In July 1979, as Pat Benatar was recording her first record, In the Heat of the Night, guitarist Neil “Spyder” Giraldo walked into the studio, forever changing the singer’s professional and personal life. The pair maintained a strict work relationship – for just two months – before their hearts got the best of them. The rock singer spoke with Monday editor Kyle Slavin about her 35-year career, with the love of her life by her side for the whole ride.
Monday Magazine: Take me back to the summer of 1979. How did you and Neil first meet?
Pat Benatar: It was really early on in the recording process. I was working with a bunch of studio musicians and another producer, who will remain nameless. We had cut maybe four songs, and I remember sitting in the control room thinking, ‘This is not what I was talking about at all.’ We had the best dudes in New York playing, and it was so bland, there was no soul and certainly no edge. It was horrifying. Mike Chapman got called – that’s who they originally wanted to produce – and so after four or five weeks of making this terrible record he was now available. But he wasn’t able to do the entire record, so he was going to give us his main engineer, Pete Coleman. I remember explaining to him why that first attempt failed: we didn’t have the right partnership going. I didn’t want to be like Linda Ronstadt in front of a band that didn’t matter. I wanted a partnership – Plant and Page, Jagger and Richards. And he told me about Spyder, who came down, we met, and it was just so right on every level.
MM: What was the chemistry like between you two, professionally?
PB: It was amazing. We had this musical chemistry from the instant he played the first chord. The moment we played together, it was just like kismet, it was meant to be. Forget the chemistry on a personal level – that was off the charts.
MM: Has that chemistry between you two changed over the years, as your personal relationship has evolved?
PB: I don’t know that it has. Our relationship is basically the same as it was, but it has become much more incestuous. We have children together, we’re parents, lovers, husband and wife, we run a business together. He’s still the nice one, I’m still just a bitch.
MM: How do you ensure that those roles – he’s a nice guy, you’re a bitch – in a professional setting don’t impact your personal relationship?
PB: I wish I could say I’m super smart and have a brilliant answer to that, but I don’t. For some reason, and it’s not by design, it simply doesn’t. We began like this. We were players before we were lovers, so these are separate worlds. The two things are together, but separate. We have a studio on our property – we work where we live – and it just disappears, we don’t carry (any professional arguments) in with us, ever.
MM: You and Neil have been married now for 32 years. What’s the secret to a long marriage, especially one where you work with your partner every day?
PB: As he is fond of saying, ‘She’s always right.’ And I’m fond of saying, ‘Good answer.’ We have an intense respect for each other on so many levels; that kind of sets a tone about how you’re going to behave.
MM: How has music changed in the last 35 years?
PB: The interesting thing is that it’s basically still the same. Even though the way to get the music out is different, everybody is still doing the same thing: writing songs. The great thing is that it’s so easy to put out a product, which, to me, is amazing. You don’t have to sign (with a record label) to get your music out there. My young one is a musician and singer; she can write a song, they’ll produce it in one day and it’s up on YouTube. The power stays with the artist, which is what I love. I don’t ever have that thing, ‘Oh, music was so much better in the ‘70s.’ That’s such bullshit. It’s an art form. It is a living form. It needs to be constantly propelled forward in order to be relevant and make sense.
MM: How do you guys spend your time when you’re not focused on your music?
PB: There’s always so much going on. Spyder has a biography he’s working on, I’m working on a novel, we have a cookbook coming out. The thing for me is to just expand and do things that are fun. Everything needs to be fun from now on. I’m going to be 62 years old; we have no idea how much longer we’ll be able to do this part of what we’re doing.
MM: You and Neil played in Victoria last summer. Why is our city a regular stop on your tours?
PB: We love the city. It’s just one of our favourite places. I love the whole beauty of the Island and the waterfront in Victoria. We have a great time when we go there; the audiences are amazing, so we’re coming back for more.
MM: Is it still just as exciting as it was 35 years ago to get onstage and perform?
PB: Neil and I are still loving what we do, that’s the truth. We are so amazed and so grateful when we go out there every night and see everybody there. I expect one day we’ll come out and there’ll be eight people in the audience, and we’ll say, ’I guess it’s time to go home.’ Nobody could anticipate being here 35 years later. We were hoping for five good years of really going for it. To be able to still get out there and perform for amazing fans is a miracle on every level.
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo play the Royal Theatre Aug. 3. Tickets are available at rmts.bc.ca.