At the M3 rock festival Ryo Vie and I, had the opportunity to meet and interview Kix front man, Steve Whiteman, before their show Friday night. Kix will be releasing their first new album since ’95 later this year, and we couldn’t be more excited to hear new music from Kix. Check out what Steve Whiteman had to say about the new album, and more!
Ryo Vie: I saw your show at Starland Ballroom at the beginning of April. Great Show!
Steve Whiteman: Oh Thank you, that’s a cool room. I love to play that room.
Ryo Vie: I loved your rant about Youtube, how there is no surprises anymore.
Steve Whiteman: That’s true, we are playing some new songs, and everyone will have them downloaded…next, bring on the new shit.
Rob Rockitt: Kix is going to release their first new album since 1995.
Steve Whiteman: We took a ten year break as we really thought the music was dead. Our genre of music was totally flushed. There was a new party in town and we were not invited. So we had to just move on and do other things with our lives. In the meantime, I started a band named Funny Money. We put out five CDs. It is not like we weren’t doing anything. four studio albums and one best of CD. Brian was in Rhino Bucket, and they put out a CD about every other week (laughs), and Ronnie has Blues Vultures. We were all writing and doing things but just not collectively. It is not like we weren’t producing music, but this whole concept of new record came from that live DVD, Live in Baltimore. The label we were with at the time, Frontiers, requested a studio album. We hadn’t really thought about it. All the fans, they don’t want to hear new shit.
Rob Rockitt: Yes we do!
Steve Whiteman: I know that now, but our train of thought they just want to see and hear the old shit that they grew up with. cause that’s the case with most bands. We wouldn’t go out and play a new album. We wouldn’t get out-of-town without doing “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, “Don’t Close Your Eyes”. That stuff is staples of our live show. Probably a good year went by and we were trying to find Taylor Rhodes, trying to track him down thinking he would be perfect to get involved to steer us in that Kix direction. He was a co-producer on a couple of records and a co-writer on some of the records with Donnie. Since Donnie wasn’t involved anymore. I don’t write like Donnie. That is why my songs weren’t on Kix records.
Rob Rockitt: I know Donnie was your primary song writer on past albums
Steve Whiteman: By command, not by choice
Rob Rockitt: so moving on to your new album, what was the song writing process like
Steve Whiteman: We were always writing, so when time came. We sent 40 songs to Taylor that we all put together and we left it up to Taylor to go through them, and listen to them and narrow it down to 15. We all go together and worked on the 15 as a band in the studio for the first time in twenty years. That was cool. There wasn’t one person running the show. It was everybody’s input and contribution. We worked on those songs, and in about a week’s time, they fell together nice. We thought yeah, we think this will work, let’s do it.
Rob Rockitt: The album has been done for a while hasn’t it.
Steve Whiteman: It has been done since the end of last summer, last fall.
Ryo Vie: What has caused the delay in getting it out.
Steve Whiteman: probably the whole Frontiers situation. They were being sued by the American Frontiers. It wasn’t a label but someone who owned the copyright to the name. Everything was pretty much on hold. We knew Tom Lipski from CMC, that is why we signed with Loud & Proud. We knew Tom would give us tender loving care and that we be a much better situation.
Ryo Vie: There were no ownership rights issues where Frontiers could have said hey those are our songs?
Steve Whiteman: There could have. We had to work out the legality thing to get that shit off the table.. It takes a really long time. Lawyers go back and forth, and back and forth. By the time we got off of it, we will probably pay the lawyers more than we make. But hey, the fans get new music.
Rob Rockitt: Does the album have a name?
Steve Whiteman: We are throwing that around now. We haven’t named it yet. I suggested New Shit.
Rob Rockitt: I love that!
Steve Whiteman: Everyone likes that but the record label. We are a funny band. What you gonna name the album…New Shit. I am campaigning, I don’t know if it will happen or not, but I am campaigning.
Ryo Vie: Switching gears, last year at M3 Kix did not headline that Friday night slot, and the fans were not happy.
Steve Whiteman: That was pretty much W.A.S.P.’s request. It wasn’t a demand on their end. We really don’t care. We have no ego’s whatsoever. We will go on third, we don’t give a shit. As long as we can get up in front of our fans and give them a good show, we know that our fans are going to be out there regardless. At their request, they would like to close the show. It was a little more firm than that, but we said ah go ahead. No hard feelings.
Rob Rockitt: Once the album hits, what are you planning to do touring wise.
Steve Whiteman: It is going to depend on the demand. The demand tells you where to go. If it doesn’t get any airplay, which I don’t know if it will or not. XM will jump on it. Some of the harder edged stations will jump on it. Trunk will play it. It is really going to get mainstream radio interested. I seriously doubt it. Kix? I didn’t play them when they were out the first time. (lots of laughter) I don’t know what to expect. We will go where the demand takes us.
Rob Rockitt: With so many of the classic bands with new music coming out in 2014, I am surprised that a multi-bill shed tour hasn’t been planned.
Steve Whiteman: I guest it costs too damn much to get on the road these days. Say if you put Tesla, Kix and Great White on the same bill, which is the tour we did 20 years ago, you could put that on a tour today and it would be really good. I don’t think the venues could pay us enough to keep hotels, crew, bus. I don’t think there is enough money to be made to do that. That is why we do the fly dates. You fly out the day before, they supply everything. The drums, backline, we fly home. Its simple, and its better than trucking around in a tour bus.
Ryo Vie: What about doing a residency at Hammerjack’s or somewhere in Baltimore.
Steve Whiteman: Hammerjack’s isn’t even real yet. I keep hearing about Hammerjack’s. It is someone’s dream at this point. We have been playing Ram’s Head for the last five years. It is a great venue with great crowds.
Rob Rockitt: One thing I have been curious about is, what is your work out regimen. You are in great shape.
Steve Whiteman: P90X. I’ve always worked out, and I got tired of doing the same thing. I kept hearing the ads for P90X. Mark, our bass player, his neighbor gave it to him, and he was doing it, and he said you should try this, since you are looking for something new. He gave it to me, and i’ve been doing it for three years. It is vigorous, but it works. I am in better shape now than I have ever been in my life.
Rob Rockitt: It has been well publicized that you were the teacher for Lzzy Hale.
Steve Whiteman: Yeah, I get way too much credit for that.
Rob Rockitt: How do you feel about that? Halestorm is doing great
Steve Whiteman: I am so proud of them. Don’t give me too much credit. The girl has all the talent in the world. She didn’t know how to put it together, how to prepare, or how to warm herself up, how to protect herself, and she didn’t project very well. That is really what I worked on with her.
Rob Rockitt: Do you have other students that you are working with now that could be the next big thing?
Steve Whiteman: I have some female students that are really talented that are 14-15 years old. Just like when Lzzy came to me. That is a special situation with Halestorm as their parents were so behind them. The parents home-schooled them, their whole career, they all worked together as a family to make that happen.. Most kids don’t have that. That is kind of a special story. It sure did pan out well.
Ryo Vie: Yes it did, indeed!
Rob Rockitt: What is the latest music you are listing to?
Steve Whiteman: The Winery Dogs. They blew me away on the boat. They were so good. I have had their CD for a while, but once I saw them , I said oh, now I really get it. It was like when I saw the Stones for the first time. I like the Stones, but when I saw them, whoa. How has anyone not heard Richie Kotzen at this point. He is phenomenal. He had his solo band on the ship, and they were almost as good as the Winery Dogs. They were just amazing.
Rob Rockitt: 35 years!
Steve Whiteman: Yeah so what (laughs)
Rob Rockitt: Did you ever think when you started out in the Shooz that you would still be doing it this long?
Steve Whiteman: that is kind of like saying, when am I going to die. You don’t put a time limit on it. As long as people are digging it, and you are doing it, and having a good time doing it, and making a living at it, you keep going. Stones, Aerosmith, all those bands that continue to do it, cause there is a love and a passion for it. Of course, they make a hell of a lot more money than they do, but they don’t need the money at this point in their life. They just do it because they love it. You don’t put a door or a window up. You just keep going forward. When nobody wants you anymore, I guess its done.
Rob Rockitt: There is an alarming trend right now, where a few bands from the 80’s are starting to put in their retirement notices, and starting to call it quits.
Steve Whiteman: That is because they are old and out of shape (laughs), they don’t do P90X. Going back to your other question, a band that my kids turned me on to, is a band called Fun.
Ryo Vie: That’s a good band.
Steve Whiteman: I really love that band. I’ve seen them live a couple of times. They are amazing. That guy (Nate Ruess) sings better than anybody I have ever heard. He is amazing, he is a good front man, the band is phenomenal. They play great songs. I hear my kids play their music all of the time, so I am real familiar with it. I drove them to the 9:30 club in D.C., I didn’t want them to drive to D.C. by themselves. When I got there, I was blown away. I had a great time. We saw them again here, when they played at Merriweather.
Ryo Vie: So you were the coolest dad in the world.
Steve Whiteman: Absolutely, for that evening anyway. It was a night like tonight, it was sold out. 20,000 people.
Rob Rockitt: In closing,the new album is coming out, what does the future hold for Kix?
Steve Whiteman: I don’t think of it like that. Whatever comes our way, if it makes sense we will do it. If we would get some airplay in Europe or Japan, we would probably hop over and do some shows there. You gotta wait and see what it brings, at this point, we won’t know until its out there an how it is accepted. It may tank, or it may slowly do something. If it does anything like the Winery Dogs, we would be blessed, but those guys are kinda good.
Ryo Vie: You guys are kinda good too.
Rob Rockitt: Get on a bill with them.
Steve Whiteman: We are label mates so that could be a possibility.
Ryo Vie: Kix, Winery Dogs and Halestorm
Steve Whiteman: Wouldn’t that kill!
Ryo Vie: That would be an awesome tour!
Pop Evil fans are set to rejoice on May 14th as the band’s latest album, Onyx, will hit the stores and the internet. During a recent tour stop, Hard Rock Hideout had the opportunity to sit down with drummer Chachi Riot and discuss the new album, Pop Evil’s grueling tour schedule, where the nickname Chachi came from, paying a lot to see Lady Gaga, and what the best shot to drink is. Read on to learn all this and more…
Hard Rock Hideout: The new album, Onyx, is due for release on May 14th and I think everyone is holding their breath to make sure there are no last minute changes to the scheduled release date. Can you confirm that fans will be happy and there are no delays come May 14 th?
Chachi Riot: No delays. Finally everything is lining up. Promotion, release dates, artwork. We already had the final copies sent to us. Everything is clicking on all eight cylinders. We’re ready to go.
HRH: So it’s not going to be like when War Of Angels was ready to come out?
CR: No. No. And that was right at the time when I first joined the band. There was a lot of turmoil and chaos. I had known the guys for like five years prior, but it was a really difficult time for the band, for the label, and we’re really glad that we are not dealing with that this time. E-one has been really great, really supportive and there are pretty high hopes and expectations for this album.
HRH: Lead single “Trenches” is already charting, it’s 11 on the charts, moving up. Are we going to expect to hear more songs like “Trenches” on this album, or songs that are more like “Purple?” What
type of music are we looking at?
CR: We were kind of nervous going into the writing process, just because we have a group of five guys that as a group of five had never written together. We didn’t know what to expect as far as recording, writing, tracking…however we wanted to go over it.
We finished the album instrumentally in almost two weeks. Everything clicked and we kind of, unintentionally…I don’t want to use the word concept album because that’s wrong. But, you know, the whole album has a certain vibe to it. Remorse is probably too strong. “Trenches” is a great lead-off single to describe the album. We’ve been fighting, we’re digging, we’re ready to get out of this…I don’t want to give away too much.
I think anybody would be crazy to say it’s not our greatest album hands down. It’s probably a little bit heavier than the last albums collectively. Songwriting didn’t suffer. We didn’t go in there and just try to write heavy stuff and throw away the songwriting, because we’re known for songwriting. I think the band in this album…one little tease…there’s no acoustic guitar on the whole album.
HRH: Wow. Really?
CR: Yeah, and our two biggest hits, Monster and 100, we just decided that we’re not leaning on that. There are still some mid-tempos, but we were aware of what we wanted to achieve as a band and the message we wanted to portray. We wanted to be respected as musicians and show that we can play.
HRH: Onyx is the first album that you were in the studio for. Were you worried about your contributions and not being able to give as much as you would have liked?
CR: Not really. My goal coming in was to do whatever it took to make the band better. I was prepared for any and all responsibilities. Whether that be lyric writing, song writing, just drumming, even if I was just there to cheer on the band… mentally I was there to be a team player.
Leigh (lead singer Leigh Kakaty) likes to use a lot of athletic metaphors for the band and everyone can’t be Lebron James. To be successful you have to have other players. So I was prepared to be whatever the band needed me to be. I’m one of the youngest guys in the band. I’m pretty energetic, and I try to be a positive influence on the band. When you’re in the studio, the vibe is very important, and so keeping the moral up, the work ethic, it’s all important.
HRH: Now would you say that the rest of the band feels the same way as far as team effort? Everyone shares that same vision? There are no egos?
CR: You’re in a band with five guys, there’s going to be some egos. But the band is a collective writing entity. Not one sole person does the writing. Just because Leigh’s the singer doesn’t mean that he doesn’t listen to our lyrics. Just because Matt (DiRito) is the bass player doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to him as a drummer. Everyone is a musician and everyone is respected. So, the best songs win. We are all here to make the band the best it can be.
HRH: Given the huge success of War Of Angels, were you tempted to go into the studio and just try to make a record that followed the same exact format?
CR: I don’t think so. I don’t think any of us were satisfied with War Of Angels. I think we’re very proud and humbled and appreciative and…thankful is an understatement for the success of that album.
HRH: Wow. Four huge chart topping singles. We rated it best album of that year. A lot of rock websites and magazines did.
CR: We got a lot love. But when we got in the studio and reflected back it was still very much a learning curve for everyone. Everyone went in and no one wanted to match War Of Angels. It was
unquestionable that we needed to destroy that album and blow it out of the water. We’re very competitive with ourselves and mediocrity and good is not going to be good enough.
HRH: Are you nervous about the release of this album?
CR: Nervous excitement. We have very high goals for ourselves internally. Things we want to see done. Fans we want to reach. And I hate to make it a numbers game, but of course you want to see good numbers. You want to prove people wrong and you want to prove yourselves wrong. Sometimes you get down when you think that maybe album sales are dead, and it’s kind of a scary thought. I think we can prove that to be wrong. I mean rock is not dead. There’s great bands out there…new bands like Volbeat and they’re still selling a lot of records. In terms of album sales success, Justin Timberlake’s new album went platinum in its debut week of release. So people still do buy CDs. People are buying albums. If you make good music, they will buy it. And I’m excited to see the response.
HRH: As usual, the Pop Evil touring schedule is grueling and vigorous. Currently you’re out on the road with Three Days Grace and then there is a run of dates with Sevendust, followed by the Shiprocked summer camp in June (14 – 16). Are there any additional tour plans after that?
CR: We have dates coming up after that. The Three Days Grace tour is going great, and the Sevendust tour, we can’t wait for that. I can’t say enough about those guys as friends and congratulations on their new single and album. I think a lot of people were just writing them off to just come back and play their old stuff. We have some dates coming up after that. Some festivals. We do have some dates with some other bands…
CR: We do have some headlining, but I don’t think we’re doing a full headline run in the summertime. But definitely teaming up with some bands that are worthwhile. We’re still new and we’re still young and we did some shows where there was just us on the bill and I don’t think there is any of that for the foreseeable future.
HRH: Did you know how intense Pop Evil’s touring schedule was prior to joining the band?
CR: Yeah. I mean it’s one thing to know and then another thing to experience it. The band I was in prior, which is how I met Pop Evil, we were completely independent, and we did about 170 shows the one year, and then our singer decided he was no longer interested in playing that many shows. So that set us back a bit. And we played about 70 shows the next year. And then Pop Evil called and we did about 265, 275 shows. And that’s what I’m here for. I signed up for a band to play music and live is my favorite part.
Everyone has different favorites, I love traveling. If I wasn’t doing this I would still be traveling, now I get to do what and I love and play drums. I’m very thankful for what I get to do.
HRH: How is the band getting along with Three Days Grace on this tour?
CR: It’s still been pretty new. We’ve spoke a few times. I stayed the other night and watched their performance. Everybody did a great job. (New lead singer) Matt (Walst) did a great job, their drummer (Neil Sanderson) did a great job. Obviously I’m a drummer, so I watched that. Everyone’s been extremely nice, their crew included, and that’s not something you can always expect.
HRH: Do you think when you get on a bill like this that you help push the ticket sales up?
CR: Obviously I would like to think that. One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever had from a band that I look up to was last year on the Theory of a Deadman tour. And Tyler (Connolly) came on our bus and was like “I want to let you guys know that this tour would not have been as good without you. We know what we draw and we know what we’ve drawn since you’ve been on the bill, so we want to thank you
for your contribution.” And to have a band tell you that is one thing, but to have the lead singer come on your bus and tell you that is a pretty awesome feeling. And we hope that we can do whatever it is to make everyone successful. I mean if nobody is coming to the show then nobody wins. We want to entertain their fans and if for some crazy reason nobody has seen or heard Three Days Grace and is a Pop Evil fan hopefully we are introducing them to new bands as well.
Now, a lot of bands argue over what songs to include in sets and how often to play them. Who makes the set lists for Pop Evil shows?
CR: We all get to contribute to what songs are going to be played every night, but a lot of it depends on the what the fans want to hear and what’s working. I mean, there are songs that I don’t want to play that the fans want to hear and really get into, so we have to play those, and then there’s songs that I really want to play, that fans may not be that into, so we don’t play it. For example, we’ve played four shows in a row and we’ve changed the set list every single night.
HRH: Are there audible calls in the middle of the set?
CR: It’s definitely not the regular, but it’s happened. You know, things happen, or set times will cut things. Sometimes Leigh will just pop up and be like “we’re gonna play ‘Stepping Stone’ acoustic tonight” because it’s an intimate show and he wants to just throw down on guitar. And that’s cool, I think there should be some sort of mystery to it all. I mean, the White Stripes do that, they don’t make a set list. I think there’s something really cool about that.
HRH: Where have you not yet performed that you would love to play?
CR: Probably Portland, Oregon. San Francisco is up there. The northwest is an area that I really love and we haven’t gotten to play there a whole lot. Spokane has been great to us. It’s a beautiful city, I love it. Those are cities, as far as venues, I’m from Grand Rapids (Michigan), so I want to play Van Andel arena really bad. And that’s a pretty high goal to set.
HRH: What about the Big House?
CR: Oh man. Playing at the Big House? I mean that’s 120,000 people. I don’t even know if they ever had a show there. I’d be happy to just go and watch a game there for now.
HRH: So you’re favorite Pop Evil song is…?
CR: To play, or to listen to? Because I think they’re different.
HRH: Let’s go with to play first.
CR: I think my favorite song to play live is “Hero.” But it can depend on the night. I’m pretty notorious for playing songs different every night. I think that an album exists for a reason and if you want to hear the song played the “right” way you can go buy the album.
HRH: And you’re favorite song to listen to?
CR: I can tell you it’s one of the ones from the new album.
HRH: But you can’t say which one?
CR: I can tell you that it’s not “Trenches.”
HRH: Okay, when the album is released, I’ll come back and due a follow up. See if I can guess which one it is. Now the band recently traveled to Sweden to film a music video trilogy. What can you tell us about that?
CR: They are very different, but they are all connected. It’s a really cool cinematic experience where they are all tied together. Other than that we are leaving it pretty mysterious.
HRH: No chance you will reveal the songs that are in that trilogy?
CR: “Trenches” is one. I will tell you that. And the other two, I can say, weren’t done specifically because of thoughts of them being a single. We just picked three songs that tied together really well and sent a message and were what we wanted to portray. They may be singles, they may not be, it’s not something
that we have really considered yet. And “Trenches” should be out around the album release date.
HRH: The new press photos have the band all dressed up in black, which obviously ties in with the new album title. Who came up with this concept?
CR: It was kind of a collective thing. I try to be pretty in touch with fashion and our manager and Leigh get involved. And branding is very important and sometimes gets overlooked in any business, not just bands, and we were branding the band with the message that this is a mature album, it’s dark, we are taking it seriously and we need to reflect that. And it begins with photos. So many bands, you just look at a picture of them and you immediately know if you do or do not want to listen to them. And that’s unfortunate. Before I was in this band, I looked at their last press photo and I told management, I don’t really like this picture, looks like you guys are in Motley Crue. It looks like you’re stuck in the eighties. So if you don’t like Motley Crue, even though our music sounds nothing like that, you won’t even get the chance. It’s a shame, but people judge books by their cover.
HRH: In 2004, Pop Evil released an independent album, War Of The Roses. Will any of that material ever be covered live, re-released, or in any way revisited by the band?
CR: It was basically a collection of demos that the band put together. When you play around the bars, you need to have a collection of demos, so the guys put it together to submit to the bars and then it leaked, and released, and now it exists. And I don’t think that it will be revisited again. I would hate to be proven wrong somewhere down the line, but not in the near future, no.
HRH: What’s the story behind your nickname, Chachi Riot?
CR: Chachi… a guy gave it to me in Freshman year of high school. I come from a very small village, and so… I worked for the dad of this girl I was dating. I started out doing some odd jobs, physical labor. And people would ask him, “Hey who’s the new guy you got in the back?” And he would be like, “Oh that’s Chachi, we hired him, he works for lunch every day, we got him over here illegally…” and it was like this big joke telling everyone that I was this illegal immigrant. And he was close to my wrestling coach. So my coach picked it up. And once a team picks it up you arepretty much done. I’ve had the nickname between ten and fifteen years now. I tried to lose it when I lefthigh school, but I had my four best friends go to the same college as me. So even if I introduced myself as Josh, it’s inevitable that someone is going to say Chachi. And a lot of people think it’s a made up stage name. The Riot thing was an add-on because on stage I’m always out of control, but Chachi is pre-music and has been around for a long time. I wish I could have gotten rid of it, but I can’t.
HRH: You joined the band after Dylan Allison had to undergo neck surgery. As far as we know there are no plans for him to come back. We hope that his health is okay, but we don’t know.
CR: I don’t know if he’ll ever be one hundred percent. I’ve known Dylan probably the second longest out of anyone in the band. He was experiencing mild paralysis which is better now, but as far as what his physical limitations are, I don’t think he was ever released for one hundred percent, and I don’t think he’ll ever be returning.
