Tyketto Michael Clayton Interview

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For 30 years, Tyketto’s life is like a Rocky story. A band that has been knocked down, gotten back up, and refuses to give up. They are the band that are still rocking with no signs of slowing down. Tyketto (Danny Vaughn-Vocals, Chris Green-Guitar, Greg Smith-bass, Michael Clayton-drums, Ged Rylands-keyboards) have had a busy year touring. This year will see the release of the band’s upcoming DVD, “We’ve Got Tomorrow, We’ve Got Tonight” and next year, the 25th anniversary tour of their sophomore album Strength in Numbers. I had an opportunity to catch up with Michael Clayton to talk about the DVD and the upcoming tour.

Angel Alamo: How did the idea for the live DVD come about?

Michael Clayton: Once we got back on the world stage and started doing the big festivals, we were exposed to a multitude of different bands. Some just kind of phone it in and are doing whatever to make their money. Then we see several bands that are playing wonderfully, but when you see them from show one to show two and year one to year two, it’s the same cut and paste show. Even though it’s quality, it’s the same thing. The bands we like to go see are the bands that always try to mix it up. We’ve been together 30 years, so how many people in our genre haven’t seen us live?

With the challenge of once again reinventing ourselves, the first dialogue was to record an acoustic DVD where we’d do different arrangements unplugged. We soon remembered that we’d done that once or twice over the years, so it didn’t seem special.

So, the idea started: Let’s get backing vocalists. Great, okay, we’ll do that. Let’s get a horn section. Okay, we’ll do that too. And let’s get a string section. Once everybody got all excited about it, we just started throwing these crazy ideas around. Fast forward six months; we’re in Wales and we’ve got a 14-piece band on stage! We then added the extra pressure of recording it in front of a live audience, so it just became this monster. It was born out of wanting to give our longtime fans something that they never saw before.

Angel Alamo: What can fans expect on the live DVD? Will they get to see, like the backstage stuff, of the band preparing?

Michael Clayton: Our first thought was to look through the catalog and pick obscure stuff, but we then thought that doing stuff that’s lesser known and doing it differently may really throw our fans. I think Chris and I started talking and agreed on just doing our most popular songs. I’m not sure if you remember Bon Jovi doing an “Unplugged” show on MTV many years ago, where and he and Richie did this acoustic version of Livin’ on a Prayer that had this somber feel to it. It was a melancholy version of that beautiful pop song. I never forgot it, because it was a song I knew and loved for many years, but suddenly it became a new song again because they did it differently.

So that became our mindset, and we just started throwing around crazy ideas. I suggested Kick Like a Mule, (which is a flat out, balls to the wall rock tune), but wanted to do it like a big band, with horns and real campy backing vocals, like The Andrew Sisters.

In addition to the live music, there is a ton of interview footage and band commentary, as well as one of the rehearsal days where the five of us did a few songs without the extra members.

Angel Alamo: And then, what were some of the other ones that really stuck out?

Michael Clayton: The Last Sunset is a pure acoustic song. We decided to put instrumentation behind that, and make that a kind of Keith Urban, pop country tune.

Faithless always had a Zeppelin-esque feel, and we just heard these big strings ala, “No More Tears” by Ozzy (Osbourne). The big metal strings sound. So, we put that in.

Wings was one I was pushing for that Danny and Chris weren’t initially hearing. I wanted to do it like a flat out, late 1950s, early ’60s, Frankie Valli doo-wop feel; playing up the backing vocals a lot. Once we got rolling with the idea, they were like, “Wow, okay, this is cool. We’re gonna do it this way.”

The one that was scary for us was Forever Young, because that’s something that you’re just not supposed to touch. That’s the big song. Chris sent this idea over, and in my stubborn, New York head, all I was registering was the word, “Different.”  He asked, “What do you think?” I’m like, “I hate it!” It was such a left turn! He loved it, so he asked, “Without giving Danny your opinion, would you mind if I sent it to him?” I said, “No, of course I don’t. It just sounds so radically different, I’m not sure if the fans are really going to embrace this.” So, he sends it to Danny, who immediately calls me up and goes, “I think you’re fuckin’ nuts dude. I love it.”  I got outvoted, and the more I listened to it, I very happily admitted that I was wrong. I’m glad they talked me into it, as it’s a DVD highlight.

