if the estate needs royalties, of course, and so do the musicians. There is no money in that project like that. We don't think an album like that would sell enough to cover the recording costs. The issue is not closed. It might come up again and maybe we do find a solution.

WWE: Lisa's supposed to be recording an album soon, right?
ERNST: Yep.

WWE: Of course, RCA had nothing to do with that.
ERNST: Nope.

WWE: Will a sound track of THIS IS ELVIS ever be released on CD?
ERNST: I don't think so.

WWE: For years, BMG has maintained that the original stereo mix of the studio version "I'VE LOST YOU" is no longer in the archives, prompting a remix of the original multi track masters for various projects such as the 70's box set. However, the Reader's Digest THE LEGEND LIVES ON CD set released in Canada, does feature the original stereo mix of the song. Could it be possible that BMG archives in other countries contain copies of master tapes that no longer exist in the U.S. archives?
ERNST: In principal, yes. What originals stereo mix of "I'VE LOST YOU"?. Wasn't it a MONO single? I'm pretty sure it was. And it wasn't on an album so there was no original stereo mix

WWE: I think that it might have been released in Germany in stereo as a single.
ERNST: Good question, but I don't know the answer to it. The principal of what you're asking could somebody have a stereo tape where we don't have it. Yes, that's possible. And it would be simple for us if we knew and it was on a recent release or something. Our colleagues would definitely send us a copy, but the CD is a copy in itself, of course. But Roger (Semon) and I have gone through all the stuff that DECCA used to have in England and there's nothing there. It's all copies.

WWE: What was that in the news a year or so ago about something being found in England?
ERNST: That was old production tapes, second or third generation tapes so there was no interest.

WWE: Oh, yeah, it just sounded good.
ERNST: It did sound good.

WWE: Aming fans, an of X-rated version of "HURT" has been circulating. It's been said that BMG does not have that version.
ERNST: I have the same version as the bootleggers have, because it's been circulating around but Felton Jarvis' wife Mary burned the tape in her garden after Felton died. She told me so, and I was in the house, and I saw the garden in which it was burned, and I believe Mary. If Mary said so, then that's what happened.

WWE: Does BMG have any plans to release more outtake material from Nashville '70 - '71 sessions?
ERNST: Yeah. I don't know whether BMG or the collectors label, but one of them will.

WWE: When will BMG finally release a comprehensive Blues compilation, updating the 1985 RECONSIDER BABY album?
ERNST: It's one of the things that pops up every time we do a new release plan and disappears again. It will happen one day. I think, actually, they're putting out one in England as a part of the series they do over there. My point is that I would like to have a few more rhythm and blues cuts for it. He did not do a lot of r & b material and I just don't...I'm hoping still that among outtakes and personal recordings whatever we will dig up that we could have some rarities that some people have never heard before. I feel it will happen at one stage, just not in the next twelve months.

WWE: You just want to get some more material to put on to make it more attractive?
ERNST: Yes.

WWE: The sound of the new JUNGLE ROOM CD seems to be so incredible, like nothing we've ever heard from BMG, or any outtake CD, or any general CD. It's so full of life it carries an unmatched clarity of instruments...just listen to the drums. Lene Reidel is credited on this CD released as the sound engineer. Can you explain if and how FTD releases are mixed and mastered differently, compared to general BMG releases?
ERNST: BMG has nothing to do with this material. Lene had put the album together. I mixed the material, actually, quite a long time ago.

WWE: I'm not really a 70's freak, but I kind of liked it.
ERNST: It's something that I didn't like three, or four, or five years ago. I can't even remember the engineer on it. WWE: It's pretty listenable.
ERNST: It might have been Dennis, but I'm not sure it was Dennis. It might have been some of the other guys.

WWE: With the gaining popularity of "Unplugged" and undubbed recordings, will BMG ultimately put out 70's songs along these lines like an undubbed thing type thing. Unplugged Elvis.
ERNST: No. I don't think so. I think what we're doing is we're putting things outtakes out undubbed, but the masters we try to maintain as the masters were. I mean there will be exceptions where we have the full version of this and that, or we do this and the other, but in general, no we're not changing the masters. I'm not against Joan Deary's MEMORIES OF ELVIS series, but it's nothing that I care so much for that we want to do it again.

