Long-time rocker talks about forming the Funky Knights, working with the Lizards and getting Tim Bogert and Cactus back together again!
Bassist and harmonica player Randy Pratt played with the bands Binky Phillips and The Fuzztones before forming The Funky Knights in the late 1980s. Pratt has since been involved in various classic hard rock and blues outfits, including The Lizards, The NYC Blues Devils and Star People. He is also credited for reforming the early ‘70s supergroup Cactus, with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice.
Most recently, Randy has reunited The Funky Knights, which is in the process of recapturing the glory they long enjoyed in their home base of New York City. After enduring debilitating injuries in a car accident in December 2006, Randy’s career rebounded strongly and he is showing no signs of slowing down.
FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing. How did you become a bass player?
RP: I asked a popular guitarist in my high school if I should play bass or guitar. He said bass is easier, so I chose that. It isn’t easier! I’m completely self taught and even though I “practice” a lot, I’ve maintained my musical innocence. I just “make it all up.”
FBPO: How did The Funky Knights come to be?
RP: I had a vision early on of combining funk and rock. By the time I’d gotten decent chops, comedy had become part of my show-biz world as well. We formed from the ashes of Kill Me, a big comedy/musical troupe and a funk band that had a girl horn section. We clicked immediately on all levels. This was 1988. I was a stern taskmaster and we rehearsed our asses off.
FBPO: What inspired you to form The Lizards? Were you looking to do something different after all the time with The Funky Knights?
RP: Classic hard rock is another passion of mine. I’m always dabbling in that genre as well.
FBPO: How do your musical thought processes change when you play the harmonica, as opposed to the bass?
RP: Not as much as you might think. Being a bass player caused me to take a rhythmic approach to the harp. Once I got used to it, though, it gave me a shot a being more of an “up front” performer. I’m in the process of mastering a loop machine so I can do both at the same time. I’m gonna start doing some singing as well! (Gulp!)
FBPO: I think it’s great how you managed to get Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice back together after all these years and play the harmonica in this new incarnation of Cactus! What’s it like working with those guys?
RP: Carmine is my hero. What a cool guy, I love him. Tim is a “one-of-a-kind” artist. I’d have to say that his playing on the first three Cactus albums is my all time favorite rock bass playing. It’s been thrilling to even know them, let alone play with them. I also love Andy Fraser, Glenn Hughes and Bootsy Collins.
FBPO: I understand The Funky Knights are back together again after a big, long break. Is that right?
RP: YES!!!! After 20 years, my favorite band is back on the boards!
FBPO: What made you gravitate back to the four-string bass after playing the six exclusively for so many years?
RP: Around the time I reformed the Funky Knights, I also reformed Sharks, a classic rock band that I performed with in the ’90s. The vintage sound of those two bands made it seem like a cool idea to pick up the four-string again. It’s really a different instrument. Now the 36″ scale six strings that I played for so long seem gigantic. I only play four-string now.
FBPO: What’s keeping you busiest these days?
RP: Assembling wardrobes for the guys in the Knights. That kinda falls on my shoulders. No, really, I have a daily routine of practice and exercise. I have a huge wildlife rehab center that I run with my wife. It’s a real passion. She’s my hero; she works so hard. I try to come up to her level of commitment in my life. She’s a real inspiration to us all. She works seven days a week, fourteen hours a day! I have a pet cow and bull, too!
FBPO: What lies ahead for Randy Pratt? What can we look forward to seeing from you?
RP: I want for the Knights to prove that a band of “not young” veterans can still achieve a level of success, if they’re cool enough. I’d love to get back to where we were in the ’90s and surpass that. We may be the greatest bar band on earth. Hard work doesn’t scare us. And we have great shoes!
FBPO: What do you like to do when you’re not immersed in music?
RP: I like to exercise and write. I just completed a 600-page novel. It’s an epic, erotic rock fantasy about a band that’s as big as Zeppelin and spans 40 years. It’s over the top and would make a great movie or HBO series. I’m starting a book called The Funky Knights now. It will begin as a memoir through all our eyes. I’ll see where it goes from there.
FBPO: Randy, in some of your interviews, I saw references to a car accident. Is that something you’d like to talk about here, perhaps the impact it had on your life and your career?
RP: If you look at my right hand in live photos, you’ll notice that I’m wearing a glove with the fingers cut off, my pinky taped piggyback on my ring finger. That’s what I have to do now to play. I’m used to it. Of all the things to mess up, I broke my main plucking finger in three places and the middle one as well. I can still play, even though my hand looks deformed. It gets me the sympathy vote every time! Life goes on if you’re lucky — and I am!