Angel Alamo: There’s nothing wrong with that, because I mean after 30 years, it’s okay to want to do something different.

Michael Clayton: Danny and I are the only two original members left in Tyketto. With our genre getting a little bit older, I can’t think of many bands that have all the original members. It seems like the fans are a bit more understanding of change, whether you do a song differently or have different members on stage.

Angel Alamo: What has been the key to keeping the band together?  The band, it’s like you guys seem more like a family than a band.

Michael Clayton: We’re all busy in our lives and in our own businesses. We’re all doing well out on our own, so Tyketto is a very elective decision. Danny said it best in an interview back in June that it’s like a family reunion we don’t get to do all that often.

Chris brought his son to M3 this past May. I was flashing back to our M3 appearance a few years prior. That was the first time my son Ryan saw Tyketto, and now here’s Chris’ son Sullivan seeing us for the first time. It is very much a family thing. We say it so much; we’re always paranoid it’s gonna come off non-sincere, but it’s true.

Angel Alamo: Is he the one that got to sing with Slaughter?

Michael Clayton: Yeah, Sullivan went up onstage and sang with Slaughter! He’s a rock star. We do phone Q&As and trivia contests discussing his faves; KISS and Alice Cooper. He’s a beautiful boy.

Angel Alamo: Back to the DVD. Any release date in mind?

Michael Clayton; We were talking about maybe an October release, not realizing this is 14 songs. It’s mixing a 14-piece band. It’s new renditions. There’s probably an hour, hour and a half of interview footage, behind the scenes stuff and the artwork to tend to. I would say a late fall release is probable,

Angel Alamo: Was there any reaction to how the fans would feel to the arrangements of the songs on the DVD? Like you mentioned they don’t like the songs being messed with, but was there anything in the back of your mind saying, “Is this a good idea?”

Michael Clayton: We were petrified! This could have derailed in a thousand different ways, and I can honestly say I’ve never been more nervous behind my drums. The event ended up becoming very personal. Each band member took turns introducing a song and adding in their own personal thoughts. It was very emotional for all of us. When we went into the audience for the post-show dinner, fans were saying, “When you did that version of Forever Young, I was crying.”

We struck a personal chord with people. Doing the songs stripped down and hearing what went behind these songs when they were first written, it became this special moment in time. I can’t even describe what went on that weekend, but we all felt it. If people listen to it and hear the same thing that we all felt that weekend, it was worth all the stress. Logistically, it was very risky and there were many times when we thought we were in way over our heads, but I think the fans are gonna absolutely love it.

Angel Alamo: The band are actually going on the road to do the 25-year anniversary of Strength in Numbers. Besides the European tour, is the band gonna do any other tours beyond?

Michael Clayton: That one we totally stumbled on. I went to do a Facebook post, and I really had nothing to say. Nothing was really going on to report, so I went through my laptop, looking for a picture to put up. I wasn’t even thinking about any kind of business. I just put the Strength in Numbers album cover up and wrote something like, “Holy shit, next year’s 25 years.” That’s it. And it got over 800 likes in two hours. Suddenly, people are saying, “You have to tour on that album!” It just lit everybody up. We got to talking about it, and agreed it was a great idea. A few weeks later, the March 2019 tour was booked! We’ve also signed on for a September 2019 festival in Hamburg Germany. Once we can take a breath from the DVD, we may add a few European dates onto that.

Angel Alamo: What are your memories of making the Strength in Numbers album?

Michael Clayton: Misery!! For many years, that record represented us getting dropped by Geffen and the advent of grunge music, (which put us out of business for a while), a few of us ending long term relationships and Jimmy leaving the band. All that is the Strength in Numbers era.

I think it wasn’t until Chris and Ged came into the band that I changed my outlook. With new blood comes new energy. Watching the new guys play the Strength In Numbers songs, and seeing the fans going nuts was amazing. I thought to myself; Don’t Come Easy was always my baby. That was the good life, big advances signing to Geffen, our first major deal. That has all the positive connotations with it. Once I listened to the Strength In Numbers record without judging all the circumstances around it, I’m like, “Man, this is a fuckin’ good album.”. A lot of fans in England prefer it over Don’t Come Easy. My memories of the making of the record aren’t really that great, because there was so much other shit going on, but my current memory of the album, as far as body of work, is wonderful. I’m looking forward to playing that whole album. We’re doing the record in its entirety on that tour.

