Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander possesses one of rock’s best voices, and his band has been crafting irresistible, tough, melodic rock for more than four decades. Now the group—Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson—is vying for induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Zander has to wonder how he got tricked into a conversation with this cheap website.

I wonder if you can say a little bit about what being nominated for the Hall of Fame means to you.
Just being nominated alone makes you feel like you have the respect of your peers after all this time and to be honest, I thought I’d probably be dead before anything like that would happen to me. It’s exciting.

Do you think your forthcoming record is a continuation of what people think of as your core sound, or is it some new territory?
I think all of our records are a progression of some sort. There’s three great guys and four great chords. There are three songwriters in the band and we’re all vying for space on the record as we go along on this journey of over 40 years. So it’s going to be diverse, just like all of our records. Each record is sort of like a brand new baby, where it’s your favorite thing at that moment in time. I think we’ve come up with a gem and it’s going to be one of our best records.

I understand it’s very much what a longtime Cheap Trick fan is going to want to hear.
I think so. I think it is. It has flavors of 1975. It really does. And it’s the same guys in the band, so it sounds like Cheap Trick. I don’t think anyone is going to be very disappointed. We have the respect of our peers, and musicians like our band because we’re pretty good players and we write pretty good songs.

You’ve always been capable of radical shifts in sound and dynamics—you were capable of very heavy, tough-sounding, almost punk energy but could also do the most beautiful, gossamer pop. I think that that range is a big part of what has drawn people like me and kept them listening for so many years.
I think that comes from just being four guys that have different tastes in music and we want to project that through our music, through our records. I always liked that about bands like The Beatles—they could be so touching at one moment and then “Helter Skelter” the next.

We have that sort of diversity that keeps you thinking, “I wonder what the next song is.” I’m an album guy, and I would always be interested in what that next song was going to be, because it was so diverse and so different.

In the alchemy of the band, what are the members’ various influences? Who brings what to the table, stylistically?
When I was growing up in Rockford, Illinois, in the ’60’s, becoming a teenager, Rick [Nielsen] had a band in ’68 and Tom did as well. I’m a little bit younger so I came on the scene a little bit later, but I remember going to a battle of the bands at this place called Sherwood Lodge, where kids would go and vote on their favorite band and I would see Rick’s band at the time, called the Grim Reapers and Tom’s band, the Boll Weevils, I’d see Bun E. Carlos’ band, The Pagans. I didn’t think we’d ever get together as a band, but it happened. It was a dream come true, in a way, to see the best guys in each band suddenly in a band that wanted me as their singer. I was like, “Wow! This is pretty cool!”

What did the Grim Reapers sound like?
They were la Yardbirds kind of band, with a great guitar band named Craig Myers. Tom’s band was like The Kinks; Tom played guitar. Bun E. was the first guy I ever saw with glow-in-the-dark drum sticks and that immediately made him so cool. The Pagans did a cover of The Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine” and it was on WLS Radio in Chicago.I thought, “These guys must be cool.” That gives you a little flavor of what was going on back then. I had my own band; I was only in seventh grade at the time and those guys were a bit older, but those were the kids that were on the radio at the time. That’s what I listened to, mostly. I would steal my sister’s record collection, and stuff like that.

OK, time for rock-nerd questions from my colleagues. One of them wanted to know your favorite Cheap Trick album and single, or track. Another one wanted to know your favorite Beatles song.

My favorite Beatles song? It’s hard to say, but I guess it would have to be “No Reply.” Like I said, I loved albums more than singles, so it really hit me with Rubber Soul and Revolver. But as far as The Beatles individually are concerned, I think a lot of McCartney and Lennon’s solo music really holds up. One of my favorite songs of all time is [Lennon’s] “Mind Games,” which I performed myself in various forms.

As far as Cheap Trick albums, I like the Red Ant record, which is just called Cheap Trick, from 1997; that’s my second-favorite album. My first favorite album has to be this new one. Let’s call it Bang Zoom Crazy Hello. That’s just a working title.

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