Recently, Felder talked with the Weekly's Brent Thompson about the process of self-discovery that led to the writing of Heaven And Hell.
"About a year before I was terminated from The Eagles, I went through a divorce from my wife of 29 years," Felder says, speaking by phone from his Southern California home. "We were high school sweethearts and it was the longest relationship I'd ever had in my life next to my relationship with The Eagles. Within one year, my wife and I broke up and I was terminated from The Eagles. I was at a really questioning place of 'How did I get here? How did this happen to me?' So I sat down with a computer and I found it very cathartic and therapeutic to go back and and re-trace my life. The one thing I really learned from that was that at every point in my life where it seemed like a tragedy was happening to me, it was just a little barricade that was forcing me to take another avenue that was putting me where I was supposed to go. So I began looking at my situation at that time as one of those detours. It was a very positive thing to have that realization and I became obsessed with my daily writing session. I took a look at my life and I learned from it."
Detailing the band's internal struggles - as well as his own infidelity and drug use - Felder recounts some rather bleak moments that underpinned his fame and fortune. As a father - and now grandfather - did Felder encounter any objections from his family about writing a book that publicly recalls his darkest days?
"The truth is the truth and I can't hide those aspects of my life from my children or my ex. When I wound up being in The Eagles, I was drugged into promiscuity and sin and drinking and all of this other stuff. The title - Heaven And Hell - refers to the experience of seeing both sides of the coin and coming out on the other side of it," he says.
Anyone that reads Heaven And Hell won't be surprised that Felder does not correspond with Glenn Frey and Don Henley these days. Felder regularly refers to the band's leaders as "The Gods" in the book while portraying Frey and Henley as greedy control freaks. But the relationships with Walsh and bassist Timothy B. Schmit - relationships that remain estranged to this day - somehow leave the reader feeling the most hollow in the end.
"I blame it on what's called the 'Dixie Cup Society," Felder says. "Everything is disposable in this world now. You buy something and it has a very short lifespan in today's society. Everything is disposable - it's like a Dixie Cup - you get it, take a drink of water, crumple it up and throw it away. But my belief is that the people that are really valuable people in your life, you don't just wad those people up and throw them away. My ex-wife and I just got off the phone after an hour and a half just taking about our kids - we're on great terms right now. So I've tried to reach out to (Walsh and Schmit), but the only response I ever get is from their lawyers. That's pretty cold after all the years you spend building something together and all the days you spend on the road and in the studio. To be amputated like a gangrene limb and thrown away is pretty harsh. Henley wrote in 'The Heart Of The Matter' about forgiveness. For some people, it's easier to sing that than it is to do that."
Though the members of The Eagles always seemed to work well together despite internal problems, Felder says the infighting did harm the group's creative process.
"It did (reveal itself) in the creative side of it. The show was identical night to night to night. You played exactly the same notes, the same solos - it's like doing a play. You go out and read your line and everybody responds with their lines. Where people would go onstage during certain songs was choreographed. But the creative part of it became severely damaged - the ability to write and work together, to jam and throw out ideas freely. When you're working in an iron-handed dictatorship, freedom of expression doesn't exist. The control issues that started raising their ugly heads is what killed the creativity in the band as far as I'm concerned. You should play music with joy and enthusiasm - it's a joyous thing that's full of passion and emotion. That's really difficult to do when you're in the middle of a dark, controlling dictatorship. I was disappointed when I heard their latest record because I kept waiting to hear Joe. Here's a band that's got one of the greatest rock & roll guitar players alive today and he's just not heard on that record - other than on his one song - and I know why," Felder says.
Given the enormous success he found with the band - including millions of albums sold and induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - coupled with his firing and the strained relationships with other members, how does Felder sum up his career as an Eagle?
"I think I'm grateful for the gifts that I received - the financial rewards, the musical rewards and what that period in my life did to help my family and help myself grow as a musician. I learned a lot about the music business. There's a big difference in playing music and being in the music business. The only thing that kept me going through the difficult times was going on stage and playing for three hours. That was my satisfaction. I look back at the whole trip from '74 to '01 with a lot of reward and appreciation." www.wiley.com