Angel Alamo: Like you said, it’s still a great record because at the time you were going through the thing with Geffen, I remember Nelson was like waiting and waiting for the follow up album.

Michael Clayton: We finished the album right when things started turning. We had a fully mixed and mastered record, we had the artwork done, we had the photo picked for the cover, we had a full press schedule ready to go. This thing was as ready as ready could be, so we figure let’s go visit our team. They haven’t seen us in a while, as we’d been on the road and we’d been working on this record.

We went to some journalist friends, and they “weren’t available” to see us. We then went to our accountant’s office to play him the mixes. We weren’t into the first chorus of the first track, and he left! Brooke and I sat there, listening to our own record by ourselves in this huge conference room. He came back in, and I thought it was to say, “Oh sorry guys, I had a call, let’s listen to this.” He came back in to get a folder he left on the desk, grabbed it and fucking left again! We were sitting there like, “What?” That was the beginning of the end of that chapter. Overnight, it was gone. That was devastating for us.

Angel Alamo: Then?

Michael Clayton: The European market didn’t feel the hit as much as the American market did, so we just took it elsewhere. That year when we were in that state of flux, we just hit the road. We toured England relentlessly on that record. We toured Europe and The States too. We’d go out for four or five months at a time and just play anywhere and everywhere. That’s how we survived. And then things went quiet after that. For a band to sustain themselves purely on playing live is exhaustive. You gotta be out on the road how many days a year just to pay your rent?

So that ended. It got us through ’94, but by the end of that year, Danny had just had enough. That’s when he quit. Everything came at a price for us over the years it seems, but we’re still here.

Angel Alamo: That’s the great thing, like when I was talking to Danny at the M3 festival, it was like, wow, you know, it’s kind of cool to have grown up reading about you in Metal Edge magazine, and reading your interviews, I’m here face to face, laughing with you, I’m like, “Who would’ve thought?”

Michael Clayton: No, we never would’ve thought. This whole thing came just as we started getting a little bit of gas in the tank. That’s when the genre just exploded, with the M3 and the Monsters of Rock and all the festivals going on all around the country. It was so weird because we’d go to those Monsters of Rock cruises, or even the M3 festivals we were on. I looked at the bands on those bills, and we’re probably one of a handful of bands that doesn’t have a gold or platinum record. We never achieved that status.

What’s happening now is people like yourself saying, “Holy shit, I get to see these guys finally.” That happens a lot. But in addition to that, they’ll come up and say, “Dude, I’m a Y&T fan, I don’t know who the hell you guys were, but holy shit!” Every night on that cruise, our dear friend Dave Meniketti from Y&T would announce, “If you haven’t seen these guys, go see them!” He was just such a great supporter of us, as are band members from Firehouse, Faster Pussycat, the other members from Y&T, Winger and Queensryche. Many had never seen us live, and just recently discovered Tyketto. The old fans are coming back around, saying “Wow, it’s great to see you again,” and there’s new fans discovering us for the first time.

Angel Alamo: Fans are always curious to know, does the band ever check out what the fans are saying on Facebook?

Michael Clayton: I love our band’s social networking although I’m personally not into it too much. I think Jon Bon Jovi said that it’s much more interesting to be a voyeur, and watch what other people are saying versus you, because right now, if you put your opinion on social media, you’re looking to get your head handed to you! I think our Facebook page is about 18,000 people now. We didn’t go trolling for any names, that’s truly our fan base. One of the many things I love about our British fan base is they give it to you straight. They’ll tell you if it’s good and they’ll tell you if it’s bad.

There was a fan named Luna. Many years ago, on the Strength in Numbers tour. He came to see us, and I remember asking, “Luna, how was the gig?”

He goes, “Eh, you kinda sucked.”

I reply, “Excuse me?”

And he goes, “Dude, you look like you were gasping for air up there.”

Well, I was. I was smoking a pack of Marlboro reds a day. He was being so brutally honest with me. It really hurt me that my smoking had deteriorated my performance to the point where a fan recognized it, and I must have told him ten times over as many years that I quit smoking that next day because of him. Now, that’s a REAL fan!