HRH: And did he introduce you to the band?
CR: I was hooked up with the band just from my old band playing with them (Pop Evil). I was the drummer in my old band, I was our booking agent, our manager, I was everything business related…a networker. And so…I networked myself to the next hottest band in Grand Rapids, which was Pop Evil. And we did some local shows and some regional shows with them.
I got to know the guys pretty well, we were hanging out together when they were off tour and they were home and I was home and when they needed a drummer I got kind of pushed in by the personal connection. And it wasn’t the first choice by the label or the management. I don’t know if they will tell you that now that I’m in (laughs), but everyone was like oh this is some local kid we don’t know about this. And I was pretty green as far as national touring and the whole scheme of being with a signed artist, and a couple of the guys in the band stood up for me and gave me a chance.
HRH: I heard that you were the one to bring Nick Fueling into the band.
CR: Yeah, Nick has been a best friend of mine for ten years, we’re very close.
HRH: And what made you think of him as Tony’s (Greve) replacement?
CR: It didn’t even start as that. It started as we had some internal issues and there was potentially somebody in the band was going to be stepping out for what we thought would be temporary…could be longer…and we were looking at what we thought would be needing a guitar player as a fill in for internal reasons. And so I called Nick, and I was like we might need a guitar player, so you need to learn some Pop Evil songs. And he’s a big fan of the band so he went and learned the songs. And then it turned out that we didn’t need Nick.
And then Tony started hinting around that he was going to leave the band, and I was like, Nick, you need to learn those guitar parts again. Obviously, just being his friend… I mean, he’s a phenomenal guitar player. It wasn’t about being his friend. I mean, if he’s not good enough, then the band’s not good enough. And so, I was like, I want to give you a shot, at least…and Tony left and gave us about 36 hours notice before the Theory of a Deadman tour. We left Monday night, the show was Tuesday, and he e-mailed us on Sunday. And he told us that he was leaving the band. And everyone was flipping out. No one knows the songs. We can’t afford to hire anybody…what are we going to do? And I was like, I have a guy.
I got Nick a foot in the door and I did what I could for him. And I’ll be honest…it wasn’t a right away thing that the guys wanted to keep him. Nick’s not me on stage. Which is not a good or bad thing, it’s just different. And so, Nick’s playing, immediately everyone loved, without question. But people were like, well Nick doesn’t dress like a rock star, or he doesn’t look like a rock star… and I was like, look, Nick was working at Best Buy, he has to look presentable…give him a chance to grow into the position. So I kept fighting for him and then slowly people were joining his team. And nobody wasn’t on his team, but you want what’s best for the band. And then we had guys from Theory of a Deadman step in during the tour and say “Hey, you’re new guitar player is really great. Congratulations.” And when you have guys like that going to bat for you, it’s kind of a no brainer. And then I started working with him on his wardrobe, I got him this slick little haircut (laughs).
HRH: A lot of fans feel that they don’t have closure, because they didn’t get a pure answer as to why Tony left.
CR: I don’t know that we as a band do. I mean, I’m not here to say anything good or bad about anybody, or to slander anyone’s name, but Tony is a very unique individual and character and Tony felt like there were some things that he needed to do in his life and he went to do those.
HRH: And if he were to come back a year from now and say hey, I’d like to play a few shows with you guys, do you think the band would be open to that?
CR: I don’t think they would. I mean, I don’t think there are any negative feelings, but some of us felt a little let down the way things were handled. I mean it’s a tough situation. It’s not fun, ever, when you lose someone from the band. And I think that this is a really special group of five guys that we have now and I’m really excited.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tony has since dedicated his life to serving the Lord. For a full update on what he has been up to since leaving Pop Evil, you can see check out his Facebook pages Guitar Slinger Tony Greve, or Anthony Greve.
HRH: What did you listen to growing up?
CR: I mean, I listen to everything. I know everyone says they listen to everything, but my IPhone is right here so just for fun… my mom raised me on everything from Top 40 to country. I got into metal… I’m in the K’s right now and I got Kansas, Kanye West, Karnival, Katy Perry, KC & JoJo, Keith Urban, Kelly Pickler, Kid Rock, Kings of Leon, the band King… I have anything and everything. Some of the last artists I went and saw…Nora Jones, I’m a huge Nora Jones fan, I saw Michael Buble, I paid pretty good money to see Lady Gaga…
HRH: I’ve heard she’s good in concert.
CR: It’s a great show. I really try hard to be an appreciator of all music. I don’t really put any boxes or genres around anything, there’s really not a genre that I don’t like. I played saxophone for eight years, I love jazz, swing, big band…
HRH: Any chance that a sax solo will show up on a future song?
CR: I don’t think so…not for Pop Evil (laughs).
HRH: So, Who inspired you to become a drummer?
CR: A lot of people have this really cool story like they saw some video or something, and I don’t know that I did. I started playing drums because I got into a band with my best friends, and I was singing. And we wanted to make a cover band in college to make extra money and get drunk on the weekends…I’m being honest.
And I figured I can sing well enough to cover some songs. Let’s just play some songs. We were looking for a drummer and this kid tried out and I thought he was okay, and he was like, “well I’ve always wanted to try singing.”
And I was like, yeah, everyone always wants to be the singer, whatever…we let him try singing and the kid was a great singer. So it was never even discussed that we need to find a drummer they were like let’s switch, Chachi can play drums. And I was like, I don’t know how to play drums. And they said, well you can learn. And I just learned.
I think looking back now, I was influenced by one of the first drummers I ever watched in a music video…Blas Elias of Slaughter. One of my favorites! “Up All Night” video, the “Fly To The Angels” video…I’m a huge Dave Grohl fan…I just kind of draw influence from everybody. Even if they’re not drummers, I think everybody has something to offer that you can learn.
HRH: If you had 24 hours to spend with any drummer, living or dead, to seek advice from, who would you choose?
CR: Only because he’s dead, I mean, if I could bring him back to life, I’d have to say Bonham. Dave Grohl would probably be my next choice.
HRH: Neil Peart’s not up there, huh?
CR: I think Neil Peart’s a phenomenal drummer, but not my flavor. There’s a definite appreciation I have for him…
HRH: He doesn’t give interviews anyway, so the hell with him.
CR: (Laughs). Yeah, and he plays Pearl drums, so what do you want?
HRH: So that leads to another good question. What drums do you play and what cymbals?
CD: Ludwig always man. I mean Ludwig’s offices are about thirty miles from my hometown, I mean it’s Midwest, it’s Bonham, it’s blue collar, and they’re phenomenal drums. They’re everything I could ever imagine in a drum company. I am so honored to play Ludwig drums, I can’t say enough about them.
Cymbals is a cool story. I played Zildjian my whole life and then I was approached by Meinl about three years ago. Chris Brewer’s a great guy and I’ll never forget him calling me and saying so what do you like? How about Meinl cymbals, and I was like absolutely not. I’ve seen your name all over and I’m sure you make quality stuff, but I’ve never played your cymbal in my life. And he’s like would you be interested in trying them? And I was like, sure.
And I have never been happier with a personal relationship with a rep I’ve ever had. And they are phenomenal cymbals, I play the MB20 series if anybody’s curious…they are brilliant, and Meinl is really groundbreaking. They try a lot of new stuff. They have your classic cymbals, your vintage, your brilliant, your thin, your heavy… music changes, genres change, sounds change, and I think Meinl is on the front end of staying with that…they are a great, great company with great people.
It’s one thing to have a company discount you gear, or send you gear, but Chris goes above and beyond and I have a lot of respect and love for that guy. He comes to the shows, he hangs out after the shows, he spoils me rotten…and Menl and Ludwig are just both great companies.
HRH: All right, let’s have some fun now. You would most like to have: A Grammy, a multi-platinum album, or a sold out world tour headlining arenas?
CR: (long pause)… That’ s tough. Definitely not the Grammy. I think that’s the least favorite. The sold out world tour is pretty tempting because I like live shows so much, but a platinum album is kind of a timeless thing. But I’ll go with the live tour.
HRH: Best shot is Jagermeister, Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, or Other?
CR: I’m not a huge shot guy, but Crown’s pretty high up there, that’s a nice shot. I can drink that. I’m not a Jager dude, if I really wanted to get wild, which doesn’t happen very often, but the girlfriend and I definitely indulge in Fireball occasionally.
HRH: That’s the cinnamon whiskey, right? That’s good stuff.
CR: Yes. And she’s from the south so whiskey is her flavor. She can be a bad influence on me (laughs). Everyone thinks they are all southern belles down there and I know the truth. And Crown’s pretty great. I mean the maple Crown is phenomenal.
HRH: I haven’t tried that yet.
CR: It’s worth a shot. Bud-dum-dump!
HRH: So, you mentioned your girlfriend…how do you balance life on the road, with a girl that you obviously love…how do you balance that with this?
CR: She is phenomenal. I can’t say enough about her or her strength. I guess the only way to really explain it is that if you want something bad enough you will do whatever it takes to make it work.
HRH: And she’s obviously understanding and very supportive?
CR: Yeah. I mean, it’s not easy always, it’s definitely not. I’m in the public eye constantly. I’m gone all the time. There are individuals out there that don’t make it easy. Whether it be overly excited fans…but they’re supporters. And I hate to be the guy that’s like hey… I mean a girl got mad because I wouldn’t sign her bra. There’s just this line. I’ll gladly sign your poster, your T-shirt, I’ll take a photo with you…and they were like, “Well, this isn’t rock and roll.” And I’m just like, look I’m not here to sleep with chicks, I’m here to drum and play music.
HRH: Your guilty music pleasure is…?
CR: Oh man, my guiltiest music pleasure? I can probably sing every lyric off an NSync album to you. I’m also a huge Bruno Mars fan…I have been since the first record. I think he’s a phenomenal musician and I don’ think he’s as respected as he should be. I think people like him, but I don’t think they appreciate how talented he is.
HRH: You are a fan of all Detroit sports teams as well, or do you have other allegiances?
CR: The only one that I think would waver is… I was forever a Braves fan in baseball. Ted Turner owned TNT and as a kid they were always on TV and they were on fire. They had Smoltz and Glavin and Chipper Jones, who was my favorite player until he retired, and now they have the Upton Brothers who are on fire, shout out to the Braves, but other than baseball I am die hard Red Wings, Lions, and Michigan Wolverines. I’m not really a basketball fan. I’ll watch it, but I wouldn’t call myself a Pistons fan, I’d be ahuge poser to say that.
HRH: Your Facebook friends are real friends, fans, music journalists, of a mix of everything?
CR: All of the above, definitely. I had Facebook for two years before I joined the band so I already had a collection of colleagues, associates, and close friends and family. And I made Nick aware of this since I joined the band so much earlier than him. I was like, listen, if you’re gonna have a Facebook page, you need to decide right now if it’s going to be public or private. Don’t do half of it. You have to commit. And I committed to making mine completely public. And it’s stressful at times. I really try hard to answer every message, and I get backed up. And I do my best to get on comments. My only regret is that I don’t get to see what my family is up to as much because my feed has become so overrun. It’s almost like a Twitter to me. I love Twitter. But you can control that. I’m glad that fans can indulge in that and kind of experience my day to day.
HRH: So if a fan sends a friend request…?
CR: I will add them right away. I do daily video updates on my Facebook for fans to watch. It goes from anything from what I’m doing that day, or a shout out to the fan of the day or maybe just a backstage look at the venue or the green room. There’s definitely days when you don’t want to do that, I’m not going to lie, but that’s part of the gig. If you’re going to do that, then you definitely have to do it.
HRH: Chachi, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and thanks for agreeing to the
CR: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
The August Edition of the Hard Rock Hideout Podcast is available for streaming (below) and for download here (right click and save).
In this podcast, Rob and Ryo talk about the Queensryche lawsuit . We also have a new interview with Tag Grey from the Treatment! Check it Out!
The latest edition of the Hard Rock Hideout Podcast is now available for streaming or download. Our latest podcast features Jim Müller from Kissin’ Dynamite, and Steve Brown from Trixter. Check it out!
The Hard Rock Hideout Podcast is available for streaming (below) and for download here (right click and save).
BILLY SHEEHAN – Since those loud, bright and colorful Arena Rock days of the late 1980’s, I equate Billy Sheehan to bass playing excellence. From his early 80’s days with Talas, to stalking the stage alongside Steve Vai for David Lee Roth’s momentous tours, in some of the world’s most prolific venues, Billy Sheehan has wowed his fans and peers. After decades of honing his signature bass sound, Billy has earned the respect and accolades that so very often are spilled upon him in the press and behind closed doors.
The standouts are stacked high within the legendary music career of Billy Sheehan and Mr. Big is a huge exclamation point in what Billy has achieved as a musician. Mr. Big defines what great Hard Rock can sound like, when Pop song structures are played heavy, resulting in a unique accessibility that stretches from mainstream to Metal. Billy Sheehan and his band are old school, yet Mr. Big and their comeback album “What If…” (released on Frontiers Records this past winter of 2011), have ignited a new-found fire within their original lineup, which also boasts: Eric Martin (vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitar) and Pat Torpey (drums).
Make no mistake, “What If…” may very likely be the best Mr. Big album ever and Billy Sheehan couldn’t be happier. Honestly, a feel-good story like this couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy like Billy Sheehan and exemplary Hard Rock band like Mr. Big. Ten years have passed since the last Mr. Big studio album and after one thorough listen to “What If…” I never could tell. Billy Sheehan took the time from his busy touring schedule recently, to talk to Hard Rock Hideout about Mr. Big’s reunion, their comeback album, their fans and of course, David Lee Roth. Here is what Billy Sheehan had to say:
HRH: How amazing the new album sounds! Eric, Paul, Pat and yourself sound like you’re all at the top of your game on “What If…”. How close were you guys during the off years?
BILLY: Pat, Paul and I live in L.A., so we saw each other a lot and we all rehearse at the same place. Eric is in San Francisco and we always send messages to each other. We never thought the band would be together again.
HRH: What moment sparked the band into creating a new studio album?
BILLY: We were always asked by everybody when is Mr. Big gonna play again? So really it’s the fans that are responsible for Mr. Big getting back together, making a new album and touring. We had done a reunion tour back in 2009. It was a great time and run for us. We had a conference call with our manager and he posed the question, do you want to do a record? We all agreed to do a new record, only like our early records where everybody contributes. While making this record, we were all hanging out and enjoying our time with each other. We got lucky! Honestly, this is the best reviewed record I’ve ever played on! You never know what is going to happen when you make a new record.
HRH: I’ll agree with being a best reviewed record! Hard Rock Hideout considers “What If…” to be one of the best Hard Rock albums of 2011.
BILLY: Well thank you! I appreciate that! We were pleasantly surprised!
HRH: Were you ever concerned about how the new album would be received by the media and the fans?
BILLY: It was not so much concern, we just didn’t know! With all the rehearsing, recording, mixing, mastering and other work that goes into making the album… we do the best we can. We are all Hard Rock fans ourselves, so we know what we expect from our favorite bands. We try to incorporate what we do as fans, we know what we like, we know what we think sounds cool and try to put it into our music. There is a disconnect between what the artist likes and what the fans accept and expect as well. That can’t be denied.
HRH: How big of an asset is Kevin Shirley in the studio?
BILLY: Kevin was a big asset! He insisted on a certain way we would play it and sing it “live”. Kevin told us in a nice way but a stern way, he said c’mon, let’s see it! Bring it! This was pressure we didn’t expect! Our song “All Around The World, we played it like hundreds of times! We arrived at the studio super early in the morning. It wasn’t easy being under that kind of pressure. This was pressure we didn’t expect! We had to kick ass and hit it hard! Still, it is a good thing to be under pressure. There’s no room for a blunder doing it live! Kevin had us make a record like The Beatles did in the old days, a bunch of takes being played live. We do a bunch of takes and just get it right.
HRH: While “What If…” was being written, how democratic was the band?
BILLY: Very, very democratic. Very much like the original records were written. It just makes more sense to listen to what each other has to offer. We all threw ideas around. We’re selfless and use the other guys idea if yours isn’t working. We wrote one hundred and twenty-eight pieces of music, while writing this new album. There was a lot of versatility and cool changes from all the pieces that were written. We had a lot to choose from.
HRH: With all the pieces of music written for “What If…”, will there be a couple more albums from Mr. Big in the future?
BILLY: Back in the day it was tour, do a record, tour and do another record. There is no MTV now, so records take longer to sink in these days. Maybe we’ll tour for another year and next Summer we’ll do festivals. It’s hard to predict what we’ll do in the future. We’re just enjoying what is happening now.
HRH: How has the current tour of the States been?
BILLY: It’s been a blast! The tour has been easy and really cool. We started in Southern California, then went north, then went back west and down to San Diego. We have packed houses everywhere we play right now. We’re hitting it hard everywhere we go to play. It’s been great business for us, especially when bands are suffering on the road at the present time. After all these years, the Mr. Big records are still being played and people want to see us. There’s a lot of people who are happy to see us. After the shows, I hang out with the fans and sign photos, shake hands and we share our time.
HRH: After all these years, how important has Japan been to the success of Mr. Big?
BILLY: Very important. We sold more records in the U.S. and Europe than we did in Japan. Many people think that it’s easy to go there (Japan) because we are Americans. I feel people are fixated on the mythological aspect of Japan due to Spinal Tap! (laughs).
BILLY: Japan is a very different marketplace, as is Taiwan and Korea where we have many fans. I get more fan mail from Indonesia than anywhere else in the world! We hit it hard in Japan. A lot of bands toured there (Japan) and never got asked back again! We love Japan and are very grateful to the fans there for their support over the years. We hit it hard in Japan like everywhere else we go. We didn’t change our method of operation the way we approached Japan. We shook hands, signed photos and took the time to meet the fans.
HRH: Is Eric Martin an underrated vocalist of Hard Rock?
BILLY: I guess he may be underrated by some and other moments very celebrated by many. The first time I heard Eric sing, I said that is exactly what I want! That is the voice I’m looking for! Eric has that smokey tonality about him, he is from the Paul Rodgers mold.
HRH: What other instrument can you play that the typical fan wouldn’t know about?
BILLY: The sax. I do know where to put my fingers and I will play the sax, even if it sounds terrible! (laughs) So I do try the sax.
HRH: Will you ever consider reissuing any of the Talas titles?
BILLY: There was a couple that Metal Blade Records reissued in the past. I have a zillion demos and unreleased tracks, plus live bootlegs. I would love to sell them on the net or as a super cheap download. I have many early demos and tracks of Mr. Big. I have David Lee Roth “Eat ‘Em And Smile” and “Skyscraper” demos, minus the vocals. Of course there would be some legal issues to sort out with Dave on these. I have tons of live videos that no one has ever seen before too. I would love to release some of those some day. These videos are all professionally done.
HRH: Can you reveal the funniest or craziest moment you experienced while touring with David Lee Roth?
BILLY: The “Dave Tour” was a string of craziest and funniest moments! That was one big and amazing time of my life. That whole part of my life is a book in itself! Dave was and still is my hero. I will always be thankful for Dave giving me that opportunity. Steve (Vai), Gregg (Bissonette) and I like to reunite for Christmas. We once reminisced about it all. We called Dave once when we were together and couldn’t find him! (laughs).
HRH: As you tour with Mr. Big in 2011, does it feel like old times or is there a new-found fire burning?
BILLY: Definitely a new-found fire burning. I believe all of us (in the band) are people enjoying our lives now. When we were younger, there was more pressure on us to succeed. I spend more time now playing and working on my bass, than any other time in my life. It’s the same with Paul and Pat, they would tell you the same thing. We absolutely love what we’re doing right now, we feel very lucky and fortunate. We rolled the dice and it came up sevens!
JAIME ST. JAMES – From 1984 to 1988 Black ‘N Blue was signed to Geffen Records and released four studio albums of pumped-up Hair/Glam Metal. These albums were usually cranked up at many a keg gathering back in the day, the days of those memorable 80’s when I used to feel invincible. Around 1989, the legend of Black ‘N Blue disbanded, still the Hard Rockin’ albums remained as a solid reminder that this band could Rock your face off and make the girls cry for more.
Black ‘N Blue eventually resurfaced for a one-time reunion concert in 1997, resulting in the 1998 release: One Night Only: Live. By 2002, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer replaced the legendary Ace Frehley in KISS. The charismatic lead singer, with the long blonde locks, would find himself fronting the ever famous Warrant, being featured on their 2006 studio album Born Again. With the subsequent return of the late Jani Lane, Jaime St. James moved on. That is the abbreviated history of Black ‘N Blue, certainly there are many other engagements and facts to tell. As time moves on more Rock ‘N Roll history is to be made… Black ‘N Blue history that is.
Fast forward to 2011 and Jamie St. James finds his band rejuvenated and once again Rockin’ like it was 1984 all over again. Frontiers Records is now the label launching pad for the kick-to-the-teeth, Hard and Heavy Rock ‘N Roll that Black ‘N Blue is truly known for. On May 17, 2011, Black ‘N Blue returned with their fifth studio album: “Hell Yeah!”. Fans of Black ‘N Blue have been waiting since 1988 for a brand new studio album and Jaime St. James and the boys have delivered. Recently, Jaime St. James took the time to speak with Hard Rock Hideout on a variety of topics, from the new album to Tommy Thayer to chasing down a chick. Here is what Jaime had to say:
HRH: How did you hook up with Frontiers Records?
JAIME: It all happened rather accidentally. We were on Z Records, they ran out of money so we talked to management and Frontiers bought us out. They were a fine label, its been like six, seven years so they were happy to get money back. I’m happy to be on Frontiers Records. We’ve made a kick ass Rock and Roll record for Frontiers. There are inside jokes on the album. I got out-voted by the band on leaving them off the album, so, oh well.
HRH: Is releasing “Hell Yeah!” likened to getting that monkey off your back?
JAIME: I suppose so. “Hell Yeah!” was never a burden to me, it was not like heroin. I want people to hear it and it’s finished and finally done. I’m like, wow, we had fun making this album. Would I ever do it this way again? Hell no. The next album I want to get finished in three weeks.
HRH: What is the story behind “A Tribute To Hawking”?
JAIME: I get asked this same question in every interview. Oh lord, I did not want this song to be put on the record. It’s an inside joke. I sang “hail, hail” and Patrick (Young) said: “Jaime sounds robotic”. I played the track back and made up the lyrics spur of the moment. It was all just a joke. It makes us all look kinda mean, it’s a bizarre song. Look, you don’t wanna listen to it more than twice, that’s for sure. We might get sued for this song but I don’t give a shit. The beauty of being in Black ‘N Blue in 2011 is I don’t give a fuck about nothing. Frontiers did not want to put this song on the album and Frontiers did put it on this album and God bless ‘em for it. Frontiers is one of the best labels out there and I’m happy to be with them.
HRH: What sparked the song “Angry Drunk Son Of A Bitch”?
JAIME: First of all, it’s a fun song. “Woop” (Jeff Warner) wrote the music. I love the rhythm of it and it has a really cool groove to it. I had this idea about writing a song and I wanted to call it “Angry Drunk Son Of A Bitch”. I said let’s drink, get drunk and write the lyrics. It was amazing how the shit just keeps coming out when writing these lyrics. Like: “I’ve got a bomb in my ass and I’m ready to go…”. This song in general was truly a great moment in creating this “Hell Yeah!” album.
HRH: Did you ever consider using “Candy” as the new album title? That song is everything great about good times and Heavy Rock and Roll!
JAIME: Well, “Candy” is a cool tune. Lyrically what is “Candy” and what does it mean? Well, it’s shooting sex on a girls face! Look, we called it “Hell Yeah” eight years ago, way before Hell Yeah got together as a band. I wrote this song “Hell Yeah!” ten years ago! Tommy Thayer said we should write a song called “Hell Yeah!” ten years ago! Anybody who says we ripped off Hell Yeah can go fuck themselves. Now, I don’t care about what people write, saying we should be ashamed of ourselves for using the album title “Hell Yeah” and that we owe Vinnie Paul an apology. To all these people who feel this way, I forgive them for they do not know.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Tommy Thayer?
JAIME: All the time! I went to his birthday party recently, I saw Gene (Simmons) and Paul (Stanley) there. We’re really close, I’ve known Tommy since we were little kids, I’ve known Tommy since we were seventeen years old! I root for him with KISS and I am so happy for him. Just because Tommy is in KISS doesn’t mean he is going to kick me in the curb. I love Tommy and he really loves me. I’m friends with Ace Frehley too, but trust me, Ace doesn’t want to be in that band anymore. I see people saying shit about Tommy all the time, I can’t stand it.
HRH: Who? What people are saying stuff about Tommy Thayer? I’ve never wrote a bad word about Tommy.
JAIME: Blabbermouth. I read the shit on Blabbermouth. Just because Ace isn’t in the band, it’s like, hey, Tommy is in KISS because he can play.
HRH: If “Jaime’s got the beer”, what brand is it?
JAIME: Budweiser. I took all the beer, me and “Woop” were at his place and I was chasing some chick around and never came back. So I took all the beer and I went and got laid with this chick. When I came back, the guys wrote that song, they were singing it: “Jaime’s got the beer”.
HRH: Looking back, which two albums do you feel defined 80’s Hard Rock and/or Heavy Metal?
JAIME: This is not an easy question. Def Leppard “High ‘n’ Dry” and Iron Maiden “Killers”. Those are the two records that I love from back in the 80’s. “High ‘n’ Dry”, I love that album so much. If I went to live on another planet, these two albums I would bring with me and listen to. I know Bruce Dickinson can sing, I just love that “Killers” record and Paul Di’Anno. Thanks for the hard question you son of a bitch! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs). Well Jaime, you can write a song for your next album and title it “you son of a bitch”. The song can be about a press guy asking you a hard question.
JAIME: I can easily write a song called “you son of a bitch”. (laughs).
HRH: Any festivals or touring planned for the remainder of 2011?
JAIME: We’re wide open to touring. M3 Rock Festival may be one of the best in America. We’ve also played in Denver and Phoenix. Black ‘N Blue hadn’t played on the East Coast since 1985 or 1986. It’s been a long time. I’ve played on a lot of dates in the past with Whitesnake, we were both on the same label together with Geffen. David Coverdale is a true English gentleman. David, he’s such a cool guy. We’ll see what happens with the new record and it might open doors for us. We need to rebuild again. We’re not twenty years old and on fire. We’re all in our forties now and not about to torture ourselves by riding around in a tour bus and playing gigs in shit holes.
HRH: Can you reveal one hilarious or shocking moment you experienced while on tour back in the 80’s?
JAIME: There’s a few. I can’t reveal any cause I might get arrested. There’s a few though. Let’s just put it this way, the Black ‘N Blue tour bus was the eighteenth level of hell back in the day. Maybe down the road I’ll write a book about it all and I can get arrested for it. (laughs).
HRH: Would you consider, if asked, doing a reality show on your daily life? If so, what would the show be titled?
JAIME: The big chair. I’d be sitting in a giant chair and people would ask me these ridiculous questions, like, “Jaime, I want to have sex with a rhinoceros, what do I do?”. Then, I’d be telling idiots what to do and I’d slap ‘em in the face and tell them to move on. Next! I’d like to slap you in the face for asking me all these stupid fucking questions.
JAIME: Hey, there’s my next press call phoning in. Gotta go! Make me look good!
HRH: Jaime, are you there? Hello? Jaime? Uh, well, okay, I’ll do my best.
Black N’ Blue’s new album Hell Yeah is available for purchase at this link.
CLOWN – The musician, songwriter, music producer and artist known as Michael Shawn Crahan, aka Clown. He is comfortable with being called Clown for that is who he truly is, on or off the stage, whether performing with the legendary Slipknot or with his new macabre and Extreme band called The Black Dots Of Death. With his side projects To My Surprise and Dirty Little Rabbits in-between, there is only one Clown associated with them all. Clown is not your stereotypical “Rock Star”, instead he is an artist that delves deep into the human psyche, revealing what he finds along the way, while never being bashful to push the envelope.
There is much more to Clown than his being a founding member and percussionist for Slipknot. Oh, there’s so much more. All one needs to do, when a golden opportunity arises, is talk to Clown and find out for oneself just how unique, open minded, brutally honest and caring he unmistakably is. Hard Rock Hideout recently had the opportunity to talk with the legendary Clown… only Clown did the most talking. That’s the way it should be. When a man like Clown, who holds such hard earned status in today’s Heavy Metal climate and Rock Music history, coupled with his volumes of knowledge on life itself wants to speak… I’m going to listen. Here is what Clown had to say:
HRH: “Ever Since We Were Children” combines a mix of music styles that carries it’s dark themes in a maniacal sense of emotions. This album flows so well and it works for me. How do you pull this off? What’s the method to your madness?
CLOWN: Well, “what’s the method to your madness” is a good question! Anyone who spends a lot of time with me really knows me. When I was young, I used to think I wouldn’t make it to forty one years old! Now, I’m hoping to make it to sixty one! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) Let’s hope!
CLOWN: I took a physical the other day and I filmed the nurse taking blood from my arm. I sent the video to my wife’s phone and said, “look what I’m doing today”! I filmed my parents cremation too. I was invited and asked by Paul Gray’s wife to film the birth of their child. I’m always searching for more truths and answers. In schools, they should be teaching us about death and preparing us for death. I have a friend who is suffering from a life changing and traumatic experience, I spoke to him two weeks ago. He said don’t take life for granted, live for the day because you can’t predict what will happen. You have to get as much done today because you don’t know if your gonna get killed in a car wreck tonight.
HRH: How true it is, Clown.
CLOWN: I’ve lost my Mom, Dad and now my best friend last year. My first best friend. It has all struck a chord with me, that life is fragile, life is random.
HRH: I couldn’t agree with you more, Clown.
CLOWN: This new album is something I’ve been working on for ten years now. The whole psychosis audio experience and dangerous thinking is happening on this album. I’m always opening my minds eye into different ways of thinking. I’m not wasting anymore time and not waiting for the next Slipknot album. I want to facilitate the art that’s inside of me and bundle it together. Just because I’m a percussionist, people don’t know I’m an all around artist. I play drums with The Black Dots Of Death, only you are getting more from me, a freedom of artistic expression and more than just a percussionist.
HRH: Which do you prefer to be addressed as, Shawn or Clown?
CLOWN: People who know me, know me as Clown and call me Clown. I’ve always been Clown and always will be Clown. It’s who I am, a reference in a sort of way. My real name is Michael Shawn Crahan. You can call me Shawn, still, calling me Clown is correct.
HRH: Okay, Clown it is! I thank you for clarifying that with me.
CLOWN: Not a problem.
HRH: Is it fair to think “Ever Since We Were Children” imitates aspects of life that no one wants to talk about?
CLOWN: Yes. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, through being a member of Slipknot and living a life of Rock and Roll, is I’ve received a Phd… a Doctorate in Rock and Roll. I could give a class on passports, different currencies, countries, pyrotechnics and drum lifts. I have a real sense on all that through experience. I tell a lot of people that my career in the old days was based on extreme danger and extreme violence. Now, I search for salvation through music. In my last twelve years, my feelings of salvation were brought on by being a member of Slipknot.
HRH: That’s really cool, Clown.
CLOWN: Twelve years later, I’m still searching through my feelings and applying them to The Black Dots Of Death. Two other bands I was in were based on how I was brought up in the seventies and the music I grew up on. Listening to my mother play guitar and the whole Monterey Pop Festival thing had an affect on me. This record is all stories and situations that a lot of people want to ignore and not talk about. It’s been a waiting game to reinvent my anger. I recently did an art show on my lifes work… no parents could attend and losing my best friend who couldn’t be there really hurt.
HRH: What comes first for you, an album’s theme or the song’s lyrics?
CLOWN: Basically, the music is written first. With “Lower Than Dirt” I remembered that I had the “fat kid” reference hit at me while growing up and it hurt, it made me feel “lower than dirt”. I wrote a song a day while writing this album, the experience was great with the producers and engineers. The songs on the new album are short stories, written for people like they’ve gone through them. I’m an only child, so the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had in my life is my lead singer. He thinks a lot like I think. He is willing to fight to the death and not give a shit what other people think… with responsibility that is. There is responsibility in the way I act and the things I say, of course. He’s very ready to stand up to what he believes in. He builds his mindset around all his lyrics and he is the lead singer. I give my lead singer all these songs, then on a certain day and depending on how he feels is how he approaches the songs. Something will happen in “his” life and that is how he approaches writing songs.
HRH: The songs on “Ever Since We Were Children” are dark, melancholy and do make me feel nervous!
CLOWN: I’ll start my mindset around the sound of a song, combining both frequencies that are audible and inaudible. When you mix in audible with inaudible frequencies, it creates psychosis audio. Something is taking place there that truly affects people!
HRH: Whoa, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that before! (laughs)
CLOWN: I purposely do it, I’m diagnosed with severe depression and I go from one state of living to a next state of living. I like to get paranoia, stress and heart rates up with people! If someone tells me, Clown, I had to eventually turn off that Slipknot or Black Dots Of Death album because it made me very nervous, then that is the greatest compliment I can ever receive! You’ve listened to the first Slipknot album, I’m sure.
HRH: I certainly have!
CLOWN: There is a lot of psychosis audio happening on that first album.
HRH: I realize that now! (laughs)
CLOWN: I like to take music to the realm of insanity, it’s like, take me to that zone! Back then, when we made the first Slipknot album, you were dealing with nine guys who would cut their hands off and do anything to get somewhere in life and in this music business. I put all of my life experiences into my music and I have to write a song a day. I’m going in for minor surgery next week and I have anxiety over it. So, I incorporate this into my music. My wife celebrated this past Thanksgiving away from me, so I was invited over to a friends house for Thanksgiving dinner. Their food wasn’t my wife’s food, so I wrote the song “Thanks For Nothing”. It was the anxiety I experienced that day, from not having my wife’s food. All the riffs and the way this song was written reflects the way I felt that day.
HRH: Based on what is happening in the world today, is there any hope for mankind?
CLOWN: None. It’s very disturbing about how I and others feel about it. Let’s look at the facts. The end of the world has been written about and discussed since man has been able to write, paint and make music. Bigger, faster, quicker and cheaper is our downfall. I’ve watched the talking heads on television, each giving their reasons as to why the world is a mess. They say it’s economical aspects, a shortage of water and over population. I’ve turned to my wife and said, if you add up all nine ideas we’re listening to on television, then you have the recipe for disaster. We have beings in space studying micro gravity already. We’re already off this planet! To quote Radiohead, “dinosaurs already ruled the earth”, there was a T-Rex running around this planet, devouring this planet. Now, it’s us making a mess of it! We’re not doing very well when we have an oil spill in the ocean and it takes that long to cap it! That was an insult to our Earth and mankind.
HRH: Apocalyptic Nightmare.com has been launched. This should prove to be an excellent outlet for you to showcase and sell your art. Will you consistently add your art to this site?
CLOWN: It’s taken me a long time within the management family to get this site launched. If I had waited for management, my site would not be up as we’re speaking. I want things to fly around and get to the facts. Like my friend I mentioned earlier said, “get it done today”. About one eighth of this site is done. There are no videos or film uploaded just yet. I want my album covers, poetry, short stories and all my paintings up. Three bands I’ve produced are on it and I played drums and wrote songs for them too. There will be a remix section along with a photo and painting section. I had and have a certain way to get things done. There will be a link to get my book when it’s done. Contact information for signings, public speakings and slide shows of my life experiences as well. It’s going to take a lot of time, there are thousands of pictures I want to share and more merchandise to be sold with my artwork on it. It’s kinda like my tombstone and what my Mom always said, “I was a renaissance man”.
HRH: That’s going to be a fabulous site once it’s all complete Clown.
CLOWN: Once our website comes out, The Black Dots Of Death.com, everyone will know who our lead singer is. In the meantime, let everyone know we’re coming for them! The Black Dots Of Death is a dangerous band, with danger all around us!
HRH: Where do you draw inspiration from?
CLOWN: I work with Make-A-Wish Foundation. I get incredible strength from these kids. To be a part of this is an amazing and surreal feeling. It gives me a serious mindset, to speak with a kid that is terminal. I get disturbed by talking to a terminally ill kid who is way more positive than me, then they ask me, what’s wrong with you? I’ve seen kids who have had their arms and legs blown off at a children’s hospital. We get invited to go in and it’s so surreal, I’ve seen some crazy things, mind blowing things that I want to share with people. I’m funny sometimes, yet I’m really serious too.
HRH: That is just admirable Clown, your working with Make-A-Wish Foundation.
CLOWN: As kids get older and healed, they’ll have a family, find us and thank us for the time I spent with them. I like to be next to kids and sometimes I’m brought to tears by the questions they ask me. I’m good at public speaking and a lot has happened in my life, so I like to tell kids my experiences. I’ve met kids who cut themselves, they come to our show with their parents and they are embarrassed by being with their parents. I always say to them “you are lucky and very fortunate to have parents like this”. Management will always ask me the day before or night before a Make-A-Wish engagement. They know full well that it gives me anxiety thinking about the engagement, in the days leading up to it.
HRH: All requests go through management then?
CLOWN: Management is my direct connection for me to produce a band, do a remix, drum clinics and public speaking as well. I like speaking about going from a small town to a big band.
HRH: Will there ever be another new Slipknot studio album again?
CLOWN: In my heart of hearts and soul of souls, I think there would be another Slipknot record again. I would love another Slipknot record! Please, don’t print this and quote “Clown said there would definitely be another Slipknot album”. Nothing is in the works right now. I live for the day, one day at a time. It would be a special day for a new Slipknot record to come out. Still, there are no guarantees in life. I cannot predict the future, I’m not a fortune teller. Right now, I want to celebrate my bass player’s life, (Paul Gray), our love for him and love for our band.
BENEDICTUM – VERONICA FREEMAN – The third studio album “Dominion” from Benedictum was released on March 8th, 2011, on Frontiers Records. Any fan of this band knows that lead vocalist and founding member Veronica Freeman has a strong Hard Rock and Metal voice. What I didn’t know was just how positive, friendly and humorous Veronica’s personality really is. I found out for myself, upon our initial introduction, as to how proud and protective Veronica is towards her band’s name. Let me explain…
You see, this middle-aged Metalhead writer suffered either a senior moment or a brain burp. Take your pick. I called Veronica’s band “Benediction” and there was no turning back. Yes, I wanted to make my get-away, right as the last syllable of the incorrect band name leaped from my tongue. Too late for that. Veronica was all over me like a pissed off parochial school nun with a swinging ruler. After several apologies and excuses on my end, we both settled into mutual laughter about it all.
The laughter on my end continued, once Veronica informed me she was wearing her fuzzy slippers while doing this interview I laughed some more. My vision of Veronica Freeman will never be the same. Just kidding. I admire the vocals of Veronica equally as well as the Metal her band Benedictum plays. There was just one promise Veronica wanted me to keep… that was to tell the world I mispronounced her band name. I made good on it. I wouldn’t dare break a promise to Veronica Freeman. Her outgoing and yet playful personality made for a memorable interview. Here is what Veronica had to say:
HRH: Benedictum is carrying on where they left off with “Seasons Of Tragedy”. Do you feel like your on a speeding natural high with the completion of “Dominion”?
VERONICA: I think I’m on that everyday! I’ve done more interviews on this “Dominion” album than the last two albums combined. This album was like giving birth!
HRH: Benedictum blends so many styles together, with Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Thrash and Progressive too. What is the secret to having your band’s sound come across so fluid?
VERONICA: I don’t know, it’s secrets I can’t reveal! There is a lot of input from the other band members on “Dominion”. I’m open to input. If it’s too out of the realm, then I’ll back off. With new band members, we have a different feel too. We just create feel-good and passionate songs. It’s a culmination of influences too. When Pete and I write, we have a groove within our thoughts that just comes out!
HRH: Influences can and do define a vocalist. Are you comfortable knowing you are most likely an influence already to a young generation of girls?
VERONICA: Hey, I never heard that, name one girl!
HRH: Hard Rock and Metal is global and I’m certain you have younger girls looking up to you somewhere, whether it’s America or even out in the Middle East.
VERONICA: Okay, then I would probably be beyond honored if that was the case.
HRH: There are many bands out there, only not as many are fronted by a charismatic and talented female vocalist like yourself.
VERONICA: Thank you! Your absolutely right, there are so many bands out there, some good and some bad. I just hope they (female fans) get empowerment from my voice. I like my stuff to express myself, it’s almost cathartic to me. The lyrical content coming from the frustrated and jaded feelings of my past comes out in my songs. With my lyrics, I also like to express hope, something in which you need to keep going! I do want people to remember me. I’m just grateful! I do know a lot of people have more opportunity and less opportunity than me out there too.
HRH: What advice do you have for aspiring female vocalists of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal?
VERONICA: How about advice for all aspiring vocalists?
VERONICA: I’m all for empowerment, but I’ve always wanted to be stronger and want to bring it! I like to keep a certain standard. It’s a lot more acceptable now to have detractors. I would say don’t rely on the female “thing” and just be a good vocalist. I don’t want to work that angle with the female “thing”. Being a female vocalist in Metal, it’s not that unique or a novelty anymore. You have to make sure you have a mentor and learn how to gravitate and maneuver. Females in particular, be yourself and try not to get pigeonholed into that certain “thing”.
HRH: I admire your attitude and style, Veronica. Still, there are female fronted bands out there that sound carbon copy.
VERONICA: I know what you mean. When I hear certain bands, I’m like, wow, I want to sound angelic like that or growl like that. You can’t be afraid to be the unique creature you are. You must be true to what you are and what you do.
HRH: You do have your vocal uniqueness. You have a male tone about your voice.
VERONICA: I know I can have that real masculine tone, it goes with Metal! It’s therapy for me, to get out my inner angst when I’m singing. I can’t do that opera stuff, it’s just not me.
HRH: You cover Rush on “Dominion” with “Overture/Temples Of Syrnx” in a most admirable way. What more can be said about Rush other than they belong in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
VERONICA: Do you know how long I’ve been singing that song? All my life! It’s like a dream come true to cover this song! I wanted to do justice with it, Rush fans are very protective of their band.
HRH: I’m a lifetime Rush fan.
VERONICA: I’m glad to hear that, it means you’re not mindless! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) Gee, thanks!
VERONICA: Rush influenced me and the way I write. I like those epic kind of songs that take you somewhere, to evoke something from me and gives me energy. It’s sonic stimulation!
HRH: Wow, sonic stimulation, that sounds good!
VERONICA: Doesn’t it? It could be a name for a band.
HRH: Well, it sounds like a Punk band with the word “sonic” it it.
VERONICA: Yeah, maybe. As for Rush in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? That should have happened a long time ago, it’s so obvious! I want to tell that place to get a clue!
HRH: What is the one key element that is missing in today’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal world that existed twenty five years ago?
VERONICA: I was just talking to somebody about this! The key is marketing. There’s no promotion on radio. Classic Rock radio stations has some rotation, but no new stuff is really mixed in to promote new bands. There are no teaser tracks from your favorite band’s new albums anymore, like there was years ago. There’s no avenue of mass promotion anymore. You have to go seek it out now, it’s out there, only you just have to find it!
HRH: If you could interview one Rock ‘n’ Roll legend, past or present, who would it be and why?
VERONICA: I had a chance to meet (the late) Ronnie James Dio. He was my largest influence. His energy was so amazing. It would have been fun to sit down and pick his brain and mindset as he wrote songs. I like knowing what inspired certain people, to find out what that flame is that ignited such incredible music to be written.
VERONICA: It’s been so great for Pete to finally receive some love from the fans and press. I feel he’s done his very best work on this new album. Pete is a lot of fun and a joy to be around. I get along with him so much! So many people never knew about us, now a whole new wave of people are starting to build around following our band. People are really checking out our first two albums.
HRH: How and when did you become friends with Craig Goldy?
VERONICA: I’ve known Craig forever. Way back in the day we became fast friends, we just started to hang out. It’s fun to be friends with someone as dedicated to the guitar as Craig is. We both have a saying, that we always liked to dream out loud together. We’ve always kept in contact no matter what.
HRH: You can ride a motorcycle, have you ever been to Orange County Choppers up in New York State?
VERONICA: No, I have not. I would love to go there though. I have my two web based businesses that are motorcycle related. They both involve selling motor and sport bike accessories. Fans and bike enthusiasts can visit Alienhelmets.com and Streetfightersinc.com. Because of my online bike accessory businesses, I can stay home and wear my fuzzy slippers! (laughs) I’ve got a pair of bear claw slippers too! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) Okay, that sounds like a cool gig!
HRH: Any tour plans or festivals being planned for 2011?
VERONICA: I certainly hope so. I’m waiting for my booking agent. We would love to play the U.S. and love to play Europe.
HRH: If you had an infomercial airing at midnight, to sell “Dominion”, what would your power pitch be for this album?
VERONICA: Wait There’s more! For only nine ninety five, you too could have Classic Rock with a melodic and Progressive Metal twist!
HRH: Well done, Veronica! I’m buying!
HAVOK – David Sanchez is a young, confident and yes, cocky vocalist/guitarist for HAVOK. These characteristics of David make me admire him all the more. Oh, to be young and fronting a rapidly rising Thrash Metal band like HAVOK, while bestowing a take charge attitude of failure is not an option, is all stuff of Metal fantasy for this elder Metalhead! I’m jealous. David Sanchez is the kind of interview that allows me to walk away and root for him and his band HAVOK as they take no prisoners while reaching for the sky.
After such an engaging interview with David, I found myself asking the question: what is there not to like about him? After listening to HAVOK’S 2009 debut album “Burn” along with their new Thrash offering “Time Is Up”, I ponder: what is there not to like about this band? At the time of this interview, HAVOK was getting ready to unleash their Thrash Metal attack on the “United Hate Across America Tour” in support of their upcoming sophomore album – “Time Is Up”, releasing on March 29th, 2011 on Candlelight Records. Here is what David Sanchez had to say:
HRH: “Time Is Up” is like opening a can of Thrash Metal whoop ass. How difficult is it to write ten songs that are all equally intense? Or is it not difficult for you?
DAVID: It’s a walk in the park! (laughs) Thanks for the kind words. It’s not easy to write all the songs like this. It does take a long time to hammer out all the details. Honestly, I feel there isn’t one song on “Time Is Up” where you can hit the skip button.
HRH: I won’t disagree there.
DAVID: Halsey Caust. She did our “Burn” album cover and we hired her again. This album cover is pretty awesome! We were super psyched about the way it looks! This is real artwork, it’s not photographs that are all slapped together in photoshop. Halsey put a brush to the canvas and made this album cover the old fashioned way.
HRH: She created this album cover the old school way.
DAVID: Yeah, she did!
HRH: “Scumbag In Disguise” rips and tears! Is this song about anyone you personally had to deal with or is it an all-encompassing tribute to scumbags?
DAVID: This song was inspired particularly by one person, yet it relates to a lot of people. It’s a song about people that talk shit on the internet about you, then, when you see them in person they’re nice to your face. They’re scumbags in disguise!
HRH: Are you guys pumped up for the “United Hate Across America Tour”? Your touring with some intense bands.
DAVID: Hell yeah! That”s gonna be awesome.
HRH: Describe the feeling that you and the band had, when Candlelight Records came knocking on your Thrash Metal door?
DAVID: It was incredibly exciting! We’re a band from Colorado, where bands don’t get signed from too often. This solidified the validation for the band. When a label like Candlelight wants to sign your band, you’re obviously doing something right! We always kept true to our sound and stood out from the crowd.
HRH: Colorado Thrash Metal. Is it the high altitude and air quality that makes Havok play such kick ass and refreshing Thrash?
DAVID: (laughs) No, I don’t think it’s that. We’re young and have something to prove, this drives me to do my very best. Eventually Megadeth, Slayer and the older bands have to all retire. These guys are all in their fifties now. Eventually, these bands that people look up to won’t exist anymore. I want Havok to be the next Slayer or Megadeth. I want to wipe the floor with everyone else and say we are the band!
HRH: I guess that’s the way you have to think.
DAVID: It’s a competitive business and I have to have this attitude to succeed and make Havok rise to the top.
HRH: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be number one.
DAVID: I like to mention with Colorado not having many bands from here, usually the bands are from L.A., San Francisco, New York or Austin, all the music cities. Denver is not a music city and we’re trying to change that!
HRH: How did Havok arrive at their old school or traditional, if you will, Thrash Metal sound?
DAVID: We wanted to make Heavy Metal that’s really tight, riff heavy and fast. When we first started out, nobody else was doing Metal with cool riffs, double bass and fast drums. Now, it’s the cool thing to do. We get lumped in with other bands being labeled trendy, that it’s the thing to do. We were playing this type of Metal well before a lot of these other bands were. That Thrash revival label doesn’t make much sense to me. There are a handful of bands today where fifteen years from now, will still be around and we’re one of them.
DAVID: Yeah! I just don’t understand though, why people won’t listen to Thrash because they were born in 1988 instead of 1965.
HRH: Hey, I was born in 1966 and I love Thrash Metal!
DAVID: See that! That’s what I mean!
HRH: Besides Havok, what Thrash band is the greatest ever and why?
DAVID: Aw, man, the greatest ever and why? There will always be a place in my heart for Metallica. Their first four albums are untouchable! Those albums can’t be beat! James Hetfield and his rhythm guitar is extremely tight on those albums. That intro on “Master Of Puppets” is so locked in, it sounds like one guitar take and it’s really four. Metallica is a legendary Thrash Metal band. This is the band that got me into music in the first place.
HRH: You obviously have Thrash Metal influences. What music influence be it a band, musician or genre do you have that would probably shock your fans?
DAVID: There are some parts on “Time Is Up” that are directly inspired by Boston, Rush and Kansas. If you sit and listen intently to this record, you might pick out their influences. It’s amazing, the song structures and ideas that Classic Rock had back in the day! You just can’t beat what Classic Rock accomplished back in the seventies and early eighties. There would be a weird bridge or odd time signatures in songs back then and bands would play the exact same thing on every instrument!
HRH: What moment in your life triggered you to take music seriously?
DAVID: It’s when I started playing guitar and taking lessons. Two to three months of being okay at guitar, I said alright, I can actually do this! One and a half years later I started a band called Havok and writing songs. I punched the accelerator and took off from there!
HRH: Wow David, it all came together fast!
DAVID: Yeah! I have too many ideas, way too much going on in my head for anyone to tell me what to write! I’m glad everything is happening on our terms and nobody has us answering to them. We’re not making any crappy butt Rock songs! I wouldn’t be happy if anyone told me to make it more commercial. I think I would give them the middle finger and I would walk out. If you’re not making music that’s making you happy, you shouldn’t be making music.
HRH: Who will be the “Big Four” from your generation?
DAVID: I get asked that question all the time! I don’t think there will be a big four, that’s too small a number. A big handful, we’ll see. You just can’t narrow it down to four. I have a bunch of bands I listen to, the one’s that really stand out for me are Skeletonwitch, Municipal Waste, Warbringer, Evile and Revocation.
HRH: Those are some heavy duty Thrash bands, David.
DAVID: Those bands have a pretty strong backing now, I don’t see them stopping anytime soon. These are the bands I see still around in fifteen years or more. Now, that isn’t in no way my trying to undercut other bands I listen to though.
HRH: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
DAVID: I’d like to tell everyone to go pick up our album “Time Is Up” on March 29th! Anybody who plays will love the heavy bass, the riffs and double bass drums! For every album you guys buy, I’ll be able to go to my local Taco Bell and buy half of a burrito! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) That’s why touring is so key.
DAVID: Yeah, even with touring, we’re still not rich! (laughs)
MARK TREMONTI is a founding member and lead guitarist of both Creed and Alter Bridge. To be a part of two successful Rock bands that are embraced by fans worldwide is an accomplishment that most of us nine to fivers can only dream about. Mark Tremonti is certainly living this Rock ‘n’ Roll dream and he has done so throughout his career with the upmost dedication to his music and bands, with more than a touch of class. The songs Mark has written have become benchmarks for generations of aspiring Rock musicians, while the guitar he plays resonates his very own sound and style that is Creed and Alter Bridge.
With the release of AB III back on November 9th, 2010, the critics and fans have spoken with unparalleled approval. Achieving their first number one single with “Isolation”, AB III has been widely accepted as a tremendous album of Hard Rock from a group of musicians that have more than paid their dues. January 11th, 2011 saw the release of the highly anticipated: Alter Bridge “Live From Amsterdam” CD/DVD. With so many great things happening in the world of Alter Bridge, the timing could never be more perfect to interview Mark Tremonti. During his extremely busy schedule, Mark took the time to answer some questions that Hard Rock Hideout threw at him. Here is what Mark had to say:
HRH: Congratulations on your bands first #1 single! (Isolation had hit #1 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in the U.S.). How Satisfying does this feel?
MARK: Oh, it’s great! We’ve been working long and hard over these years. It’s hard to get a number one single. We’ve had a couple of number two singles in the past, so getting our first number one is really fun!
HRH: Who have you turned to throughout your career, for the most advice and support?
MARK: I would say my bandmates and managers. They are the only ones who know what we’re really going through. The guys I “look up to” I only speak with for a couple of hours now and again.
HRH: When you began writing songs for AB III, were there any pre-determined themes you wanted to cover or did the lyrical and writing process fall into place naturally?
MARK: It went the same way as our other records. Myles (Kennedy) and I always go back and forth with each other. It’s just like putting together pieces of a puzzle. We like to keep our songs open-ended while we both share in the process. This time around, with AB III, we wrote a darker and heavier record. I just did not want to consider radio or record sales this time around, with our new record. I just knew this time not to “play it safe”, it just hinders the entire writing process.
HRH: Did you ever perceive “Wonderful Life” (from AB III) to sound so moving once it was recorded?
MARK: That song really translated really well on record. When I heard Myles singing that tune on tour, I said I have to remember this song for our new record! I think this song is a shining moment vocally for Myles.
HRH: I’ll agree with you!
HRH: Was “Slip To The Void” (from AB III) written about anyone the band knows personally?
MARK: Myles has had his troubles, losing faith in recent years and not believing in the material world, so this was what Myles was going through personally.
HRH: Can you reveal the secret to Myles taking care of his amazing voice?
MARK: There’s no secret. Myles works hard and he has studied in L.A. with Ron Anderson. Myles warms up one and a half hours before a show and warms down afterwards. He doesn’t smoke or eat any foods high in sugar. Myles is very conscientious in taking care of himself.
HRH Note: Ron Anderson is a renowned vocal coach.
HRH: Being that Alter Bridge played their very first live show in Amsterdam, was there a special vibe you guys received from the fans there, while you recorded “Live From Amsterdam”?
MARK: Oh yeah! They were a great crowd! We’d do anything and the fans in Amsterdam would be all over it! I’m really glad we chose Amsterdam to record our live record.
HRH: Do you stockpile guitar parts you’ve written for future albums or do you take it as it comes?
MARK: No, I stockpile lots of stuff all the time. If I’m bored, I go through my guitar parts for new ideas. I label them for the part that it is, say, bridge, lead, solo, with 4/4 timing and so on. The sad truth is, most of my material, about seventy percent of it, I’ll never use.
HRH: Wow, Mark, that is a lot of parts that will never be heard.
MARK: That’s why I’m doing a solo record. I’m trying not to waste anything I’ve written over the years.
HRH: What does the schedule look like for your solo record?
MARK: I’ve revisited it in February and it will take a couple of years to finish. It will take downtime off touring to get the work done on this solo album. Then, family does keep me busy during downtime!
HRH: Brace yourself Mark, this is an important question coming. Do you watch American Idol?
MARK: I don’t. My wife is watching it though. After all these years, I’ve kind of lost track of it all. The first four seasons were good and it was advertised all over the place.
HRH: If you could travel back to the 70’s, what band would you want to try out for on guitar?
MARK: Oh gee, that’s a tough one. Maybe as a rhythm guitarist for Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath too. Those are two great bands, you can’t get any better than that!
HRH: Do you have a message to share to your fans?
MARK: I really want to thank them for their support over the years.
For more information on Mark Tremonti & Alter Bridge, check out the Alter Bridge website at this link!
GEOFF TATE - When you delve your eardrums back into the eighties decade, midway through the nineties, Heavy Metal had it’s fair share of flamboyant front men. What set any front man from the pack then, as it does to this very moment, are the vocals. Smoke and mirrors will only take you so far in the vast world of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. Geoff Tate has never tricked anyone with his vocals, instead he has left a generation or two in pure awe from his falsetto and vocal range. Of course, there is the entire Queensryche band behind Geoff Tate, a band which has distinguished themselves as innovators within the progressive realm of Heavy Music for three decades strong.
Whenever names of the greatest singers of the Heavy Metal era come up through conversations I have, with my peers or other musicians, Geoff Tate is at the top of the list. While interviewing Geoff, I realized he is focused on the present and not the past. Geoff is not only extremely polite, he is one to pause before answering a question, putting precise care into how he chooses his words. Geoff talks about the thirtieth anniversary of Queensryche, the twentieth anniversary of their “Empire” album, his thoughts about Grunge and his committed patriotism towards the U.S. Armed Forces. Here is what Geoff Tate had to say.
HRH: Queensryche are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of “Empire”. After two decades, what is it, that stands out the most about “Empire” for you?
GEOFF TATE: We never look back as a band. I never really listened to it again, maybe for reference purposes. It’s what we’re doing at the moment that I listen to. For the re-release, we found stuff sitting around in the closet to put on the record. “Empire” happened at a really good time in history, right after the “Mindcrime Tour”. “Empire” reflects us being home from a writing standpoint, how we felt towards relationships and the environments around us. I really like the record. It was a special time in Rock history, Rock music was everywhere, on MTV and radio. Now, Rock seems to be underground.
HRH: “Silent Lucidity” illuminates that “it” factor. This song became huge of course. How were you able to make “Silent Lucidity” coexist amongst the other songs on “Empire” so well?
GEOFF TATE: It was written like all our songs, as acoustic and voice. Our musical character went into it, there’s Classical and all different styles of music that makes up our signature sound. This song was written with the mentality of Queensryche in mind, usually a group has chemistry and Queensryche has always had that chemistry. The chord sequences and frequency patterns will emerge from a song, then you know it’s Queensryche, then you can identify the song to our band.
HRH: How is the next Queensryche album coming along?
GEOFF TATE: It’s coming along really good, we worked on it for the whole day today. We’re looking at a release for Spring of 2011, that’s our goal. We’re in the final stages of the album now, we need to do drum tracks on a few songs. After Thanksgiving we’ll get right back to it.
HRH: What young gun band or vocalist out there today, impresses you the most?
GEOFF TATE: Well, you know, being the age I am, the younger and newer bands just don’t speak to me artistically. Being an older guy, I’ve been through a lot. I’m pretty busy listening to the music that’s in my head.
HRH: The exemplary and patriotic “American Solider” album resonates your pride and respect for our U.S. Armed Forces. Would you ever consider a sequel to “American Soldier”?
GEOFF TATE: I could write a lot of albums based on that subject! I listened to so many wonderful stories and they were all amazing stories. So yes, I could write several albums on that subject.
HRH: Have you ever pondered making a documentary on “American Soldier”?
GEOFF TATE: On our Iraq and Kuwait trips, there was a lot of footage shot and I’m very pleased with how it came out. We did two weeks of shows for our troops over there in Iraq and Kuwait. It was inspirational and a great honor to play for our troops live.
HRH: It’s been reported that you will be performing along with Y&T and other Rock greats, at a New Years Eve benefit concert for Phil Kennemore. How far back do you go with Phil Kennemore?
GEOFF TATE: Let’s see, our first tour with Y&T goes back to the mid 80’s, around 1984 or something like that. I’m good friends with Mike Meniketti as well, my wife is friends with his wife too.
HARD ROCK HIDEOUT NOTE: Phil Kennemore has been the longtime bass guitarist for Y&T. Dave Meniketti is a founding member, vocalist and lead guitarist for Y&T. Phil Kennemore is currently and bravely battling metastatic cancer. This benefit concert for Phil Kennemore will take place on New Years Eve at The Avalon in Santa Clara, California.
HRH: The progressive style of Queensryche is what sets your band apart from ever being pigeonholed as just Heavy Metal. Do you agree that “Operation Mindcrime” set the standard for other Progressive Metal bands to follow?
GEOFF TATE: Well, I think it was a pivotal record for us. “Operation Mindcrime” broke new ground for us and other bands as well. That album was very inspirational to us and other bands. As musicians, we are inspired by other musicians, it affects the way we play.
HRH: What’s your most proud vocal performance, live and/or in studio?
GEOFF TATE: Probably what I’m working on now! This next Queensryche album is a personal journey. In terms of best or worst, it’s all about just getting the song out. We try to paint the best picture with the subject matter as musicians. We’re always experimenting musically. With me, it could be phrasing a song or experimenting with melody, experimenting with chord arrangements, playing around with different patterns and making it work.
HRH: Is there another solo album in the future for you?
GEOFF TATE: Yeah, I’ve been working on one. I have so many songs written, only I’ve been busy with Queensryche the last several years. Probably in the next couple of years I’ll have a new solo album out.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Chris DeGarmo?
GEOFF TATE: Yeah, probably once every couple of months we have lunch together. We definitely stay in touch.
HARD ROCK HIDEOUT NOTE: Chris DeGarmo was a founding member for Queensryche. Chris was their lead and rhythm guitarist, as well as being a songwriter for the band. Back in 1997, Chris officially left Queensryche. In 2003, Chris did record on the Queensryche album “Tribe” and wrote and recorded on the song “Justified” for the 2007 Queensryche greatest hits album “Sign Of The Times”.
HRH: Having strong roots in Seattle, Washington, did you embrace Grunge, tolerate it or it never mattered?
GEOFF TATE: The term “Grunge” is not something the bands that get lumped into are very comfy with. They were and still are Rock bands to me. They were all right behind us. Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, they all played gigs with us, they all opened for us and I know these guys well. I’m very good friends with Mike McCready and Jerry Cantrell.
HRH: Growing up as a young singer, musician and songwriter, how much were you influenced by Ronnie James Dio?
GEOFF TATE: Quite a bit in a lot of ways. Ronnie was a mentor for me and the band. Our first tour to Europe was with DIO. Ronnie showed us what to do and what not to do. Ronnie was a true gentleman, a great man and very kind. He always explained things to us. Ronnie had open ears and would listen to what you had to say. I definitely miss him very much.
HRH: When you released the first Queensryche EP, back in 1983, did you envision your band to reach such legendary status?
GEOFF TATE: No. I never really think about that. I always thought of the present day and still do. Queensryche’s Thirtieth Anniversary is coming up, with a big tour to follow in the Spring and Summer of 2011. It’s been thirty years already, it’s very sobering!
BIG DAD RITCH – Since the Texas Hippie Coalition released their sophomore album, “Rollin'”, (Carved Records), on July 6, 2010, this Hard Rockin’ meets Heavy Metalin’ band has been tearing up every venue they play at and attracting new fans by the second. This is a band built on American and Southern pride, fronted by a large man, with a large voice that can’t mask the fact he also has a large heart for his community, kids and U.S. troops abroad. Big Dad Ritch is his name and bellowing out songs that can make cement foundations split apart… is his Rockin’ game.
Hard Rock Hideout had the Rockin’ pleasure to speak with Big Dad Ritch recently and he was never lacking any Texas hospitality or pride. Touring, patriotism, politics, influences, charity and of course, the new Texas Hippie Coalition album were all covered, in a very candid and Texas big way, by Big Dad Ritch. When it was all said and done, this writer walked away knowing he spoke to one of the biggest gentleman he has ever interviewed. Contrary to an old fashioned line which is used much too often, however, sometimes big things do come in big packages. Here is what Big Dad Ritch had to say:
HRH: Texas Hippie Coalition has a full slate of touring ahead, any tales about life on the road you want to share?
BIG DAD RITCH: Naw, that’s all a big secret. I have a wife, a girlfriend and an ol’ lady! (laughs)
BIG DAD RITCH: That’s how we say it down here in Texas, ol’ lady! (laughs)
HRH: Did you and the guys ever think “Rollin'” would have such an immediate impact like it did?
BIG DAD RITCH: We felt strong about this album from the start. From beginning to end, it’s a very strong album. Two months were spent on drums, twenty days spent on bass, one month spent on guitar and just twelve hours were spent on vocals!
HRH: Whoa, you spent just twelve hours on vocals for this album?
BIG DAD RITCH: That’s right, twelve hours! I did vocals for six or seven songs in eight hours and the other four or so in four hours. Everyone wondered what our producer, David Prater, would do. As it came out, it’s a masterpiece! People always said, when you’re working with him, he is a juggler and just let him do his thing. Well, he’s actually a magician after it was all said and done! Listening to this album now, he was a magician.
HRH: Are there any Summer festivals you’ll be playing in 2011?
BIG DAD RITCH: Man, we’re trying for Rocklahoma, playing for those people was the greatest experience of my life. Texas Hippie Coalition got their break at Rocklahoma. Being there, it’s like being packed into a tent on a Sunday afternoon with the bible! Rocklahoma was a religious experience for me! We’d also like to get back to Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
HRH: “Rollin'” has an enormously bold and loud made in America sound and vibe to it. Have you or will you play overseas for our U.S. troops?
BIG DAD RITCH: As a matter of fact, our management are trying to get us on the USO package for next year! We’re just building on our name and recognition right now, but we’re chomping on the bits to go there and play for our troops. We’re proud to be from Texas! Our colors are red, white and blue and at home nationwide! Texas Hippie Coalition has a “boot campaign” for our troops, check it out, it’s on our website.
HRH: That’s really cool, Big Dad Ritch.
BIG DAD RITCH: I received a letter from a girl that’s serving in the military. She wrote, that every morning when they wake up, the troops hear sirens. The sirens are practice for being ready to battle. So, she had the speakers rewired to blast out the our song “Crawlin'”, from our first album! She wrote it was blasting as loud as hell! That’s awesome stuff to hear. We’re all spreading our wings for the red, white and blue. Everything about this band is red, white and blue. That’s what Texas Hippie Coalition wants to be known for too, as an American band that’s proud of their country and troops.
HRH: I’ve never been a huge fan of ballads, yet if “Groupie Girl” is your answer to one, that is a damn cool ballad. How have the fans responded to this song live?
BIG DAD RITCH: We have a pretty big canvas we’re painting on, with a broad stroke. Man, that song, when this song Rocks, it makes the fans go wild! I had put this song on the back burner and didn’t know how Metal fans would like it. We were playing a club in Texas one night, we just started clowning around playing “Groupie Girl” during our sound check. All the tough bastards liked it! Then, when we played that night, we didn’t play “Groupie Girl”, all the tough bastards and biker dudes wanted it! (laughs)
BIG DAD RITCH: It went over great though when we played it. Everyone seems to love it, girls always seem to find that big pole to dance around when we play “Groupie Girl” though! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) I’m sure they do, Big Dad Ritch!
BIG DAD RITCH: Aw, yeah!
HRH: Texas Hippie Coalition blends Hard Rock, Southern Rock and Metal to perfection. Was this blending of music styles deliberate or just the way it happened?
BIG DAD RITCH: Actually, I’ve been in a lot of bands and it was always someone else’s band. When I was forming Texas Hippie Coalition, I told the guys, this is what I’m doing, I want to be as southern as 38 Special, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd and have the Metal rawness of Pantera and Corrosion Of Conformity, while still being outlaws like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Absolutely, it was deliberate to blend all those styles together.
HRH: I’ve read how Johnny Cash influenced you at a young age. How important is your connecting to the fans while performing live?
BIG DAD RITCH: Oh man, I want to personify the front man, not just by singing the songs. Texas Hippie Coalition is a band of brothers and I want the fans to perceive us as like pro wrestlers or super heroes. In between songs, what I say is very important, I want to affect and touch people with my words. I know my audience and fans. I know what my fans are looking for in a front man and I want to lead our fans into battle and come out with a victory!
BIG DAD RITCH: It means a lot to us. Just like our song “Jesus Freak” says and comes across, you can never tell by looking at a man as to how religious he is. I’m the guy that wants to go down by the river, with a beer and whiskey bottle in my hands, smokin’ something on the grill, yet we have prayer before we hit the stage before every show. We’ve given a hundred guitars to children, through the “Little Kids Rock” charity. We’ve given an entire school music supplies. We believe in giving back to the community so that youngins’ can learn and hear about good music. Through giving, these youngins’ may be the next little Ozzy or Eddie Van Halen when they grow up.
HRH: What’s your favorite Southern pastime that is not Rock And Roll related?
BIG DAD RITCH: Football! I’m a sports addict and football is the only sport I bet on! My bookie hates me, I’m undefeated on nighttime football! I live in Northern Texas and Texas is my favorite team. I drive all of my friends crazy with my Longhorns!
HRH: I feel so strange asking this next question, cause you are such a nice guy to talk to, Big Dad Ritch.
BIG DAD RITCH: Go ahead, fire away!
HRH: What really pisses off Big Dad Ritch?
BIG DAD RITCH: Bitches that don’t pay the bills when you leave them the bill money! (laughs)
BIG DAD RITCH: What pisses me off are government bailouts of the filthy rich and not the poor or middle class. Tax cuts for the upper class and upper middle class, with no tax cuts for the lower class. So much in politics pisses me off!
BIG DAD RITCH: Right? The guy I voted for president six years ago did a good job and delivered. Our new president we have now I voted for and he is not delivering what he said he would deliver to me. Our current government this time around pisses me off. Out in California, marijuana not being legalized. The people are not out there in California pushing their ticket to get marijuana legalized. I just want to tell all these politicians, if you guys just did what you said you were gonna do, you all wouldn’t have been voted out of office!
HRH: What dream band or musician would Texas Hippie Coalition want to jam onstage with?
BIG DAD RITCH: Man, you know, it’s like that old question, if you could have a quarterback who would you have? For my two minute drill it’s Roger Staubach. For my Super Bowl it’s John Elway. For my full season it’s Joe Montana. There’s different ways to look at it. We are the biggest party band out there of this era! We are drinking with our fans at the bars! To play with Motley Crue, with all the girls at that show, it would be ridiculous! If we paired up with Hellyeah and Black Label Society, we could do some major damage together!
Marcie Free – After interviewing Marcie Free, I could only walk away feeling I’ve spoken to one of the nicest and most sincere person from the Rock Music world. Formerly Mark Free, Marcie Free has a newfound lease on life, with her voice sounding as vibrant, harmonious and memorable as ever. Just one listen to the new Unruly Child album, “Worlds Collide”, will support my claim as to Marcie’s vocals being amongst the best in the business. Released back in November of 2010, Marcie and her band have truly created an album of songs that transcends decades of AOR and Melodic Rock goodness.
Marcie Free speaks about “Worlds Collide” and their new music video for “Very First Time”, along with memories of fronting King Kobra and dastardly villains of the music industry’s past. She also touches on living through earthquakes and crazed fans in Mexico. To say Marcie Free is a survivor is an understatement from this writer, Marcie Free exemplifies what it means to be your own person and carry on through life, regardless of what obstacles may deter you. Marcie Free has indeed seen it all and I can only applaud her contentment with life and the music she has created with Unruly Child. Here is what Marcie had to say:
HRH: Hey Marcie, I’m a huge fan of this new Unruly Child album!
Marcie: I’m a fan of it too! The first time I really heard it was on my home stereo. It’s just so great sonically, this album echos really good spaciously, almost three dimensional. The Beatles are responsible for everything we’re doing right now!
HRH: I won’t disagree with you there. That was and still is some band.
Marcie: I remember the whole Ed Sullivan Show appearance and everyone talking about their hair. I went and had my hair cut like the Beatles and all the girls at school were saying, what did you do to your hair! (laughs)
HRH: How much fun did you have recording “Worlds Collide”? I get a vibe from the songs that there was some fun involved.
Marcie: We’re not crazy, we’re serious about what we do as a band. I’m in Ypsilanti, Michigan and the other guys are in L.A., so video phones and skype allowed me to do my vocals in my studio, here in Michigan. Bruce (guitarist Bruce Gowdy) and I built a good studio here together. He taught me how to run my studio, so I could do engineering and vocals at the same time.
HRH: That’s very cool, Marcie.
Marcie: We wrote and recorded World’s Collide in four months. These songs are a gift from God, they just pour out of me!
HRH: Will Unruly Child be touring or playing any dates to support “Worlds Collide”?
Marcie: Absolutely, we’re all committed. I was just talking on the phone with Bruce last night about it. No Nonsense Bookings in Europe handles all the Frontiers Records acts. We’ll wait after the record is out two months, then look over our budget and everything, lay it all out on the table. Jay (drummer Jay Schellen) has commitments with Asia and Larry (bass guitarist Larry Antonio) has the same with Pablo Cruise, so we have to work around that. We’d like to tour in the Summer, write in the Fall and record during the Winter. We’re that serious about it. I never expected all of this, I just go with God and let him take control of the reigns please!
HRH: Are U.S. tour dates in the mix?
Marcie: Europe is where we’re focused right now, for our kind of music is played more over there and popular. There is nobody telling the radio stations what to play anymore in the U.S., it’s just like dogs chasing their own tails with the radio stations in the U.S.!
HRH: I always say, when it comes to the media and Hard Rock or Heavy Metal, Europe gets it!
HRH: “Very First Time” is a standout song on “Worlds Collide” for it’s positive lyrics and energy. What’s the inspiration behind this fabulous song?
Marcie: Well, Bruce and Guy (keyboardist Guy Allison) wrote that one. You know, this song is about what transcends love, gender, age, sex and race… it equals pure love. Being in love for the first time, having an infatuation with life and getting high on everything when we’re together. Guy was inspired on this organ – ‘lighter shade of pale” sort of thing. (laughs)
Marcie: I was surprised we lead with this song, it really surprised us, the record company pulled it out at the last minute. We went from “When We Were Young” to “When Worlds Collide” to “Very First Time”.
HRH: The music video for “Very First Time” is excellent.
Marcie: Thank you. It only cost us five thousand dollars to make it! We did not have a huge budget, so we made use of available natural light, up in a loft, inside a L.A. warehouse. All that natural light came through the windows, it looks like heaven! Devin DeHaven was our director. He has worked with and directed Eminem and Y&T videos as well.
HRH: Check out the “Very First Time” video here!
HRH: “You Don’t Understand” has some progressive keys happening, at the onset and towards this song’s climax. Are you an Electric Light Orchestra fan? Those keys remind me of ELO.
Marcie: Oh yeah, I was a huge fan of The Electric Light Orchestra for awhile. I love the simplicity and overall melodic approach to their music, it was very cool. I liked when Jeff Lynne (vocalist/guitarist of ELO) got together with The Traveling Wilburys. I dig him. George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, were all together in that band.
HRH: Are the lyrics to “You Don’t Understand” meant for someone that was or is close to you?
Marcie: Yeah, it’s personal. I interjected some personal memories of how hard it is to go through what I went through. It destroyed my marriage. Lyrically, it’s about how some people just don’t get it. These lyrics were written metaphorically and not in your face. I was sitting at my computer one day, I picked up my acoustic and wrote this song. I made the demo that same day, along with background vocals. I played it for Bruce on skype and I started crying. Bruce loved it and did all the arrangements.
HRH: “Love Is Blind” flat out Rocks! How did you come about including such memorable chorus moments in this song?
Marcie: Bruce and Guy wrote this. I first heard it when I went out to L.A. to shoot pictures for the album cover. Bruce played it for me and it grabbed me, it spoke to me. This song does have an amazing chorus. There are Doo-wop answer style, background vocals. It’s a really strong song.
HRH: What’s missing in the music industry today, that existed back in the 1980’s?
Marcie: Well, it’s always been kind of soulless and cruel, with lot’s of crooks. In lot’s of ways, it’s sweet justice to see record companies brought to their knees now. Too many cruel things have been done to artists over the years by them, still, no one wants to see the industry decimated. Technology has given power to the artists to make their own records and sell their own music. There has always been a monopoly with the larger labels. With all the downloading of free music, I hope it’s run it’s course for the masses. Illegal downloading would put us all out of business. Just because you can download music, doesn’t make it right.
HRH: I couldn’t agree with you more on that, Marcie.
Marcie: At the end of the 80’s, the country was split up into four main sections, with four main guys, that handed down and dictated what to play on radio and MTV too. They were known as the four cartels, the four cartels of radio programs and they pulled the plug on all Metal acts in the early 90’s.
HRH: Whoa, Marcie, that’s nasty. What a shame, that these four cartels could control the media with so much power.
HRH: I miss going into a record store, that feeling you had back in the 80’s.
Marcie: I miss the record stores too! Especially back in the 70’s. I would take an album home and put it right on the turntable. I would polish and cherish the album!
HRH: I know that feeling, Marcie.
HRH: When you sing, your emotions are so non-pretentious. Does it disgust you when you hear another vocalist force emotion on a song?
Marcie: Disgust might be a strong word. It’s instinct, people can tell when it’s forced or not. It’s got to be real and if it’s offensive, just don’t listen to that vocalist ever again. I grew up on Motown, that’s where I learned my singing chops. Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, all of them. I grew up in Flint, Michigan, where there was a lot of blue collar work and music.
HRH: So you were living right next door to Motown, surrounded by it.
Marcie: My junior high school was eighty percent black. Seventh through ninth grade, Motown was big part of that culture I was living in.
HRH: “Worlds Collide” is an album of songs and no filler. Each song carries it’s unique accessibility for me. How many songs were tossed out during the entire creation of this great album?
Marcie: None were tossed out. Actually, we had two more songs that were not finished for the record and we are planning to have them on the next Unruly Child record. We were on a roll, we were saying, we got to stop! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) There’s nothing wrong with that, Marcie!
Marcie: The acoustic version of “Talk To Me” will be on the Japanese version of “Worlds Collide”.
HRH: How come Japan always gets the cool bonus tracks?
Marcie: It’s not up to us, it’s not our decision, you’ll have to talk to Frontiers Records executives about that one.
HRH: Unruly Child displays a dark side with “Life Death”. Can this song be summed up in these two words: reality check?
Marcie: Well, it’s interesting too. With life, death, it kind of goes to death in the verses and with the chorus, it’s almost like there’s life, there’s the light! Bruce and Guy wrote this song. When I first heard the riffs, I knew it was a heavy song.
HRH: Which band or artist has been ignored the most, by The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?
Marcie: I really don’t know who’s exactly in or who’s not these days, so I don’t want to be non-factual or slight anybody.
HRH: How about KISS?
Marcie: KISS is not in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?
Marcie: I would say KISS then! Gene (Simmons) and Paul (Stanley) are the coolest and most giving guys I’ve ever toured with. They were so great with King Kobra. Gene and Paul gave King Kobra perks that were not normally given to an opening band. They let us use their lighting and gave us free reign on the stage. We toured with KISS in 1986, I remember it being on the Northeast leg of the tour.
HRH: Not counting your own music, what album could you not live without? Regardless of Rock genre too.
Marcie: I’d probably say, any Motown 60’s stuff. Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. All the Soul and Rhythm and Blues!
Marcie: Led Zeppelin would be awesome! That would be a real fun thing. We all owe them a lot. I was a huge fan of Led Zeppelin through my teens and early twenties, they played a big part in my life, Bruce and Guy’s as well.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Carmine Appice?
Marcie: Carmine and I haven’t stayed in touch over the years. I wish him well with whatever he’s doing.
HRH Note: Carmine Appice was the founder and drummer for King Kobra.
HRH: What moment, on a personal level, do you reflect on from touring with King Kobra?
Marcie: I was watching on You Tube, just last night, things about me. There’s this one video, of a fan standing in line one day for a King Kobra in-store signing at Kamelot Music. A lot of fans were out there that day. This video was filmed by the fan’s perspective, of getting in line and getting up to us as we were signing autographs. As I watched this video of me, I was wondering of what it felt like? What was I thinking? Back then, I was not in tune with the present at the time. I remember of always having to be “on”. There was no partying, I always had to keep my voice. It was cool seeing that video.
HRH: Which do you prefer, playing arena’s or club’s?
Marcie: Years ago, it was different to play clubs. Clubs always got too smoky for me. It’s hard on a singer with smoke in the air. It may be different today though. There’s so much fun about arenas! You have a larger stage to move around on and you can have a bigger stage show.
HRH: What band that you have toured with, was your favorite?
Marcie: It has to be KISS when I was with King Kobra. Gene and Paul gave us so many privileges, it was because of their relationship with Carmine (Appice) and our manager, Alan Miller, was associated with their manager. They gave us full monitors and a light show that helped us out tremendously.
HRH: Where is the greatest place King Kobra had ever played?
Marcie: Hands down, it was back in January of 1986, at the Mexican/American Friendship Festival in Acapulco, Mexico. This was a one time festival, it never happened again. We went out onstage before Quiet Riot. We flew into Mexico City to perform at this festival just eight or ten months after this area suffered a major earthquake. Our hotel was falling apart! There were tent cities everywhere. We did take in some sights and saw the Mayan Pyramids. When we flew into Acapulco, we met the mayor of Acapulco. We just signed for everything once we got there! The gig was on a Saturday and it was a great gig. This festival was on a balmy and beautiful night, on the beach, facing in at thirty five thousand people!
HRH: That sounded like a great time Marcie.
Marcie: We had the fans going crazy! At the end of our set, we saw the fans wanted more, so we came out for an encore and made them more crazy! Riot police were pointing automatic weapons at the fans! We had Mexican security take us through a back exit, away from the fans that were going crazy for us. We never made it to our bus. It felt like we were the Beatles!
HRH: King Kobra were the Beatles of Mexico! (laughs)
Marcie: (laughs) We got inside an old ambulance that drove us through the jungle! The driver was taking all of these remote back roads through this jungle back to our hotel to avoid the fans! There was no air conditioning in the back of this old ambulance either, it was really hot and humid, so we were kicking the backside of the ambulance and shouting at the driver! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) Wow, Marcie, you guys were lucky to get out of there alive!
Marcie: I was living in North Hollywood during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. I’ve been through many of them between 1979 and 1995 and the one in ’94 was the worse. I was living in an apartment that was on stilts, with parking underneath. This earthquake knocked everything down in my second floor apartment and everything went pitch black. I went outside and buildings all around me fell down, mine never fell. People were frightened to go back into their homes that were still left standing.
HRH: What would the title of your autobiography be?
Marcie: I am the king kobra!
HRH: What does that mean?
Marcie: It’s all about me, not about the other guys. And, it wasn’t really all about me. In Mexico City, where King Kobra played, there was this fan who took me aside and said to me… you are the king kobra!
HRH: Would you like to rant about the BP Gulf Coast oil spill?
Marcie: It’s a tragedy. I really had a problem with a lot of the politicians blaming the company for this. BP had to do something that they were forced to do, by being told by the government to go out that far to drill in the first place. The Obama administration took so long to get their shit together. This administration had well enough time to get anything done and corrected with what happened in the Gulf.
HRH: Is “Worlds Collide” a launching pad or exclamation point for Unruly Child?
Marcie: A launching pad! It’s a rebirth for us, certainly I as well. We came out with a bang with this new album. “Worlds Collide” is a huge statement for me, it’s a coming out album for me as well. This is the first album where I’m being Marcie, after being Mark for so long.
HRH: What do you feel is your greatest musical accomplishment of your career?
Marcie: It is yet to be done and to be determined. I do expect some really great things to come from this new record!
HRH: What is your proudest moment?
Marcie: A really exciting time for me was the first time I saw my dad really proud of me. I almost felt guilty for I was so used to him not being proud of me. It was Christmas of this particular year and we went to a local mall in Saginaw, Michigan. I had long, bleached white hair with streaks in it and my dad was saying to everyone, “hey, that’s my son”! I was on a major label, with a big time band and my dad was proud of me.
American Bang has been out on the road in support of their major label, self-titled, debut album. The boys in the band were kind enough to take a few moments out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions for Hard Rock Hideout. Hard Rock Hideout (HRH): What was the recording process like for your major label debut album?
American Bang (AB): We cut the band live at Blackbird Studios in Nashville and then we went to Maui – where Bob Rock lives – and did some guitar overdubs and Jaren sang his vocals.
HRH: How did this differ from your prior recordings (I Shot the King) & (Move To the Music)?
AB: We recorded about the same way that we have in the past, this time we just had the luxury of having more time and a nicer studio to work in.
HRH: You were originally known as Bang Bang Bang. Why did you change your name to American Bang?
AB: Our first gig was on the 4th of July in 2005 and so when we were having some legal trouble with our old name we sat around for a couple days brainstorming and we landed on AMERICAN BANG. It felt like our band and was a BIG sounding name which is what we wanted.
HRH: What’s your favorite song on American Bang?
AB: Tough Question… I think we all really like All We Know. It was the last song written for the record and still feels new and fresh and it’s a fun listen on the album cause it gets to stretch out a little more.
HRH: Who was the inspiration behind I Wouldn’t Want To Be You?
AB: It’s a general thought about parents being hypocritical towards their kids, I think. Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out and sometimes I think that’s easily overlooked. That story kind of comes out of seeing that happen to friends around us from time to time growing up.
HRH: You just wrapped up a tour in support of your self-titled debut – any stories that you can share?
AB: There’s been a lot of great stories! About a month ago we played Columbia, SC. and we were in the middle of Wild & Young and everyone was singing along and then all the sudden the power goes out in the whole building! About 10 minutes later it’s fixed and so we jump back on stage and finish the song from the point where the power went out. You never know what to expect from a live show!
HRH: What was your favorite stop on this most recent tour? Why?
AB: We did Austin, TX a few weeks back and we always just have such a great time down there. It’s a great music town. The crowds are really supportive of music and the downtown is one of the best places to hang in America.
HRH: Do you have plans to get back out on the road in the near future?
AB: We are out still for the rest of the year and will be into next year as well. We are doing some headlining shows this month in the Southeast and then we are doing a bunch of Radio Festivals in December with a lot of cool bands!
HRH: What bands would you like to go on tour with?
AB: Against Me, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, My Morning Jacket, and on and on and on.
HRH: How long until you’re headlining Madison Square Garden?
AB: That might take a minute !
HRH: Have you been writing material for the next record?
AB: We have a few ideas we’ve been kicking around, but we are still focused on working this record for a while to come yet!
HRH: When do you plan to go into the studio to record your next album?
AB: I’d guess we’ll go in some time next year but there aren’t any plans right now.
HRH: What does the immediate future hold for American Bang?
AB: Tour, Tour, Tour!!!!!! Look out for us and come have a beer with us at the show!
PHIL ANSELMO – Yes, Phil Anselmo… his name is of course synonymous with the ultra-legendary Pantera. The word Metal in and of itself can easily be Phil’s middle name. However, Phil Anselmo’s name is also engraved in the Extreme Metal and Hardcore genres as well. With a career in music that boasts fronting the 1990’s unbelievably dominant Pantera, Phil Anselmo has an overwhelmingly impressive Metal and multi-music genre resume, both as a musician and businessman.
With Phil Anselmo being a key member of Down, Superjoint Ritual, Christ Inversion and Arson Anthem, nothing seems to slow him down from being a consistent player in the Metal and Hardcore Music industry, going on three decades. In the midst of such a brilliant career in Heavy Music, Phil also found time to play guitar for Necrophagia as well. Owning, operating and signing bands to his successful record label Housecore Records, is yet another side to this man who obviously loves Heavy and Extreme Music. It appears as if Phil Anselmo is writing a new chapter in his life of Metal, as each day seems to pass.
Phil Anselmo is as passionate about his Metal past as he is with his Metal present and future. The word “complacent” is not in Phil’s vocabulary. Phil Anselmo’s contributions and legacy to the history of Metal and Hardcore Music is already impressive and legendary. What is downright scary is that Phil Anselmo is continuously building upon his legacy and not resting on any damn laurels. There are many reasons why I respect Phil Anselmo, this interview only solidified them all for me.
Trying to check off all of the musical ground that Phil Anselmo has covered over his amazing career is a ludicrous thought. What is uncovered in the following paragraphs, are insights into a vast world of music talent and perspective from a man who says and does it his way. Here is what Phil Anselmo had to say:
HRH: The 2oth Anniversary of “Cowboys From Hell” is upon us. Does it seem that long ago to you?
Phil: Not at all man. Twenty years just blew by.
HRH: Can you share what the craziest moment was for you, during Pantera’s relentless “Cowboys From Hell” tour?
Phil: It was getting up there on stage every night, in front of people who did not know a damn thing about us in the U.S. or all around the world. People in Europe fuckin’ hated us back then! Every night we had a chip on our shoulders, we had to impress everyone, night after night. We owned a regional area of Texas during that tour. It was just a matter of time for the rest of the world to know who Pantera was. Being the underdog made us work that much harder. We were always a gig band and we knew we had to play live and be visual. Being seen was most important.
HRH: I personally like “The Will To Survive” demo. What do you recall about this song?
Phil: You like it?
HRH: I sure do. Don’t mind me saying, your vocals sound a bit like Rob Halford on this song.
Phil: Rob Halford was a heck of an influence on me. That’s the closest next to any falsetto in my throat! I was singing my throat out on that song. There’s not much honestly, that I remember about this song. It was early when we did that song, I think it was when I first joined the band in ’87. I recall that song as a skeleton in parts. The chunks and riffs were already there, probably meant for the “Power Metal” era in ’88. That song did not fit the profile for “Power Metal” or “Cowboys From Hell”, otherwise it would have stood out like a sore thumb.
HRH: Why do you think Pantera fans are so loyal to the band to this very second?
Phil: I think it’s the camaraderie we always had with the audience. We did not want to have character as a band that was untouchable or inaccessible. I was always talking the shit to Dimebag between songs on stage. We wanted the kids on stage with us! Hell, I’d hand the kid who came up on stage the microphone and let him sing and scream into it! It never bothered us. Our interaction with the kids back then was an impressive sight. Damn, you can see it for yourself by just going to Youtube and looking up any live Pantera videos. The videos don’t lie and seeing is believing!
HRH: In the early days, who listened to the heaviest and most extreme music in Pantera?
Phil: Me, me, me, me! I am the horse and you heard it from his mouth.
HRH: What is your greatest memory of Dimebag the person, not the musician?
Phil: As a person there were so many of them. He and I were such creative forces that there would be this butting of the heads that would be healthy. I was this hot headed mother fucker who wanted the money riffs, wanted the music more loose and I wasn’t wild about guitar solos. Twenty years removed, little did I know that Dimebag was to become the hero he is today. The machine like tightness was a staple of Pantera. I was on this underground trip, with this trio of musicians who were the most talented I’ve ever been surrounded by. The versatility and tightness between Vince and Rex, Rex and Dime was like nothing I’ve seen before or since. When it came time to execute the vocals, we all got along.
HRH: Which Pantera album could you not live without?
Phil: I’ll make a case for “Vulgar Display Of Power”. As a second tier, “Far Beyond Driven”. To be cut and dry though, “Vulgar Display Of Power”. Which one could you not live without?
HRH: Man, Phil, that is a hard one, I agree with “Vulgar Display Of Power”. But really all of them.
Phil: I know what you mean, man.
HRH: What country had the most rabid fans for Pantera?
Phil: Everywhere we went it seemed. Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico were insane! The most rabid first show was in Puerto Rico, man, it was dangerous. There were gang members everywhere outside, it was chaotic. We saw guns and weapons everywhere out in the open. Europe, the U.K., even Russia were great. Man, that’s a tough question, everywhere we went the fans were so damn kind to us. No way can I discount the States or Canada! The most fun, memorable and insane place to play was and is New York City. New York City has always been fuckin’ out of the box! For a specific show, there was this one time in Chicago. It was fuckin’ nuts. Out in the streets kids were jumping on cars and it was just fuckin’ chaos.
HRH: In the early days of Pantera, was there a lot of head butting with the song writing?
Phil: Lyrically I felt kind of restrained. I wanted to collaborate to where everyone in the band could get one hundred per cent of where I’m from as a lyricist. Later on, the freedom came around “Vulgar Display Of Power”. That’s when I really started to say look, how much longer am I gonna be the new guy? Healthy head butting equaled to healthy music though.
HRH: Who has been your single greatest influence in music?
Phil: Judas Priest and Rob Halford. David Lee Roth was a hell of a front man. Paul Stanley too. I knew I was going to be a singer all my life. As a young boy, when I was around thirteen it was Black Sabbath, Ozzy and Ronnie James Dio. I cannot leave out Dio. Even Bono from U2 influenced me to a degree. All of them made Pantera special. It’s an imperative quality to have that well roundedness to go in any genre of music. Everyone was rounded out in Pantera in their own way. Dimebag would say he was into Nine Inch Nails and I would say really? Fuckin’ off during a soundcheck, we would go off on some Country Western stuff and it would sound authentic! It’s important to listen to a little of everything.
HRH: What peer bands has your back?
Phil: A majority of ‘em have my back. Any band after 1990. Dez Fafara and Devil Driver. I’m really tight with Dez, ever since he was with Coal Chamber. We still speak to this very day. Slayer, Biohazard, Sepultura, Prong, Anthrax, Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All, it goes so far. It goes so far. The New York City Hardcore scene is a fantastic meeting place. I know a lot of those guys and we come out to support each other.
HRH: Theater or Arena, what’s your preference to play at?
Phil: I like ‘em both man. After a six month arena tour though, there’s always a piece of me after I do that to get back into the intimate club thing and that’s great.
HRH: How about festivals?
Phil: I love ‘em the majority of the time. There are no negative points to make on festivals! Pantera and Down both have done great festivals. Superjoint Ritual at Ozzfest wasn’t that great of a time though. That band was more suitable for a smaller club feel.
HRH: What is missing in the Metal scene today?
Phil: What do you think is missing in the Metal scene today?
HRH: Just that true feeling that was in the air years ago.
Phil: Your right on, there are no scenes anymore. Years back it was fuckin’ magic, man. I’m not saying one time period is better or worse here, only bands are more visible on computers now than on stage. There are not many gigs. There are a lot of myspace pages where bands flaunt their stuff. If you want to hear a band’s music you have to visit their myspace page. Today’s teens and twenty year olds could only wish to experience that scene feel. Texas had a great fuckin’ scene! New Orleans too. You could just stop in one weekend, out of the blue, to matinee shows. There was a clique of people and it was familiar to us. The general consensus about music today, is that it’s lacking a bit of originality. It’s Pantera meets Alice In Chains and it’s the same formula being used in hundreds of bands. That’s why I started my own label, Housecore Records. I weeded out certain bands that are hitting those certain notes.
HRH: Housecore Records today is what Metal Blade Records was in the early ’80’s.
Phil: Yeah, exactly. Like Megaforce Records was doing as well. There are a lot of super talented bands out there and the end result doesn’t sound too far removed from something we already heard. I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go. I’m looking for the kids trying to make a difference. The first listen to some of these bands might be awkward and unpleasant but I don’t mind because whoa, sometimes they turn out to be favorite bands with longevity and growth. That’s what Housecore Records is all about, growing a band. Years ago, Metal Blade Records would give a band time to grow, release a few albums and build a fan base. Today, the big record labels want a new band to sell millions of records right away.
HRH: It’s the Old School way to grow a band.
Phil: You said it. There’s always a clique of musicians genre work being duplicated, like a Thrash band in the Thrash genre doing cut and paste Destruction riffs. I do have genre bands, I have a Thrash Metal band on Housecore Records, Warbeast, from Fort Worth Texas. About six months ago, they made a great Thrash Metal record called “Krush The Enemy”, it’s their “Cowboys From Hell”. All I see is potential in this band! Dual guitars, double bass and not cut and paste stuff. The vocalist for Warbeast is Bruce Corbitt, he was in Rigor Mortis.
HRH: Warbeast is a band that I’ll be definitely checking out!
Phil: Another Housecore Records band to check out is haarp. They did an epic crushing masterpiece, “The Filth” and it’s fuckin’ deadly. Shaun Emmons, the vocalist, is massive! I’ve seen that guy control a crowd without saying a word to them. The Sursiks are hittin’ crazy different notes and their on their own page! My band Arson Anthem is coming out with a full length on October 12th, called “Insecurity Notoriety”. I play guitar, Mike IX Williams is on vocals, Hank Williams III is on drums and Collin Yeo is on bass. This is vicious Hardcore, so trip out on this record!
HRH Note: You can purchase Arson Anthem, Warbeast “Krush The Enemy”, The Sursiks and both haarp EP’s by clicking here: HOUSECORE RECORDS
HRH: Anything new to report from the Down camp?
Phil: There’s nothing much from Down. We’ve messed around with the skeletons of two new songs recently. They are two songs from the last session. Kirk (Windstein) is cleaning up his life and that’s great.
HRH: Can you see yourself collaborating with Killjoy ever again?
Phil: I don’t man. I hope is doing really well, but no. I love to play guitar, it was fun to play for Necrophagia.
HRH Note: Phil Anselmo played guitar for Necrophagia’s 1998 studio album – “Holocausto de la Morte”. Phil played with Necrophagia under the alias Anton Crowley.
HRH: If a major motion picture was to be made about Phil Anselmo, what would the title be?
Phil: Let me think here, maybe something like, no wait, I’ll think of it. Give me a second. Damn, this is a tough question. How about, drag me to hell!
HRH: Alright, cool.
Phil: No, I’m kidding.
HRH: Okay. (laughs)
Phil: King Kong!
HRH: King Kong? What? (Laughs)
Phil: I’m just messin’ with ya! (Laughs)
Phil: I’m stumped on this one and I’m gettin’ hassled on the phone here! I don’t need this!
Phil: From shit to roses and from shit to roses again.
Phil: No, that’s terrible!
Phil: How to break your back and still sprint at 42! There, that’s the movie title!
HRH: Good one, Phil. (Laughs)
HRH: Do you have any commentary on the BP oil spill in the gulf?
Phil: It makes me examine mankind once again. By all rights, I can’t speak for anyone else but me. I’m just another ignorant man figuring my way through life. With all due respect to what other religions other people follow and what they consider to be their god, If I’m going to call anything god it’s this planet underneath our feet. When you stab god in the chest, like a human so much blood is in the body. There’s only so much oil in the Earth. I know people down in the Gulf, the locals, who have been living off the industry of fish for generations and they are hurtin’. Any food place around the world that imports from the Gulf are gonna be hurtin’. I think there’s a fact that people in America are not allowed a loud enough voice. If there was a reasoning here there would be pamphlets in the mailbox asking if it’s o.k. to drill a mile into the Gulf, into the Earth. You drill one mile into the Earth here and tell everyone it’s foolproof, who’s the fool when it breaks? We stabbed god in the heart and it makes me look at mankind like we are a conquering, vicious, breed of life on Earth. We need to take a step back and look at what we have done. We only have one planet. There should be a law of man, a law of mankind, to respect the Earth we live on.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Vinnie Paul?
Phil: Wish I did.
TONY HARNELL – Rock ‘N’ Roll has never ceased to evolve, neither has Tony Harnell, the lead vocalist for his very own and hand picked band – Tony Harnell & The Mercury Train. Tony’s Rock ‘N’ Roll history skyrocketed back in 1984, while being the vocalist for Norway’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band TNT. Being the lead vocalist for TNT and signed to a major label is what Rock ‘N’ Roll dreams are about. With nine studio albums and two live albums while with TNT, (from 1984 to 2006), some could argue that Tony Harnell had a stake in an impressive chunk of Hard Rock & Heavy Metal history.
In 1998, Tony Harnell formed the Hard Rock band – Westworld. A band that many critics and untold fans over the years consider as yet another shining Rock ‘N’ Roll star on Tony’s music resume. Short lived, Westworld still released three studio albums and one live release between 1999 and 2002. Tony Harnell formed Starbreaker, a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band that was a side project for him while his career with TNT was coming to a close. Signed to Frontiers records, Starbreaker released two critically acclaimed studio albums, their self-titled debut in 2005 and “Love’s Dying Wish” in 2008.
Now that the Tony Harnell Hard Rock and Heavy Metal history has come to a close, a new chapter in his life has begun, as he so expresses in the following interview. “Round Trip”, released on July 2, in Europe and July 27, 2010, in the U.S., on Frontiers Records, is the debut album from Tony Harnell & The Mercury Train. A studio album which contains 14 songs that span the career of Tony Harnell, while with TNT and Starbreaker included. These are songs that Tony Harnell can justifiably call his own, stripped down and beaming with an Acoustic Rock revival that becomes more of an audio delicacy, the more times you listen.
Reflecting on the past, while not living in it and staying focused on the now… is exactly how Tony Harnell comes across. There are music influences that have shaped this vocalist into what he once was and is at this moment in time. Evolving within his own world of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Tony has cultivated The Mercury Train to roll in and create the sound that he wants representing him and his songs in 2010. Here is what Tony had to say:
HRH: Where did the name Mercury Train come from?
Tony: I was going through cool band names and I also had this list of weird names. Derek Mead, the designer of our album cover, did a really fantastic job on that. The orange shades on the cover he created I love, the digipak really shows how great it looks. He was coming up with a bunch of logo’s and band names, he is really talented at that. Derek kept sending me ideas, he came up with that one. I saw this Mercury Train name and said that’s it! That’s the one! The Mercury Train was a high speed train project dating back to the 1930’s. It was supposed to run between Long Island and Upstate New York, only it never moved forward. Derek really came up with a great band name.
HRH: What was the initial inspiration to revisit and rework songs from your past?
Tony: The funny thing about it, it was a very natural and organic process. These guys in the band are friends and it made it easy. I wanted strip down songs from my past to play in Manhattan clubs and I wondered would these songs sound strong or silly? Would these songs translate well? We were seen through shows by Frontiers Records. Frontiers approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing a live or an acoustic record. A cool, stripped down record is what I wanted to represent us, I wanted to make it very original.
HRH: How did you find yourself amongst musicians that are not Heavy Metal or Hard Rock players?
Tony: These are the people I mostly hang out with. I live in New York City, these are the musicians that live here and most aren’t Metal musicians. If I lived in L.A., I would have more friends that are Metal musicians than in New York City. It’s hard to find Metal guys that live in New York City.
HRH: Wow, Tony, that is hard to believe!
Tony: Even going back to the heyday of ’80’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal bands, there weren’t many here in this New York City area. There was White Lion, Danger Danger and Bon Jovi in New Jersey. In the 80’s there really wasn’t a lot of successful Metal bands in New York. Back in the ’80’s, there were so many Metal bands in L.A., you could times it by a thousand, ten times, compared to New York. As time moves on, I lose contact with Metal people and the clubs we used to play or they are out of the music business completely as well.
HRH: So the direction of your music for this album was already clear?
Tony: As we got into recording, this album took on a life of it’s own and it evolved. I was seeing my vision through. I told the band to take it as far as they want and they did. Some of the songs you will hear show that the drum beat, keyboards, and background vocals are much different. We gave the songs a totally new treatment, this was the catalyst and reason for my doing this. This album makes me appreciate the songs more. I didn’t want to compete with the original songs, instead I wanted to exploit the melodies and bring out the more obscure songs and give them attention. With this album, I’ve closed the door to a chapter of my life. Saying I’m done with ’80’s Hard Rock may upset a lot of people.
HRH: “Round Trip” could easily been a more mellow album or perhaps heavier? How did you and the other musicians find that perfect in-between?
Tony: It’s all about the song choices and I was very conscientious of that. This could easily have been a ballad album. I had to choose key songs while keeping the record upbeat. “Lonely Nights” and “Satellite” are upbeat songs. These upbeat songs are scattered across the record in order to keep the album from being too boring. This album is vocal and melody driven.
HRH: “Anywhere But Here” has a Beatlesque quality about it, am I off base by saying this?
Tony: Probably not. Brandon Wilde (bass guitarist) wrote this song with me. Brandon is an incredible songwriter. The press release stated this song was written special for this album and that’s just not the case. “Anywhere But Here” was written and demoed three years ago. Brandon had mentioned to me that we have this song and I said yeah! The rest of the band is not on this track due to it being a demo from three years ago. Brandon and I will be doing the bulk of writing on our next album. “Anywhere But Here” doesn’t represent where I’m going in life, none of my songs represent per se where I’m going in my life.
HRH: Chris Foley on electric guitar really gives these songs on “Round Trip” that ’70’s Classic Rock tone and vibe. Is this what you were aiming for?
Tony: That is the music I grew up with. My heart lies in ’80’s bands and we were all in our early twenties in 1984 when we (TNT) were signed. We were taking that ’70’s music with us though. My heart also lies in the ’70’s music. Chris has that awesome, electric moody vibe in his playing. I did not want us to show one iota of TNT, not try to do anything like TNT, except chord structures and we even changed some of those.
HRH: Amy Harnell, what a voice! Where has she been hiding?
Tony: She’s my wife! The question really is, where have I been hiding her!
Tony: Amy was singing shows with me, doing background vocals. She is a natural and became a part of this project. Her maiden name is Amy Anderson and she was a world class ballet dancer. When we first got together, I happened to go visit her in Germany to see her performing, then I heard her sing, we have been together nine years since. Amy sung on TNT stuff, like “Song 4 Dianne” on the “My Religion” album from 2004. Amy also played the flute on this song. “Ready To Fly” on “Round Trip” really showcases her tone. Amy had the opportunity to do a video for us, “Northern Lights”, it was a thrilling opportunity, to really put her out there. Fans should check out our “Northern Lights” video. She has the voice and presence on stage that’s incredible!
HRH: Reworking these TNT and Westworld songs must have taken you down memory lane. What’s your greatest moment that happened to you thus far in your life?
Tony: For something non-music related, meeting my wife was a great moment in my life! Musically, there are many, many different moments. Making this record, “Round Trip”, was during a time of great adversity for me. Making a simple record equaled to a spiritual experience for me. This album represents a new chapter and a new beginning in my life. Receiving a worldwide record deal with TNT was something else, it was something my other friends were not able to do. For us to have done it as TNT was an achievement.
HRH: Do you see Tony Harnell & The Mercury Train as a representation of your fantasy band that couldn’t be pulled off 20 years ago?
Tony: No, it couldn’t be pulled off then. Twenty years ago I would have had a different idea of what I wanted in a band, a band with shredding guitar players! This is a very special project and still it’s not the end all and be all of where I’m moving forward. Brandon Wilde is not just a great bass player, he is an incredible songwriter, he has helped put this band together and he is a catalyst. “Round Trip” really represents what I wanted to do with these songs. A solo record is probably going to happen. There will be co-writers for the solo record and it will be recorded in different parts of the world. “Round Trip” will let these musicians in Mercury Train show what they can do and it’s not Heavy Metal. Led Zeppelin and the Beatles covers are in the realm of their ability though. I just did not want “Round Trip” to be a solo album, I wanted to separate the two.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Magnus Karlsson?
Tony: Occasionally, yeah. We have not spoken recently though. We are great friends.
HRH Note: Magnus Karlsson was the guitarist and keyboardist for Tony Harnell’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band – Starbreaker, from 2005 to 2008. Magnus is currently a guitarist with the Power Metal giant – Primal Fear.
HRH: I have always and still consider you a premier vocalist. Who has been your vocal influences throughout your career?
Tony: There are a lot of obvious ones. I’m sure people won’t flinch when I say Rob Halford. I was obsessed with early ’70’s Priest and early ’80’s music. I’m a ’70’s Priest fan. “Stained Class” personally, is my most favorite and it’s the most interesting and artistic record I’ve ever listened to. “Stained Class” had very overlooked production up to that point in time, maybe not as good as later records by Judas Priest. “Hell Bent For Leather” is a Priest album that is very close to me, very influential in my early years. “Hell Bent For Leather” and “Stained Class” are my dual all time favorite! Going backwards, there was Folk, Country and a lot of Beatles played in my house as a kid. My mom was an opera singer! There was Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and John Denver came later for me.
HRH: That’s some diversified exposure, which is great.
Tony: There was so much cool 60’s music being played when I was a kid. Crosby, Still and Nash, I absorbed all that stuff! When I started to buy records, it was David Bowie, Elton John and Led Zeppelin. Today, it’s the ’60’s and ’70’s music that influence me. Ironically, as I got older, Rob Halford isn’t as strong an influence as say, twenty years ago for me.
HRH: You’ve changed artistically, Tony.
Tony: I don’t want to belittle Heavy Metal music, it’s just that I could not continue on with a band that has just cult status. Yet, if you are a successful Heavy Metal band, that’s great. If it’s Heavy Metal, it’s not in my heart anymore, there’s no living in it for me.
HRH: Tony, you will always have some Metalhead in you, won’t you?
Tony: Of course I will.
GEORGE LYNCH – In 1983, Dokken released their first studio album, “Breaking The Chains”. The guitarist for Dokken was George Lynch. The legendary guitar status of George Lynch had just begun. Upon George Lynch departing Dokken, he founded his own Hard Rock band – Lynch Mob. The 1990 release of the critically acclaimed “Wicked Sensation” album gave Lynch Mob the launching pad to stardom. With that said, the life of a working musician and getting rich quick in the music business is easier said than done, as you will read in this candid interview Hard Rock Hideout had with George Lynch.
Every guitar player knows or should know who George Lynch is. While every fan of 1980’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal knows him as “Mr. Scary” as well, a nickname taken from his guitar instrumental heard on the 1987 Dokken album “Back For The Attack”. A nickname and legendary status aside, George Lynch comes across as a musician that is as dedicated to the business side of music as he is to his ultra exemplary guitar playing. Much can be learned from a conversation with George Lynch, he has as the cliche’ goes… seen and heard it all.
George Lynch graciously devoted some time to Hard Rock Hideout recently, to discuss the current Lynch Mob tour, the business side of music, guitar influences, a Dokken concert experience in Belfast that turned into the bizarre and his admiration for his kids. George Lynch has proven to this writer, that there is so much more to him than his legendary guitar leads and jaw dropping solos. Here is what George had to say:
HRH: Lynch Mob is ready to embark on a Summer tour of the States, which city or venue are you looking forward to most?
George: We will be navigating the U.S. in a sprinter van, gorilla style. To be completely honest, I don’t pick apart the itinerary, we get there when we get there is the way I do things. Anytime we are at a place where the chemistry comes together it’s great. I take one bad and one good experience at a time. Theaters are the best to play in. Unlike a club or arena, a theater is designed to sound good. The House Of Blues is great, you can’t beat a wood stage and a great PA.
HRH: Does it feel like old times or the first time, reuniting with Oni Logan?
George: Well, we’ve been back together actually for two years. It’s not old times, yet we have the same chemistry and like the same music. It’s investing in the machine that sets the band for years. In the old days, when a band was set, we were a band of brothers, experiencing everything together through the ups and downs. Today, it is very hard to keep a band together at this level. Lynch Mob really has nothing to lose, I haven’t achieved so much success where I can afford the resources to have this band stay together. I’m in the middle, where there is enough resources to make an album and do some touring. I’ve just lost two members of this band, they are going to go where the money is.
HRH: Really? Two members have left?
George: My bass player, Michael Devin, has gone on to join Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. My drummer, Brian Tichy, will be going to play for Whitesnake next year. A band like Metallica, they can afford to stay together!
HRH Note: James LoMenzo (formerly with Megadeth, David Lee Roth) has joined Lynch Mob as their new bass guitarist for the American and European 2010 tour.
HRH: “Smoke And Mirrors” really resonates Hard Rock glory, with plenty of Hard Rock relevance. Is it difficult to side step the heavy sound of the 80’s?
George: It’s not like you intentionally side step, you evolve and change over time. You can’t be what you were twenty or twenty-five years ago. AC/DC doesn’t change and it works for them. I enjoy change and an adventure, I like to be challenged. There are times it can get a little bit treacherous based on the component of business we’re in and the sound and style doesn’t adhere to it consistently. You can lose your audience with a drastic change and it’s not always a luxury to change . Jack White with White Stripes, he can change from album to album and still sell a ton of records. (Lynch Mob) “Smoke This” was a change for me, (released in 1999), it was a Rap record. The fans and critics hated it. I listened to it recently and I’m like, damn I love this!
HRH: “Time Keepers” is my favorite song on “Smoke And Mirrors”, your guitar solo is so intense.
George: It’s my favorite too!
HRH: That’s cool!
HRH: What is your secret to a memorable guitar solo?
George: There are different kinds of solo’s. In the Dokken era, there was always a story within a song, a beginning, end and body to it. This could leave a solo very constrained. I like the band of gypsy’s style of solo, where you forget about yourself and the surroundings and I find it all comes together. I like when a solo is not premeditated, when it’s random and not structured. Then there is a formulated solo done in the studio, it’s put together piece by piece. Then you can selectively fix the solo. A random solo is like streamed consciousness, that is what happened with that solo on “Time Keepers”.
HRH: How difficult is it to balance both the melodic and heavy side of guitar playing?
George: It is a balancing act. Rhythm wise, I enjoy listening to Lamb Of God, the impact and sheer weight of that tone I love. The super Metal tone is so much fun. When I do that I give up something, I’ve never found a middle ground. I did the down tuning thing and with solo’s I struggled, both tone wise and tuning wise. Songs I wrote in the past were built on configuration, Dokken and Lynch Mob are not down tuning stuff.
HRH: Crossing Rock genres, who is the young guitarist today, that impresses George Lynch?
George: There are so many in recent years. I like listening to the Neo-Classic European shred guys! Alexi Laiho from Children Of Bodom, Jeff Loomis from Nevermore and Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth. In Country Music it’s Brad Paisley. Derek Trucks is an incredible slide guitarist. I listen to many players.
HRH: Who are the guitarists that influenced you?
George: Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck are two primary early influences. I lived with their records and played them through, non stop. Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page round out the big four for me.
HRH: Doesn’t get any better than those four. Are there any other influences throughout the years?
George: Johnny Winter, Leslie West, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen. Jan Akkerman of Focus and Blues-Rock guitarist Peter Green. All the blues guys. In my fantasy world I would be a guitar player for Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
HRH: Your rightfully looked upon as a guitar legend in the Rock Music world. How underrated is Oni Logan as a lead vocalist?
George: Oni is one of those singers that will stand the test of time. There will come a day when he will be looked upon as an iconic Rock vocalist. Oni is Blues based like Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale and Paul Rodgers. He’s right there. He is a great songwriter. Oni is very conscientious live now, he has had great performances on the road. He has changed his behavior and is very careful about how he presents and takes care of himself. Time is on his side
HRH: What is your favorite song to cover?
George: There are quite a few. I released my “Furious George” album of all covers back in 2004. Deep Purple’s “Stormbringer” is fun to cover. Any Montrose and Led Zeppelin. Any Jimi Hendrix as well. A great jam song is Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades”, it’s just a fun song to play.
HRH: What’s the greatest advice ever given by George Lynch about playing guitar?
George: Good question. In a nutshell, be yourself, it is so important. I see a lot of guitar players that are amazing technically, only nothing sounds like them. When I see a guitarist that is just like Eddie Van Halen or Stevie Ray Vaughn, I have to stop and say we already have an Eddie! We had Stevie! I’m so bad at mimicking other people that it comes out my own way, through my own sound.
HRH: What is the funniest or craziest thing that you have ever witnessed while on tour?
George: Well, let’s see, there are a few that come to mind. Dokken was on tour in Belfast and the IRA problems were happening, it was like a war zone. We were playing in a theater with Accept, while the context of a civil war was happening. People were openly using drugs and having sex in the audience. Hundreds of people were spitting on us and my neck was dripping with saliva. Jeff Pilson (bass guitarist) actually had spit land in his mouth. Our tour bus was fire bombed at this same show.
HRH: My God, George, that’s terrible.
George: Well, we asked the fans what went wrong.
HRH: What fans? The ones who were spitting on you?
George: No, the ones who were hanging around after the show that we could approach outside. They said that showed they really liked you and you wouldn’t want to know what happens if they didn’t like you!
HRH: Talk about a backwards society.
George: The people were victims of their environment.
HRH: Is a live Lynch Mob album out of the question for the future?
George: It hasn’t been discussed. Historically, they say at the end of the life cycle of a band is a live record. A live record is expected to rehash the older stuff. It just shows there is less fuel for the fire and your running out of ideas. It’s the bottom of the bell curve, the swan song of a band. Lynch Mob has to achieve success first, before a future live record happens.
HRH: Looking back on your career, who is the one person that you entrust the most?
George: All the components of the music business I’m so preoccupied with, creating opportunities for our music to be heard someday. I’m a salesman more than a guitar player! Over the course of my day it’s all business and most things don’t even pan out.
HRH: Your just a gentleman who loves and lives for his music.
George: Well, the business end and politics of the music business is very challenging. When people ask me to contribute to a record there is a lot of business management involved, I just can’t walk in and play a solo, it’s more complicated than people know. There are a number of things involved on the business end that have costs, a studio, equipment, maintaining a rig and people that work for you. I design guitars, pickups and amps, so ninety percent of the weight in the music business is office work and using the phones. It’s about keeping it all together and having all the elements in place. I hope this hasn’t made you depressed.
HRH: No George, it hasn’t made me depressed. You are just telling it like it is and being real. You are talking about the reality side of being a musician and running the business end of it. Fans need to know this side of it.
George: With Lynch Mob, we will be doing eleven thousand miles in a van for this tour, with a skeleton crew. We will be sharing equipment and rooms. I’m a working musician and not a rich man. Just because my picture is in a book doesn’t mean I’m wealthy. Yet once we get on stage for that one hour, it’s all worth it. On stage is the payoff, playing for the fans, compared to how little financially you get out of it.
HRH: What long lasting memory will you always have of Ronnie James Dio?
George: I had an Elf record as a kid! I was on board early on in the Rainbow years too. Listening to Ronnie James Dio on the “Heaven And Hell” record, what a massive sounding album! Ronnie was a multi-dimensional singer. We did a couple of Dio tours with Dokken as well. I remember Ronnie James Dio as being a caring, compassionate and kind human being. After so many years in this business, the character of people means more than anything else. It’s character that Ronnie James Dio possessed.
George: I have six kids and five grand kids.
HRH: George, that’s excellent!
George: Why, do you think that’s a great achievement?
HRH: Of course it is George. Having a family like that is something special, family is so important.
George: Songs are like your children, it’s just trying to get them to be songs that are special. Making songs is like having sex, that’s the easy part. There is a lot of work in trying to make a song standout. I teach to my kids a good work ethic and character. I teach them to treat people kind. I have wonderful human beings for kids and I am very proud of them.
KAI HANSEN – As European Power Metal has sustained and nurtured it’s loyal fans worldwide spanning three decades, there is one key figure that can be saluted for his unparalleled contribution to this Heavy Metal sub-genre, that being Kai Hansen. As cofounder of legendary Helloween back in 1984 and founding member and leader of Gamma Ray since 1988, Kai Hansen has undeniably carved out his name in Power Metal History, if not Heavy Metal History. With his band, Gamma Ray, releasing their tenth studio album “To The Metal”, on January 29, 2010, on Earmusic, the legacy only grows stronger for this living legend of Heavy Metal.
Kai Hansen is a lead vocalist, lead guitarist, lyricist, song writer and arguably one of, if not “the” Founding Father of European Power Metal. To state that Kai Hansen is an important and historic figure to the world of Heavy Metal is justified, his music resume is undisputed. What has impressed me even more about Kai Hansen, besides his brilliant Heavy Metal career and launching European Power Metal through the stratosphere, is that he carried an interview as a true gentleman, a musician who is not looking for bragging rights or staking claim to fame. This is a musician who knows his accomplishments and has every right to be proud of them. Kai Hansen recently took time from his filled schedule to talk to Hard Rock Hideout, this is what he had to say:
HRH: Is Gamma Ray more tight than ever as a band, it sure sounds that way to me on “To The Metal”.
Kai: Absolutely! I think so, absolutely. With our friendship, there is no need to discuss songs anymore, we have enough chemistry, therefore, there is no need to argue. We’re good old boys, you know? We each know each other so well and know what the other is thinking.
HRH: “To The Metal” is as potent and powerful as any Gamma Ray album ever made. Truthfully, how much fun was this album to create?
Kai: I’m very happy with this new album. Everything just went smooth and it was a very relaxed process. There was never much doubt about the songs at all. Making “To The Metal” was a growing process, especially when the record company, (SPV), went bankrupt. There was a slow down for awhile, then things got resolved. Eventually it was a very good process still. The break for us did the album some good, it gave us a chance to let things settle down a bit and take time to reflect.
HRH: The song “To The Metal” is Old School genius, what’s the story behind it?
Kai: “To The Metal” was born when I was jamming around on guitar in rehearsal rooms, while I was playing riffs. Dani, (Daniel Zimmermann/drummer), heard these riffs and we both said this is a Metal hymn. Dani started jamming on it, he could feel it, then things started to roll from there. “To The Metal” is a song about Metal itself. Metal has been around for such a long time, Metal is very much like a dragon with many heads and when one gets cut off, it grows a new head!
HRH: “No Need To Cry” is an amazing example of healing personal loss through music. How proud is Gamma Ray of this exceptional song?
Kai: There are actually two songs on this album like this. “Mother Angel” and “No Need To Cry”. Music is a good outlet to get over a loss. Music is something that is very touching and helps me to get out my emotion and what I’m feeling inside. “Mother Angel” was written for my Mother who passed away a couple of years ago. “Mother Angel” is my way of talking to my Mother now.
HRH: “Rise” is a song that resonates with high emotion. Is this your favorite style of song to sing?
Kai: It depends on the song and which way the song goes. I always have a lot of emotion when I sing. This song has a “let’s go attitude” and “break free”… “rise”.
HRH: Your song “To Mother Earth” from the album “Land Of The Free II” comes to my thoughts each time I see the news footage of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf Coast. What are your thoughts?
Kai: Well, it is something. It doesn’t take a very wise man to think about these things. It was bound to happen anyways, especially after the Exxon Valdez disaster happened years ago. It’s a shame. It’s too bad really.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Ralf Scheepers? (Former/original Gamma Ray vocalist & current Primal Fear vocalist).
Kai: We talk on the phone a lot and send emails back and forth all the time. We meet up at festivals and drink beers together. We are very good friends always!
HRH: What festival is your favorite to play?
Kai: Wacken. I grew up with this Wacken Festival, it’s my hometown. I’ve seen the Wacken Festival grow from a small festival with cows grazing nearby to the very large festival it is today. There would be two hundred to three hundred people at the Wacken Festival in the early days.
HRH: Do you have any personal memories of Ronnie James Dio you would like to share?
Kai: We once toured with Dio for a few shows, when I was with Helloween. I was amazed by Ronnie’s presence on stage and his voice, he was a giant! When I heard the news of his passing, I put on some Dio music and reflected on those moments I was with him on tour.
HRH: What’s it like to collaborate on a project with Tobias Sammet?
Kai: Toby? Toby is one of the greatest guys I ever worked with so far. I know him from when Gamma Ray played around his hometown, he would come to all of our shows! Here was this little boy, giving me his demo’s and asking me lot’s of questions. Toby’s demo’s reminded me of a cross between Helloween and Blind Guardian, not bad music at all. I didn’t like the name of his band Edguy back then though! I said, if your gonna make it, you have to change that F’n name! Being funny is a part of Toby and Edguy is a funny name for his band. Toby really made it and made it in a good way.
HRH Note: Kai Hansen was a guest-lead guitarist on Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia album, “The Scarecrow”, released in 2008 on Nuclear Blast Records.
HRH: Will Gamma Ray be headed to the States in 2010?
Kai: We are at the moment, looking at September. The plans are on the table but it’s too early for details right now. Our agency is on track though for this to happen. Our fans can check out our website and MySpace for updates on Gamma Ray’s tour schedule for America and abroad.
HRH: What is Kai Hansen’s most proud musical achievement?
Kai: Well, I cannot pin it down to just one song or one album. I’m happy with everything I’ve done so far. Having been a part of Helloween and witnessing this band becoming so big. Then, starting something new with Gamma Ray and twenty years later both bands are still so strong. My band Gamma Ray delivering songs to people for twenty years, that they can take and enjoy, is something very special to me.
HELLOWEEN’ S Michael Weikath – guitarist, songwriter and founding member of one of the most influential European Power Metal Bands, dating back to 1985. Helloween has set the standard for this genre of Heavy Metal, while exemplifying longevity and industry durability also breeds consistent quality albums. Since 1985, many changes have taken place in the world of Heavy Metal, major bands that once filled arenas are now filling clubs and musicians can now download and upload musical arrangements on a laptop. Throw in the fact, that a select group of Helloween songs have become rearranged, with the enormous help from the 70 Piece Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and The London Choir.
Helloween has reached a Heavy Metal milestone, celebrating their quarter century as a major player and mighty influence on the European Power Metal stage. Thus, saluting their catalog of albums with the release of “Unarmed – Best Of 25th Anniversary”. Michael Weikath or Weiki as he likes to be called, proved to be quite an intriguing conversationalist, with an admirable straight forwardness about him that this writer found most appealing. Weiki took the time recently to discuss with Hard Rock Hideout the aforementioned, plus added some interesting thoughts along the way. Here is what Weiki had to say:
HRH: How are you doing Weiki?
Weiki: I’m doing well! I’m looking up the Veronica’s right now and buying music on the internet. The Veronica’s are twins, they are really good! I like their music a lot. Do you listen to them?
HRH: I can’t say that I do, Weiki. I’ve heard of them though.
Weiki: You should definitely give them a try.
HRH: What other bands are you currently listening to?
Weiki: I’m a big fan of Chris Cornell. Nirvana, you know, I hated their music when it first came out, now, it’s good and not so bad. I’m a fan of The Moody Blues and technical stuff from the 1970’s. I’m pretty open, even original Disco, I’m with it.
HRH: Congratulations Weiki on Helloween’s 25th Anniversary! The new album is a unique celebration of your songs. What inspired this musical direction for “Unarmed”?
Weiki: Well, we just came off of a huge, a massive tour. We had some time off after the last tour and never really had a break for fifteen years. “Unarmed” was all the managers idea, the thought of doing something big this time around for the 25th Anniversary of Helloween. We employed outside arrangers to re-arrange all of the songs you hear on “Unarmed”. We picked some greatest tracks, still “Falling To Pieces” was not on the list. There was a ton of file transfers going on and everything was done this way, so I could stay on top of what was happening with the arrangements.
HRH: From concept to finish, how long did it take to create “Unarmed”?
Weiki: It took a little over a year. With the re-arrrangements, feedbacks, brainstorming and recording. We had to consult with so many people and work with numerous timetables regarding the classical and digital recordings. Having the opportunity, the means and the time to do this album all came together. I feel the result is great! So far, I have heard a fifty-fifty response to “Unarmed”, people either love it or hate it.
HRH: Well Weiki, I am not in the group that hates “Unarmed”!
Weiki: Thank you!
HRH: With all of the dynamics involved with “Unarmed”, what was the most difficult step in the recording process?
Weiki: Doing arrangements on the computer was no biggie. The Classical arrangements of the timing and where do you put these parts? That all takes time. During the session arrangements, I did not touch one string or guitar.
HRH: “Why” is a hidden track, with no hint of it anywhere in the liner notes. Why is this?
Weiki: I don’t know, it’s not on my CD either! I was pretty surprised myself when I discovered this. I’m not aware of why “Why” is a hidden track. It’s a mega surprise track! It surprised everyone, even me!
HRH: Would you consider creating music in the future with the 70 piece Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Choir once again?
Weiki: It was so much hard work, it’s a good idea though. If our manager wants to, we do it. We would be extremely proud to do it again.
HRH: What other personal music goals do you still have?
Weiki: There are times, where I think I could have done many other things in the past. There was a time when I was not sure of staying in Helloween, it was during the “Chameleon” phase. I moved on with it of course. I like to consider each and every option. Well, for example, I’ve always liked the collaboration of Jim Steinman and Meatloaf, that is something I would like to do. Creative Rock and doing something in that direction I would like to try. ELO, Queen, Jim Steinman and Meatloaf are great examples.
HRH Note: “Chameleon” was the fifth studio album released by Helloween in 1993, (not counting their debut “Helloween” EP from 1985).
HRH: Where in America is your favorite city or venue to play?
Weiki: It’s so hard to say and choose. The United States is so vast! I do love B.B. Kings in New York City though. Maryland has many nice places, up around Niagara Falls and Arizona as well. The Key Club in L.A. I really remember well, it filled around eight hundred people and it was great. In America, there are too many interesting places.
HRH: What band would Helloween want to tour with, that you haven’t toured with already?
Weiki: It’s really hard to say. Judas Priest would have been cool in the past, only it’s not recommended now. One point in time, in the past, we should have toured with Judas Priest. We are out on our own now, as a headlining band. For us to do our own lineup show is dream stuff and wishful thinking. We’ve played the festivals in the past, with say, Cinderella and DIO. Then, Guns & Roses comes out to end the night. It was managements decision back then to play certain festivals and in which order.
HRH: Do you own an iPad yet? I’m just looking into them right now myself.
Weiki: Not yet, they are not available in Spain, at the time they are first available in America. I will get one though, an iPad will be pretty cool. They are thin and light weight, perfect for traveling in the airports.
HRH Note: Michael Weikath currently resides in Spain.
HRH: “Gambling With The Devil” is one of my favorite Helloween albums, there are many uplifting and positive songs on it, for example, “Can Do It”.
Weiki: I wrote that song. “Gambling With The Devil” does have some positive songs. I like to stay positive with my lyrics and stay away from the dark themes. I like to write positive songs, with meaning. “The Dark Ride” was too dark of an album for me, lyrically.
HRH Note: “The Dark Ride” was the ninth studio album released by Helloween, back in 2000.
HRH: Who are your hero’s in life?
Weiki: You have to be very careful about who to idolize. It’s very hard to say. If I was to say, for example, Humphrey Bogart, how many skeletons may he have hid in his closet?
HRH Note: Humphrey Bogart was an American film actor, spanning three decades in film during the 1930’s, ’40’s and ’50’s.
HRH: Are you setting sight on a North American tour this year?
Weiki: In November a tour starts that will go into next year. Our last time out went extremely well for the first time ever! It was more of a condensed experience but a brilliant tour. The clubs, bus and accommodations were great and it was a great time. Our last tour was just organized better, it was very intense!
HRH: Which do you prefer better, an arena or club?
Weiki: Whether we play an arena or club, people, the fans, pay to be there. As long as we put on the best show possible for the fans, it doesn’t really matter. It’s always great being close to the fans in a club, as long as they are friendly! We like to play to a minimum of fifty people in a club, sometimes that is not always the case though. There have been times where there are say, seventeen people in the club! Regardless, Helloween must put on the best show and play great. When the show goes as planned, I’m happy. If a band were to ever fuck up a show in a small club, it would get on You Tube very fast! I believe you can still be a great band playing in a shit hole.
HRH: What Helloween album do you look back upon with the most pride?
Weiki: All of them! They are like photo albums. They all ooze something special, each album is unique. A lot of work went into each and every Helloween album.
Gary Cherone, singer and songwriter. The front man for the world renowned and musically diversified Extreme. Be it Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk Metal or a chart topping Pop Ballad, Gary Cherone never fails to capture the emotion and heart of a song. Extreme, with their 2008 reunion, has given a bounty of relief to loyal fans, after a thirteen year hiatus. With three quarters of the original Extreme lineup intact, Gary Cherone, guitarist & songwriter Nuno Bettencourt and bassist Pat Badger have proven that they still have plenty of Hard Rock left in their musical tanks, alongside newest band mate and drummer Kevin Figueiredo.
With 2008’s critically acclaimed Saudades de Rock followed by a triumphant touring schedule, this second chapter of Extreme is just beginning. Extreme’s reunion has even led to the release of Take Us Alive, a live CD/DVD recorded in August of 2009, in their hometown of Boston Mass, at the House Of Blues, with a release date of May 4, 2010.
Hard Rock Hideout had the privilege recently to catch up to Gary Cherone, while his busy schedule allowed. Gary talks about the reuniting of Extreme, “Take Us Alive”, his musical influences, the now classic “More Than Words” ballad, a dream duet and his true feelings of being the lead singer for Van Halen too. As polite and candid as he is down to earth, Gary Cherone has proven to this writer, that he and Extreme certainly are an American Rock ‘N’ Roll success story. Here is what Gary had to say:
HRH: Gary, what is the Extreme Rock ‘N’ Roll story behind “Take Us Alive”?
Gary Cherone: It’s our first live CD/DVD, the story behind it is surprisingly, after a thirteen year break, we have never played or felt stronger. “Take Us Alive” documents the 2009 tour and covers the full spectrum of the Extreme catalog of albums.
HRH: Seeing the fans sing the lyrics to “More Than Words” on “Take Us Alive” gave me those good and cool chills, did it have an effect on you while on stage?
Gary Cherone: Absolutely! This song has been a blessing and a curse over the years for Extreme. The band resented this song for a while because it was the one and sometimes only song people knew from us. We learned to embrace it though, now it’s a special song to us. After thirteen years, coming back to see the fans sing along to it live, every night, makes for one of the highlights of the night.
HRH: Were there any vintage, live Rock albums over the years, that influenced you to one day make a live Extreme album?
Gary Cherone: You are absolutely the first writer to ask this question and I’ve been waiting for this! KISS “I” and “II”, Cheap Trick “at Budokan”, The Who “Live At Leeds”, and The J. Geils Band had three terrific live albums. There are too many of them really, to mention. Just recently, I was sending emails to the guys saying, “hey, we finally have our KISS Alive out! It’s exciting after all these years to to have our live album. We recorded the show in Boston, at the House of Blues, it’s our hometown and it meant a lot to us to have it filmed there.
HRH: Gary, “Last Hour” from “Saudades de Rock” I point to as a career highlight for you vocally. Did you reach for any personal emotion to record this song?
Gary Cherone: Thank you very much. “Last Hour” is one of my favorites on this record. I always start on a personal level then lyrically go in different directions. I try to translate emotion onto tape. Steve Perry, (Journey), he came a few times during the making of “Saudades de Rock”. This was the only song Steve Perry hung out with us on in the control room.
HRH: Wow, Steve Perry! You must have been a bit nervous there?
Gary Cherone: I felt pressure with a legend sitting in there! I think seeing Steve Perry made me reach in for that little extra!
HRH: Have you known Steve Perry for some time?
Gary Cherone: Steve Perry is a friend of the band, has been for some years.
HRH: “Saudades de Rock”, do you look upon this album as a comeback or continuation of Extreme?
Gary Cherone: Both I guess. We treat it as a continuation. The public looks at it as a reunion record after thirteen years. “Saudades de Rock” is not a one-off album, this was the first of hopefully many more Extreme albums to come.
HRH: Gary, who is the singer that you would want to make the dream duet with?
Gary Cherone: I always wanted to do something with Ann Wilson, (Heart), she’s it! I’m always mentioning Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury and Roger Daltrey in conversations, about being the best voices in Rock ‘N’ Roll history, yet Ann Wilson, she is an amazing singer. There’s still time to do a duet with her, I just have to write the right song.
HRH: There’s plenty of time left Gary!
HRH: Are there any younger musicians or bands out there in 2010, that have made an impression on you?
Gary Cherone: Late at night, I’ll watch VH1 to catch new music. Muse comes to mind. The music I listen to is rather mellow compared to the Hard Music world I live in! I like Stone Temple Pilots, they have a new record coming out. I really like their new single “Between The Lines”. Norah Jones, I like to listen to her music.
HRH: Any Rock legends your listening to?
Gary Cherone: Bob Dylan, there is enough in his catalog to listen to and enjoy for the next twenty years! As a singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan is just great, there is no one else like him.
HRH: If a major motion picture was made on the career of Extreme, would the word “united” be in the title?
Gary Cherone: It would certainly be in the title. Extreme is a close bond of brothers, past members included. We grew up together, went around the block long enough to know what friendship is about. “United” would definitely be the theme of the movie.
HRH: Extreme has personified Rock Music diversity through song, time and again. How important is it to not be stereotyped into one specific genre?
Gary Cherone: I think that is probably a distinction we wear with pride. When you look at AC/DC, I would not want them any other way, you know what you are getting. Then, I look at the Beatles, Queen and Led Zeppelin, all three had no barriers, they really wrote honest music with expression. They did not try to ever fit in. When I sit down with Nuno, we really don’t know what is going to come out when we create music. We sit down together and write, Nuno plays the guitar and what comes flowing out of us during those moments is what becomes the record.
HRH: What changes in the music industry, within the last twenty years, annoy you the most?
Gary Cherone: Extreme has been fortunate and blessed from the past. After 13 years of being away, we know there will be touring and small venues, we don’t care how big the place is we play at. The digital revolution, where music can be downloaded for free, it doesn’t bother me so much. If people get turned on by Extreme through You Tube, then the interest to come see us live or buy our music can result and that is a good thing. There are pro’s and con’s to technology, it’s like comparing LP’s to CD’s, nothing changes.
HRH: Nothing beats those days of buying real vinyl.
Gary Cherone: If you show a kid an LP today, they would look at it as if it’s from another planet. There was nothing like going to the record store back when I grew up, getting the album home and putting the needle to the wax! Our parents used to look at us like we were crazy or something! That’s our generation though.
HRH: Today, the kids are raised on MP3’s.
Gary Chreone: I’m sure if we were kids now, that’s how we would get turned on to music. The sad thing is, kids get turned on song by song today. We grew up on concept records like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. Would kids have the attention span to listen to a whole piece of music like that now? A pro in technology is Guitar Hero, it’s giving kids an outlet to discover so many great bands and songs.
HRH: If you had a magic wand and could change just one thing that is wrong in the world today, what would you change?
Gary Cherone: (In a disguised voice, sounding like a Miss Universe contestant): All I want is world peace. (laughs)
Gary Cherone: I don’t want to sound like a Miss Universe contestant and say all I want is world peace! I’d like to see less pain in the heart, which is manifested physically by people abusing other people or emotionally abusing each other. This is such a big question and difficult to answer or resolve. It’s not that hard to start now, on a local level, by being kind to your neighbor. Our song, “Peace” on “Saudades de Rock” has two verses, the first verse lyrically is very local and internal, while the second verse covers the bigger issues of the world.
HRH: Any Tour plans for Extreme in 2010?
Gary Cherone: Nuno is out on tour with Rihanna right now. It’s a long shot, that maybe Extreme schedules tour dates at the end of the year. I’m working on another Rock project this Summer called Hurt Smile.
HRH: Hurt Smile? Is this a Rock or Hard Rock band? How heavy?
Gary Cherone: Hurt Smile is more rawer than Extreme and Hard Rock. My brother, Mark Cherone, plays guitar.
HRH: Very cool, I wish you guys the very best! I look forward to hearing Hurt Smile in the future.
Gary Cherone: Thanks!
HRH: Gary, what is your most positive experience you look back upon, being the lead singer for Van Halen?
Gary Cherone: For three years I was in the band and it was a fantastic experience I’ll never forget. Being on tour was the best part and all the crazy moments on stage! Just Playing with the mighty Van Halen! Getting to know Van Halen as human beings and recording the record, (“Van Halen III”), with Van Halen was such a great experience. Eddie was such a generous person, they all were generous. It all feels so surreal now, being ten years removed from Van Halen, I’m like, I was really in that band! I was very fortunate to be a part of Van Halen for a moment in time.
JON OLIVA – has made quite the mark on the music industry. Since 1978, Jon Oliva has been involved in making music… after all, as you will later find out, Jon Oliva is a man of music. A founding member, along with his late brother Criss Oliva, of the influential and legendary Progressive Metal Band -Savatage. As Jon Oliva will elaborate, later in this interview, Savatage has since been transformed into the ultra world popular – Trans Siberian Orchestra, in which Jon Oliva is most personally proud of.
In the midst of of Jon Oliva’s music career, he has also founded and nurtured his Heavy Metal brainchild known as Jon Oliva’s Pain, with four studio albums released since 2004. Jon Oliva’s Pain has recently released a fourth studio album on AFM Records titled, “Festival”, this very same month on April 13th. Recently, Jon Oliva took the time from his busy schedule to talk to Hard Rock Hideout about his terrific new album and the music he has created and loves. Here’s what Jon Oliva had to say:
HRH: Jon, I can’t stop listening to “Festival”, I’m really hooked! An incredible album you made here!
Jon Oliva: Thank you, “Festival” really is an album that grows on you each time you listen to it.
HRH: As with all of the music you have created or helped to create, it’s always been a listening experience for me. “Festival” continues this trend. How did you prepare your thoughts and ideas for this new and amazing album?
Jon Oliva: There’s a lot of little things in the background. The last album, (“Global Warning”/AFM Records), was an experimental album and I pretty much got that out of my system. I wanted to play guitar, so when we were on tour in Europe, “Festival” was written. We had an amp and a 4-track riding around Europe! I wanted a darker, old school Savatage type album, a back to basics without losing any weird stuff that is heard in the songs.
HRH: “Festival” showcases your musical diversity, all the while maintaining a dark, hard and heavy style. Were there any last second double guessing happening while in the studio?
Jon Oliva: Not really, there was a plan. I was confident when we went in and prepared. “Festival” is different from the last three (John Oliva’s Pain) albums, every musical thing was written and ready to go. There was no searching for parts, no searching for keyboard parts, no stress. This was a very happy album to make.
HRH: The song “Now” has an uncanny Classic Rock feel to me, with a tad of ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) flavor and still it’s Jon Oliva’s Pain. Is that accurate for me to state?
Jon Oliva: Sure! A big influence on me is ELO, I love that band! Back when I was eighteen years old, my bother Criss and I wrote the chorus for this song in grandmas garage. After all those years, I pulled the tape out, wrote a new verse for it, inserted the chorus and this song, “Now”, is the result. “Now” was half written in 1978!
HRH: That’s really cool, the story behind “Now”.
HRH: “Death Rides A Black Horse” gives me goose bumps, such an epic power it delivers. How did this song come about?
Jon Oliva: From a nightmare. Lyrically based on nightmares are all my songs. I saw that guy with the long scythe, it was death coming through the clouds and he had fire in his eyes. What I remember from nightmares I elaborate on it, lyrically. I have nephews in the military and their slogan is this song title, so I thought it was a great name for a song! I wanted to do it for them, adding their slogan as the song title. “Now” and “Lies” are two songs not based on a dream or nightmare though. “Living On The Edge” is about being chased by something I cannot see, all I am seeing is blackness ahead of the lines in the road. The storyteller comes out in me through songs, I just improvise the ending of these nightmares I have.
HRH: It’s amazing and unique, these nightmares you have that eventually become songs.
Jon Oliva: Since I was a kid, I always have nightmares, every night. As a kid, I would watch “Creature Feature” (a Saturday morning/classic horror movie matinee on television) and my mom would warn me, “you’ll have nightmares if you watch this stuff!” My brain is having a party up there and this is what comes out in my sleep!
HRH: Each time I listen to “Festival” I get the perception that there is no slowing down Jon Oliva. How true is my perception?
Jon Oliva: Very true. There is a lot going on in my life. I am creating as much music as I can, while I can still do it. I’m not twenty one anymore and eventually it will all stop. I still have a lot of stuff on tape to pull out and work on. I like to get up and get out there! As I get older, I have acquired a sense of urgency. Trans Siberian Orchestra helps, I get lots of music through them that doesn’t suit John Oliva’s Pain, the Hard Rock and heavy side of Pain. The soft and more tender music I write suits Trans Siberian Orchestra.
HRH: Is there a North American tour on the horizon for Jon Oliva’s Pain?
Jon Oliva: I’m looking at a mid September to late September window, with a few dates in the Northeast and I’m working on setting this up. Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York would be the area for these dates. The economy is bad and the drinking age is twenty one. The club scene is killed with the drinking age of twenty one. The clubs lose fifty percent of their business with twenty one being the drinking age.
HRH: I always wonder, how much of a deterrent to alcohol this drinking age of twenty one really is.
Jon Oliva: It’s not a deterrent. When we were young, you would still gather somewhere to drink and play music.
HRH: Yeah, my buddies and I would set up in a remote field in the woods, crank up some Metal and let the keg beer flow!
Jon Oliva: Exactly! That’s what we did.
HRH: Who were your musical influences growing up and even now?
Jon Oliva: The Beatles and ELO. ELO’s music is so melodic. I saw ELO in concert in Florida, sometime in the late 70’s. ELO had this enormous spaceship on stage, it was like going to see Alice Cooper for the first time!
HRH: Was it the “Out Of The Blue” tour?
Jon Oliva: I believe it was. It was around 1977 and 1978.
Jon Oliva: Theater Rock is what I’ve always been into and inspired by. People get bored at a concert without entertainment on stage, you might as well stay home and listen to the album or CD instead. If you are really into ELO, Klaatu is a band you should look into. I’ve always loved this band’s music. They were a Canadian Progressive Rock band. Klaatu is named after a character in the science fiction movie “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.
HRH: Thanks Jon, I’ll have to definitely check out Klaatu.
HRH: Which instrument, that you play, gives you the most satisfaction?
Jon Oliva: The piano. There’s nothing like playing a real piano and singing. The guitar also, it’s a weird combination. I can get real emotion on the keyboards, yet it transposes better on guitar. Still, the touch and feel on a piano is something special.
HRH: Will Trans Siberian Orchestra return with a new Christmas theme in the future?
Jon Oliva: I’m not sure, it’s Paul O’Neill’s decision. Paul has lot’s of projects set up that he wants to get out.
HRH: Jon, you have seen and done it all in the world of music. What moment or moments in your career make you the most proud?
Jon Oliva: Becoming so successful with Trans Siberian Orchestra. Trans Siberian Orchestra is Savatage. We worked very long on Savatage and Trans Siberian Orchestra put a cap on Savatage, it’s all the same people. It was always as if we never could get over the hump, (with Savatage), where Savatage was a big name band, by changing the name to Trans Siberian Orchestra, it broadened the whole thing. Trans Siberian Orchestra was a natural progression to go to, there are no limitations, many musicians and singers are featured while the nucleus of Savatage is there. We have the same writers in Paul O’Neill and myself. The name and versatility of Savatage changed.
Living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trying to survive since 1980, we, (Savatage), would get beaten down and people would stomp on us! Then we got back up for another ten rounds with Mike Tyson and finally delivered that Buster Douglas punch with Trans Siberian Orchestra! Trans Siberian Orchestra is the biggest band, if not, one of the biggest bands in America today, two shows sell out a day! Currently, “Beethoven’s Last Night” is on tour.
HRH: Is music all about life or is life all about music?
Jon Oliva: Music is all about life! Music is personal experiences, desires, dreams, loves and losses. Music is life with a tune!
When you think of Thrash Metal legends, the first bands that come to mind are usually Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Exodus and Anthrax. Old School Metal fans know… there is another extremely key player in this legendary mix of Thrash Metal originators and it is – Overkill. Going on three decades, with 15 studio albums, an EP, a covers album and 2 live albums under their legendary Thrash Metal belts, Overkill is as Metal potent as ever. Setting out to embark on their Spring North American Tour in support of their 15th studio album – “Ironbound”, original member and vocalist Bobby “The Blitz” Ellsworth cordially took the time recently to talk to Hard Rock Hideout. Here is what Bobby had to say:
HRH: What were the thoughts of Overkill going in to record Ironbound?
Bobby: There was a newer energy within the band, we came in right off the road to assemble Ironbound. The unseen hand or the x-factor was the energy we felt in the studio. It was business as usual, still we were feeling something special while recording Ironbound, this afforded us the luxury of coming together so quickly as musicians and finishing this album.
HRH: Ironbound is on the E1 Music label, are you committed to a defined number of albums with them?
Bobby: Yeah, 100 albums! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) You know Bobby, at the rate Overkill has been going over the years, that is not far fetched!
Bobby: Two more records with E1 Music here, with Nuclear Blast for the rest of the world.
HRH: I actually feel Ironbound is one of the best Overkill albums ever.
Bobby: Thanks, that’s quite a compliment! After 15 albums and over 25 years of Overkill, we are concentrating on today and this Ironbound album and tour. The beauty of Overkill is you know what to expect, yet it is different with each album. Ironbound has teeth, energy and the x-factor, there’s turns at every angle. Ironbound is rooted in what Overkill has been doing since we first became a band and what we are doing today. This album gives you the best of both worlds.
HRH: Where can we catch Overkill on tour this Spring, any updates?
Bobby: We begin our tour on April 1st, in Philadelphia at The Trocadero and on May 1st in New York City, (Nokia Theater in Times Square), it finishes. Coming out to see us live is to really experience Overkill!
Bobby: Not necessarily, I write abstractly. “Endless War” is a little bit more personal and abstract, yet it relates across the board. One man’s cross doesn’t outweigh another man’s cross. This song can apply to what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and real life at home. I make comments socially and politically when I write. Ironbound screams louder in the dark, the angst and chaos is valid emotion on Ironbound. I have had over sixteen records to cleanse myself!
HRH: “The Goal Is Your Soul”, can the lyrical content here be representative of white collar crime on Wall Street?
Bobby: Not necessarily, it’s more of a comment on right wing and fanatic Christian and Muslim religions. Organized religion is dangerous, it creates an army in it’s own right. There is danger in the word organized. Organized religion is very follower based. You can also interpret it as the enemy is right here, every day with politics.
HRH: Overkill is arguably the most consistent Thrash Metal band in history, based on album releases and touring. Was an old school work ethic instilled in you at an early age?
Bobby: I think so, it’s my background as a person. DD, (bass guitarist and founding member), and I were raised as such, with a “you want then work for it” discipline. It’s the principals and values of Overkill from the very beginning that has led us here. Doing more and giving your all is the premise this band works on. We always tweak it up, year after year. Our strong work ethic, helps in getting us to go through the artistic torture of making albums for so long, being a band and touring.
HRH: Two words to throw at you, use a free style way to convey your thoughts about them please. Punk Rock.
Bobby: Unbridled energy. Punk Rock has always been the x-factor in Overkill. We started our band covering Punk Rock songs! The Dead Boys, Ramones and Sex Pistols are all influences. The Punk Rock influence is what gives Overkill that different angle that other bands don’t have.
HRH: From “Relix IV”, I love “Old School”, it has that Punk Rock sound and feel.
Bobby: It’s a great song, it’s been a live staple on our set list ever since we released Relix IV.
HRH: What peer band would Overkill take to battle with?
Bobby: There are plenty of us that are cut from the same cloth. Exodus. Overkill and Exodus hold a lot of the same principals. There’s still competition there, yet when we toured together it brought out the best in both bands on stage.
HRH: Are we experiencing a Thrash Metal revival or has Thrash Metal never gone away to begin with?
Bobby: It never went away! Overkill has been doing this straight since 1985. There is a resurgence in popularity with great young bands like Warbringer, Gamma Bomb and Bonded By Blood. Plus, Overkill is also recruiting younger fans with Ironbound in 2010.
HRH: Over the years, what moment truly defined Overkill as being resilient to outside forces?
Bobby: Overkill is special, we always have been able to put ourselves as people ahead of the band. I have known DD for thirty years, our friendship is amazing. In Overkill, “you” come first, not your writing. Overkill is a team, we are more so real about life, instead of business.
HRH: If you could have any famous musical guest on your next Overkill album, who would it be?
Bobby: I’d like to do a duet with Ronnie James Dio. That would be a lot of fun! Lemmy too, (Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead). Lemmy and I sang live together once onstage, it was a lot of fun.
HRH: “Coverkill” is a great tribute to many legendary bands and their songs. What are the chances of there ever being a Coverkill II?
Bobby: I’m not thinking in those terms now. There is a possibility, of course, that it could be done. Since Coverkill, we have covered some new and different songs, Eric Burdon and The Animals and Johnny Cash are just a couple of examples. Still, I think in terms of the day instead of the future, it’s more about the now.
HRH: “Promises” on “From The Underground And Below”, (1997 album), I really like. Is there another ballad in the future for Overkill?
Bobby: I don’t think so. This song was written due to the death of a very close friend. I was able to cleanse the soul through these lyrics. It was necessary for me to get rid of the sadness I was feeling because of this loss. It is real emotion that you hear on “Promises”, not contrived emotion. That song was not the norm for us, then again, it was not the norm for us to be in that situation to write that song either. It’s life, an opportunity to express that emotion I was feeling on a higher level. “Promises” is a testimonial to someone’s life is a way to explain it.
Bobby: They can handle alcohol! Really, the idea of alcohol is part of someone’s life at a younger age in Europe, not so in America. Shit can happen in the U.S., one hundred thousand people will create assaults in the U.S., there’s nothing like that over in Europe. I was at a festival right here in New Jersey last year, there were people arrested for assaulting a police officer! That’s pretty bad when the police start getting assaulted at Rock festivals here. The festivals in Europe are well organized, big beer sponsors are needed and Europe has them. Insurance costs for festivals can dictate why the U.S. doesn’t go for them too.
HRH: What is your favorite Overkill album and why?
Bobby: Horrorscope from ’91. It’s the first album DD and I wrote together. I can’t look at Ironbound as being my favorite because it is new, I need to let it sit with me for about a year.
HRH: One of my favorite Overkill albums too, I love “Frankenstein”.
Bobby: Yeah, that’s a good one! DD has a running joke that Frankenstein is the best song I’ve ever sung on! (laughs)
HRH Note: “Frankenstein” is an instrumental.
HRH: Throughout the years, what tour sticks in your mind the most?
Bobby: Motorhead 1988 and 2007. Growing up a Motorheadbanger, the excitement to meet and tour with a band that I looked up to was incredible. We covered their songs in cover bands and now we’re on tour with Motorhead! In Europe, on the 2007 tour with Motorhead, Lemmy asked me to sing onstage with him! That was just a positive experience! Here we were in 2007, nineteen years after the first tour together and Motorhead is just as nice a group of guys as they were when we first met them.
HRH: Is The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame useful or useless?
Bobby: Useful, I was able to carve my name into the bathroom stall wall there with my pocket knife! (laughs)
Bobby: It’s very cool. There are different things in Rock and Roll to be recognized. It’s an avant-garde answer to what music was in the 1950’s. It’s Rock and Roll history and it’s a necessity to bring forth this history to the public.
HRH: I feel Motorhead belongs in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bobby: They will be someday.
Any Metalhead will attest, (from what we can recall), that they had a pretty darn good time back in the ’80’s, so did Ron Keel. This man has seen and done it all – musician, vocalist, song writer, lyricist, composer… and he is still writing his own legacy in 2010. Ron’s most famous band KEEL not only jumped on board the Heavy Metal explosion of those colorful ’80’s, the original lineup is back for another hard and heavy go round with their loyal fans… both old school and new. Ron Keel is a smitten guy these days and there is more to this Heavy Metal veteran, more to this man, once you take in what he has to say. Oh, Ron Keel does have a lot to say too, taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to Hard Rock Hideout recently.
With the new KEEL album Streets of Rock & Roll, (released February 9, 2010), receiving it’s just praise from around the Heavy Metal and Hard Rock circles, concerts being aligned in support of this album and the KEEL NATION rising, Ron Keel is a man that is busy, happy and proud to be alive! Ron is excited about the present, reflects on the past, looks more to the future, holds friendship sacred, values his fans, respects and cares about the American troops both past and present, has a charitable heart, reveals his Heavy Metal and Hard Rock dreams and also has a message for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Walmart too… (phew), check it out:
HRH: So, