Where are you right now?
I’m out in Orange County in California. I’m looking forward to coming to Dubai – it’ll be my first time.
When did you first meet The Jacksons?
I first auditioned for them on February 21, 1979 and we started that particular tour in the spring. I took a chance and drove my car 3,200 miles just to follow a dream. I ran into the musical director, who’s from New Orleans, and by chance, they were on the last day of the auditions. He [the director] said he would ask the organisers to extend the auditions so that I would have a chance – they had been auditioning for two weeks.
View Review: Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour
When did you first meet Michael Jackson?
When we started rehearsing two days after the audition, he was there. He was really very cordial with me and he said that the [Jackson] brothers spoke very highly of me and my playing and he said, ‘he will see’. He was very shy – deeply shy. And he was always courteous and very humble and also very respectful. Some people think this was overly so but that was his true nature – he was a soft, gentle human being who was concerned about everybody else’s feelings.
Did people around him manipulate this?
Yes of course. I was that way myself when I first came to Hollywood but not the way he was. I had to get my guard up too but for Michael it was more problematic. You have to remember that he was a superstar when he was a child – seven or eight years old.
You worked on the singer’s final tour This Is It...
I was in the rehearsals and the film. From the rehearsals it was absolutely phenomenal and the film only depicts about 75 percent of what the audience were going to see. We had one more week to go and a lot of the surprises were kept secret. It was truly one of his [Michael’s] greatest tours. For the first time when I’d worked with him he did whole new arrangements on songs.
Who came up with the new ideas?
It was a combination of his [Michael’s] ideas and the directors’ ideas – Kenny Ortega and Travis Payne [choreographer]. But Michael came up with most of the ideas himself. He was a creative person.
But many people criticised his behaviour...
It is easy for people to criticise [Michael] when they’re not in the person’s shoes. Maybe you’d make better decisions – maybe they’d be worse. People love to criticise other people. Everybody’s critical of everybody else and no one wants to be criticised themselves.
Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque Du Soleil with Duvent runs until January 14 at Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dhs295-2,295 (04 366 2289)