You gotta take it as it comes. Some fans will tell you you’re the greatest thing in the world if you’re not, just because they’re your fans. You get the pessimists out there, and the haters, that nothing you can do is right. We listen to everybody, but at the end of the day we make our own decisions. But yeah, we are very active, we always want to know what our fans want to hear. We respect them. They’ve been with us for 30 years. When we did that DVD in June, I think there was maybe 120, 130 people a night. I knew 90% of them by first name.

Angel Alamo: Did you know that one of your friends is involved with a Tyketto fan page?

Michael Clayton: That’s Julie. Julie is Wonder Woman! She handles our merchandise, our website and is involved on the fan page. She and her husband Darren are just sweetheart people, very intelligent and get the business side of things. They are both indispensable members of the family.

Angel Alamo: Would the band ever do a residency, like your peers, much like in Vegas or in any venue? Like a residency type of thing?

Michael Clayton: In Tyketto, one never says never! Anything is possible. Danny and I are like Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Little bit younger and not as many zeros in the bank account, but Danny likes to be an artist. He wants to create. He said the business circles give him a headache. I’m a very active businessman and told Danny on many occasions, “‘Til the day I’m in the ground, I’m gonna look for something to spark us,”. That Anvil documentary comes to mind. It just blew them up. We’ll look at any opportunity, residency included. I will always be looking for that one thing to turn our tide, but in the meantime, we’re just enjoying the ride.

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Tyketto Interview M3 Festival

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Angel Alamo: What has the band been up to lately?

Danny Vaughn: It’s a bit of a quiet year for us. We have a couple of major things coming up with the festivals in June. One in Switzerland one in London. We are doing something we have never done before which is we are filming a live DVD in over two nights, which is kind of reinterpreting a lot of our songs that we are known for that our fans love. We are including a string section, backing vocalists, violinists, soloists all kinds of crazy stuff going into it.

Angel Alamo: Is that the plan that the band has with an evening with Tyketto?

Danny Vaughn: It’s dinner with the band, it is multiple video takes we will do about six songs each night. Working with the audience getting it all filmed.

Ged Rylands: It’s like Michael says it is more of a TV show, that’s the kind of vibe we are going for.

Danny Vaughn: Something we have always wanted to try. It’s something that bands on our financial level rarely get an opportunity to do. We have been very lucky we have had someone helps us, because it cost quite a bit to put on a production quite like that. We have always kind of shot over our pay grade if you will. We are grateful we get included in the same sentence as the same bands that are on today’s bill. We haven’t sold anywhere near what most of these guys have sold over the years.

Angel Alamo: You guys have not really been as active do you think people are now rediscovering the band?

Danny Vaughn: What you are referring to is a lot America we have never left Europe. when you see We tour England almost every year. I’m down and if we don’t I do it with my solo band. We have never gone away in Europe.

Ged Rylands: A lot of the bands here today they come up to us they are envious of our position to be able to go over to Europe because a lot of these bands don’t get that chance.

Danny Vaughn: Our last European tour was like 5 weeks.

Ged Rylands: Yeah

Danny Vaughn: That’s a long time

Ged Rylands: We do good numbers were not playing to 50 or 60 people. It has always been that way.

Angel Alamo: Is it Because audiences are more loyal. In America you have to have a big number 1 Radio hit where in places like Europe and Japan once the fans love you they love you forever.

Danny Vaughn: I think that’s it that is basically right. They have very long memories. They are not locked into the trends. You know that’s not saying that our shows are filled with teenagers but they are there, that’s always heartening to see a 12-year-old rocking out to your songs alright good parenting.

Ged Rylands:  We have gotten a lot of new fans these last few years.

Danny Vaughn: The reach album really got us a lot of new fans. You do something like this today even a lot of people come up to me today and say I don’t know who you are I just went out and bought your album you really can’t beat that.

Angel Alamo: Is there any new music on the horizon?

Danny Vaughn: Our last studio album was in 2016 Reach Then we put out live in Milan which was 2017 which was us playing live at the frontiers music festival. So yes it is time to start engaging in the writing process again. I got my Whiteboard out at home by the way with 35 ideas.

Angel Alamo: So there is no timeline as to when the next studio album will be coming out.