WWE: Has anybody thought of compiling Elvis "unplugged" Collection tracks using just guitar and piano?
ERNST: I think unplugged is already an old fashioned term.

WWE: I think so too. It's like the old MTV thing.
ERNST: People are over it.

WWE: Why is "Let Me Be There" omitted from the Moody Blue upgrade?
ERNST: Because it's already available on the Memphis '74 album. For those reasons, to duplicate between them and every track we put on costus money and there seems to be no reason to do repetition. You could argue that if this cut wasn't available somewhere else, why would we leave it off, but it was already at the time, when they put out the album. It was like a last resort because they didn't have enough material and they didn't see any point in this duplication. I would have had the opposite question if it had it been on there.

WWE: Why were the DOUBLE FEATURES series deleted? Any plans of releasing new complete movie sound tracks including all outtakes and rehearsals?
ERNST: Basically, most of them sold very poorly. After a while, if they don't sell a certain number a year, you end up deleting them. Like, you delete records by John Denver, or Britney Spears, or who else. It's a business decision. I don't think there's any chance in the world of going out into the general market place with Elvis movie songs, unless they are hits from the movies. If anything happens it will be on the collectors label but there are no plans just now. We have been discussing this and we may come up with some proposals and see how they work and see if there is a general interest from the fans. What sometimes is a problem with us, between all the letters we get, there is millions of suggestions. Some of them actually represent a lot of the fans but some of them represent individual preferences.

WWE: Well, I guess that brings up the sales of FTD releases. I mean, has one sold more or better than the other?
ERNST: No. They have sold the same. I must say that when we are through with life-time sales, I think JUNGLE ROOM SESSIONS will have sold ten percent more than the rest of them.

WWE: Why aren't there any extensive liner-notes with the FTD releases?
ERNST: What we believe is that the collector's series as "Follow That Dream" is from those who really know about all of Elvis' music already and if they don't have our box sets or my book, then they should go and buy it. We don't want to write again and again the same information to people who already know it anyway.

WWE: What could you write that they haven't read?
ERNST: I get tired of reading the stuff that Peter and I have been writing eventually, because we've been through it so many million times; what can you say? I mean, here is Elvis, I wrote quite a bit of a chapter on that in my book, and Peter has touched this and we've done liner notes. I don't think we have a lot more to say about this and I'd be only too happy to pitch my own book. I don't think there's anything here that those who buy the records don't know already.

WWE: Have there been any movie outtakes found since the publication of your book?
ERNST: There's been basically outtakes of every source found since the publishing of my book so in every area we are improving ourselves and we keep on in a very stubborn fashion. The only thing, and I remember you and I getting a bit at odds over my very open statement, is that it surprises me, and it still surprises me that almost nothing comes through the network of the very informed men. People like you, Sherif, all those people who have the web-site, that so little material shows up that way is surprising to me.

(NOTE: Sherif Hanna is one of the biggest Elvis collectors of unreleased audio and video in the world!!)

WWE: So have you worked anything out with Sherif about "LITTLE MAMA"?
ERNST: No. That's all put on hold, because Sherif wants to do a project and is working very hard on that and I have no wish or desire to put out any LA. HAYRIDE material just now. It's not so long since we did SUNRISE, and as you were saying yourself, people really like this 70's stuff. I don't think a whole CD of the LA>HAYRIDE would necessarily be as well received as JUNGLE ROOM was.

WWE: By the way, have you found any information about anymore MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET tapes?
ERNST: No. I've been through this with Shelby and John Singleton a million times, and there's always this rumor that Johnny Cash has a tape, this, that and the other. I know a lot of people who know both Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash and none of them have ever heard anything that's not on the CD as it is, except for those bits that I've put out on the box when we had this little piece of "RECONSIDER BABY".

WWE: Of course the age-old question about the "PIED PIPER OF CLEVELAND film! That has just vanished, right?
ERNST: It's not just vanished. I think the story that came up a few years ago is that, again, some smart-ass trying to develop something that never existed. We are not giving up searching for it. We have friends at UNIVERSAL who are helping us track it down, but we haven't found anything.

WWE: Why haven't you tried to interview Bill Randall about the film? Or maybe you have.
ERNST: Well a lot of people have over time and nothing ever comes from it. At times I think he said that he has a copy, but he's never been willing to deal with anybody so at this time I don't think he has a copy, because there would have been times some years back when it would have been worth a lot of money. He's not going to get a lot of money for it today and ten years from now nobody's going to care.

WWE: What about the Roy Orbison kinescope?
ERNST: The Roy Orbison is funny in a way that you know about it, I know about it and this friend of ours Cooleyin Nashville knows about it, and I'm sure Sam knows about it. The problem is that none of us have ever heard it. Barbara Orbison, an extraordinary lady, said that there were so many things that Roy was proud of. He mentioned who had been on his TV show from the older days and you know his favorite moments with this and that and he loved Elvis Presley. She talked about how they had been talking about motor cycles and all that. She says that, my whole problem with this whole story is that, Roy loved Elvis so much that she cannot understand that if Elvis had been on Roy's T.V. show that he never ever mentioned it.

WWE: Well, people's memories are bad, but I agree with you. I remember when Danny Mayo (a man from Alabama who HAS a kinescope of Elvis on a Roy Orbison TV show from Odessa, Tx in either 1954 or 1955) called me up and he mentioned these things about the show. I only knew about it, because of a guy named Mick Perry in England who was a friend of Orbison's. I don't know whatever happened to Mick Perry, but I wrote to him for years. He told me about it in 1975 that Elvis was on the shows. I had no idea Orbison even had a show. Maybe most people didn't.
ERNST: Neither did I.

WWE: I know. But that was amazing when Mayo called me out of the blue, I think it was '81 or '82 and told me, not only, he told me the sponsor, the right station. It's like you just don't make that up. I don't know where he could have gotten the information if he didn't really have the material.
ERNST: The only thing is that I worry when Cooley describes Mayo as a complete lunatic.

WWE: I know.
ERNST: I mean, Cooley is some personality himself. We know how much Cooley loved Elvis and Cooley never heard it either. I have nothing more on that. I've been researching this for a long time. I know a lot more about what happened out there, but I've never been able to.... I've even gone through the newspapers out there for every single day of that year to see if I could see Elvis Presley guest on Roy Orbison's TV show or anything like that, but it's never mentioned in the newspaper.

WWE: Since your book, have people sent you information on more shows he did in the 50's?
ERNST: Nope. Not one.

WWE: Wow. How's the book doing by the way?
(NOTE: The book is ELVIS: DAY BY DAY) ERNST: Oh, it's doing really well. I get royalty statements every six months, but they're very happy with it and I think they're going to give it another big push for Christmas again.

WWE: Good. It's not ready for paperback yet?
ERNST: No, but my book (A LIFE IN MUSIC) is. The recording session book is coming out as a paperback later this year.

WWE: Does BMG have any information on the song "FEELINGS" that Elvis supposedly did in '76 or did he even do that song?
ERNST: Oh, he never recorded it, but they definitely rehearsed it according to David Briggs. Briggs remembers very vividly that none of the musicians liked the song so they were hoping he wasn't going to record it. I think "FEELINGS" was a very used song even in '76, wasn't it. Everybody knows.

WWE: Everybody did it, yeah.
ERNST: No one ever heard of the artist after that if I remember correctly. We have all the tapes from the sessions, except for the dirty "HURT" version and there's definitely no "FEELINGS" on it, so if it exists..... I really doubt it if it exists; Briggs was there. He would have told me, if it would have been there, because we discussed it at great length. I think Kathy Westmoreland is the one that started the story that "FEELINGS" was there. I think she just confused the situation. How would she know if Felton had recorded it at that moment or if they were rehearsing it? I don't think you would. I have no reason in the world to believe it exists. Someone told me the full version of "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL" exists. That I would find easier to believe than "FEELINGS" because if you remember Paul Lichter had a magazine at the time, just a few weeks after the session he printed the songs recorded. "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL" was actually on that list. There were thirteen songs, not just twelve.

WWE: Will you guys ever do anymore of THE ROCKER Series?
ERNST: No, but that doesn't mean that we couldn't do a straight rock and roll album, but the series in itself is history.

WWE: Will any other takes of "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" be released?
ERNST: This is getting too specific in that if there's good outtakes of any songs they will be released. If out takes are very, very poor, we are not going to release them. So in principal, everything is open. I can't remember how many takes there are of "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" so we're not holding anything back that we don't want to release, but if it's very poor we're not going to release it. Sometimes everybody plays bad, Elvis even sings bad so why would we want to release that?

WWE: Have you found any older takes from '56 such as "HOUND DOG".
ERNST: We keep finding material, and as I said early on, we don't make comments on what we find and we haven't found for the reasons I mentioned.

WWE: Will there be an album with studio jams?
ERNST: If we had a lot of studio jams, there would be. I don't know of very many studio jams, but of course you could put "Don't Think Twice," "Mary Christmas Baby," and oh God, what else, "Got my Mojo Working." Would that be enough for an album? I don't think so.

WWE: Why does Elvis' voice on "SURRENDER" sound like he's singing it through a telephone on ESSENTIAL ELVIS VOL. 6
ERNST: Because the engineer Bill Porter was out in the bathroom puking, because he had a bad stomach and that is what the Bill Porter tells everybody himself. He was so sick when they recorded that night that he had to go to the bathroom constantly.

WWE: Oh really, that's a true story, huh?
ERNST: It's a true story and he excuses himself in an interview for the album not being quite what it should be on all of the recordings, but I think the only one that really suffers, actually, on this album is "SURRENDER."

WWE: I never really noticed that.
ERNST: There is an interview with the Bill Porter where he tells about the story and he wanted to go home when Elvis pleaded with him to stay.

WWE: I've never heard of that before.
ERNST: It's a true story.

WWE: What will the Las Vegas box consist of?
ERNST: It will consist of some Tom Jones recordings in Los Angeles (laughing) It's just to pay hommage to one of the very, very successful elements of Elvis' career. We've done Las Vegas stuff, we have a lot of it, and we'd like to present it in a box with some great liner notes telling the story of Elvis in Las Vegas. We would like to have had the seventh disc of that set be jamming in Las Vegas with Elvis and all the people who attended his show, but somehow the tape must have gotten lost.

WWE: Didn't you tell me that there's supposed to be, or at least on paper, Elvis singing "LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND" in rehearsal.
ERNST: Oh, on paper there is. The only thing that we don't know is a list of songs Elvis sang on a certain date at the rehearsals in Las Vegas whether there's a matching tape or not. We have people claiming opposites here. No, it does not exist, and yes, I know it exists, because I saw it or I heard it or something like that. The one thing that we have learned is that a fair number of rehearsals showed up on one tape or the other. We have no documentation that proves that all these rehearsals were recorded, but we have a lot of paper work on what was. We actually don't even know whether he sang them or not. We see a list of songs, but it doesn't say Elvis sang it or two lines of it. It was typed up by Tom Diskin his people. It could be a number of different things. It could be that he actually did sing during that particular rehearsal, or sometimes it could be the songs that Charlie Hodge and the others..Freddie Bienstock.. had to find the sheet music for. And then Elvis either sang it or didn't.

WWE: It's like the songs from the '68 TV SPECIAL that were written up, maybe but never sang them. Are you convinced that there's no more '68 material.
ERNST: No, I think every single piece except for the tape that you once had we have not bothered to put all of that tape out again, but in principal, everything else. Of course, there are a few studio outtakes, but the problem with those is they were recorded in sections songs, not from start to beginning. They took the first eight bars, and then the next eight bars, and it doesn't leave room for much variation or fun.

WWE: Is there a sound board from the Houston 1970's shows?
ERNST: No.

WWE: Whatever happened to re-release of LIVE AT THE INTERNATIONA HOTEL CD?
ERNST: Oh, I can't remember that we even had that. I think it was once printed, actually, and we were going to do it, but we never were. So it was printed by either mistake, or I don't know. There is no intention of doing that. I think the next thing we are going to do on that stuff is going to be the Las Vegas box.

WWE: Other people are saying that you have a sound board tape on both Indianapolis '77, and the New Year's Eve in '76.
ERNST: There's a lot of speculation on what we have on sound board, and again, because of a lot of interference from people who now want to sell those things or keep telling us stuff that never happened. We have decided not to comment really on whether we have one or the other soundboard. The reason why, I'll tell you, of Houston is that the sound boards really started taking place from '74 and onwards. That doesn't mean there isn't soundboards earlier than that, but there are always random. We are checking people and we are chasing people who have soundboards, not through the fans, but in general terms to see if somebody would have something. We have 250 or something sound boards, so you're not running out of material. Not for a very, very long time, but if we can get them at a reasonable price and they are from a period where we don't have that many, or that they include a very rare song we would like to do so. Those people that we have been in contact with who has sound boards that we don't have, mostly have sound boards where the repertoire is so predictable that it's not really interesting.

WWE: Have you seen the colorized version of "Love Me Tender"?
ERNST: No.

WWE: I just got a DVD of that from Hong Kong and it's nice.
ERNST: I've seen some of the material from "THAT'S THE WAY IT IS" from the new version of it, because I'm hired on the project and it looks fabulous and I think it's going to be great, great, great. Three or four weeks from now we are going to have all the material available and then it's time to figure out what's going to go in the show. I think it will be different from person to person what their favorites are going to be in this context. Some will enjoy the best performance of they may love the new version of "POLK SALAD ANNIE," if that goes in the movie or some will just love the rehearsal bits and pieces. It's very difficult and I think each one will pick their own favorite. The general quality with the fact that they are going back to original negatives here and the fact that they have an excellent film editor, Michael Soloman, to work this means that the overall quality is going to be very, very high. I was blown away by the picture quality of it myself.

WWE: Oh yeah, I'm looking forward to it myself. Will there be a lot of rehearsals?
ERNST: There will be rehearsals, there will, of course, be more rehearsals on the DVD than there will be in the show because it has to have a balance, but there will be plenty of rehearsals.
WWE: Why not release the three CDs with completely new material?
ERNST: Yeah, why not do it as a five CD, or why not as a four and a half CD, and why not? There are no answers really to the why nots? The reason we've done it this way is that it is a remake of the classic album and movie and we want people to be able to get the original album with it. That may not be what every collector wants, but that may be what a lot of other people who are not collectors would want.

WWE: Can you give us a better view of Felton Jarvis as a producer? Your mixes seem to be so much better. On much of the 70's work, the production by Felton seems very heavy handed and intrusive.
ERNST: Well, I think we have better equipment today. I also think we spend more time on mixing than they did back then. I hope that we become fairly good at it between Dennis Ferrante and myself. Also, by mixing outtakes, you don't have all the overdubs and it gives it a clearer sound and there is a number of techniques that's Felton used that I don't like personally. One of them is compression on the lead vocal, which makes it, to me, flat and nasal. Dennis came up with - I brought the problem to Dennis - I think the voice must be better than what we hear on the record. We spend a lot of time figuring out why it was. It seems that when they mixed back then, they put a compressor on Elvis' voice and then when they did the finish master, they compressed that as well. This is why the sound on what Dennis and I do is a lot more open, but also you need to play it louder. The reason for compression at that time was that it had to jump out at the radio. So today we only mix for audiofiles in principal so it gives us better options that to do this than Felton had at the time.





NOTE: Please go to PART 3 for more of the interview!