Danny Vaughn: Oh no I don’t like to say it because one, I am unfortunately notoriously slow when it comes to writing songs. I can’t make any excuses for it I just think a lot. Also we won’t put something out because it’s time to if it’s not ready it’s not coming out. We want to put out an album that we would happily sit and listen to which is what reach is.

Angel Alamo: The rest of the year will the band be doing any major touring?

 

Not too sure no just the things that I mentioned with the festivals.

Ged Rylands:  The last two or three years we have been touring almost Non-Stop.

Danny Vaughn: In 2017 we did two European tours and We have been very, very lucky to have been included in for about 5 Years running in the Monsters of Rock cruise. That has really opened the doors for America. We have done a few more American shows of course we would like to do more like this. So next year is a quiet year. It will be devoted to writing. Taking ideas back and forth between all of us.

Angel Alamo: What was the feeling like playing in your first arena show in Denver in 1991. Any memorable moments.

Danny Vaughn: The most memorable moments of that show was actually after the show. That was the first tour with Nelson. We had gone a few shows with them but just was the first official night of the tour. A played we had a great night. We watched Nelson and they blew the house down, so we are packing up at the end of the night. I suddenly realized that they got hot tubs backstage and stuff. I turned the corner and someone goes dude, so we got the nelson twins with two or three very lovely young women in the hot tub. They go what are you doing. We are getting on the bus, they go bullshit you are getting in the hot tub. So I get in so yeah that was my first memory.

Angel Alamo: Who was the best band that you guys toured with?

Danny Vaughn: Best is a harsh word.

Angel Alamo: Or good bands.

Danny Vaughn: Nelson was a stunning band but they were a great band. Everybody was building on their looks. They went out on tour they had one of the best guitar players in the world with Bret Garsed, Bobby rock on drums, and Gunner is a stunning bass player. Paul Mirkovich on keyboards. But seriously a solid live act. Anybody ask me that question in my history I will say Iron Maiden when I was in Waysted we were opening for Iron Maiden across the United States and Canada. That is quite an experience.

Ged Rylands: Shows like these with a lot of these bands and then afterwards you just become friends. This can be transported to Germany, UK, different festivals it’s the same kind of bands You meet up with these bands during the summer months’ friendships do develop. It’s nice when bands do gel.

Danny Vaughn: There is a lot less competition between us all, are a lot more of us of course as we are older, be really appreciate where we’re at,that we still get to do this at whatever level. It’s a privilege to do it.

Angel Alamo: You read my mind about the next question back then that you would imagine that you would still be doing music today after all these years?

 

Danny Vaughn: I mean back then my imagination was quite Limited. I just wanted to be a star man and that was it you wanted to be Bruce Springsteen, or Bon Jovi or whatever. And then it becomes your life. No, there was nothing in my imagination that would of prepared me to be 56 years old and looking ahead Band camp I still do this and I do not do anything else. Believe me I have over the years. It is quite nice to not have another job.

Angel Alamo

Angel Alamo: I have to share this as fan, I still remember reading one of your interviews on metal Edge magazine.

Danny Vaughn: Oh Gerri Miller.

Angel Alamo: The one segment where you guys were shooting the music video (forever young).

Danny Vaughn: Yeah, I still got that.

Angel Alamo: I remember reading the interview. Before the whole internet thing.

 

Danny Vaughn: Those were the good days. One of the things that has killed music a little bit. There is none of that anticipation for information anymore. Go back a little further to Led Zeppelin. They didn’t do a lot of interviews. So what day did for example kerrang magazine So we have spoken to Robert Plant. Bought that because that was your only insight. Now because the demand is so immediate Internet anything video or whatever you’re constantly feeling this machine that’s why the attention span is short while I heard that song now 400,000 times this month now I’m moving on.

Angel Alamo: After knowing the songs were so many years do you guys still practice?

Ged Rylands: No

Danny Vaughn: Cat is out of the bag.(laughs)

Danny Vaughn: You want to know what’s funny this thing that were talking about and evening with Tyketto. It is the hardest that it’s been and it will work. So this is going to be concentration time. A lot of times you think you should practice but these guys are so locked in let me tell you a story. We played the Barcelona rock festival in front of 25,000 people hot as balls literally I am hallucinating on stage. I feel bubbles is that hot. I normally for a longer set would have to acoustic guitars because I use different tunings so one it’s normal to me and then their songs like standing alone Where it’s dropped down a whole step so I’m playing standing along And I picked up the wrong guitar The one that is tuned up a whole step higher than what I would normally sing in. I am playing the song because I do the whole Intro by myself. And half of my brain is going excuse me excuse me my brain shout out I am busy. So I’m playing I’m playing The first chorus where I sang Stand up and both sides of my brain goes you asshole so my point being is that at that point you can’t stop so I have to tough it out a whole step higher and these guys I think you picked it up first Jed picked it up first. And look at the bass player and said you’re not playing as an F this is G so without missing a beat that I can see now I got to have the whole band played the exact same song The guitar player transposed the solo, On the spot and played the solo a whole Step Up from the way he has been playing it for three years. So I’m really confident About you know we can get together and rock.

Angel Alamo: How do you warm up for show?

Danny Vaughn: Just waking up we have to be on at 11 so we have to be here around 9 if I have a chance I’ll do warm workups but there was no time today I don’t think warming up is really big and are things to do.our drummer Mike will always do some drum stuff.

Everyone just does their own thing and is to their own space. Over many, many years before shows we tend to freak people out. Before shows no matter how big or small we tend to fall asleep and people go like dude are you alright  is anything wrong what’s the matter aren’t you into this you are about to go in front of 10,000 people. Is just your body going I know it’s coming. I need to be explosive to end so we just save it now as you get older you have to parcel out your energy wisely.

Ged Rylands:  This is actually what you can expect backstage. This is what it actually looks like everybody’s just relaxed and chill

Danny Vaughn: That’s kind of how we are I mean you can find endless things to get all worked up about and it does no good to anyone to yourself to your friends to your family. As long as the essentials are in place any of these bands will tell you. You do this long enough you are so used to okay we didn’t have a keyboard stand so let’s put the keyboard on some boxes is that okay yeah fine.

Angel Alamo: Would you ever put out a remastered version of your debut album?

Danny Vaughn: We actually did there is a remastered version that’s kind of a weird spot for us because we have never been able to have any control of that it’s only by Geffen the publishing is owned by Universal I believe so we never been able to say hey would you please give us this album so we can rework it we do it we release it because it was unavailable for years completely out of reprint but one of these companies that does that Rock Candy Music got a hold of it last year and re-released don’t come easy. That coincided with the 25 year anniversary of the album so that year we toured Europe and did just played whole don’t come easy album all the way through.

Ged Rylands: That was the basis of our live show with live album and DVD live in Milan.

Danny Vaughn: The live in Milan is the whole don’t come easy album. That’s what they wanted. It’s imperfect everything is not completely right there are mistakes here and there but it’s what a live band is, it is a shoot from the hip kind of thing. As a matter of fact the opening song my acoustic guitar I come out in the beginning and I singalong while the band is jumping around and didn’t have my guitar on the guy doing monitor board just forgot to turn it on so the beginning you kind of hear and if you don’t hear it then look at the monitor guy going yo the n it comes on going back to what was said earlier. If you let something like that turn you into fuck you tighten up like that there goes the whole show. I think its dynamite live album. I’m not a live album fan but it’s great to be able to put it out.

(After the interview we got to chat a bit and talk about metal sludge Danny was enough to share a story about his first interview with metal sludge)

Metal Sludge has got me in a little bit of trouble over the years so it’s nice to do something nice. I’ll tell you a story and it’s a good story. I had my first interview with Metal Sludge years and years ago. I made a horrible mistake right after I did it. Which was I listened to the metal sludge interview first with Dee Snyder. I was taken in by the fact that Dee Snyder does not give one single flying f*** he says whatever he really means and I got that into my head and I said some really shity things I said some shity things about some of my contemporaries who I actually quite light and I just was in the wrong mind frame consequently I insulted Ted Poley and we didn’t  talk for years and when we did finally talk he said why did you do that not only are these are my peers these are also my friends I have known Ted for over 35 years we go back to playing cover bands together so I was just trying to stir up a little controversy to be something I’m not which is a combative arrogant mouthy  kind of guy it wasn’t Metal Sludge fault I just went with the flow and it cost me Of course we’ve become friends since and I did apologize.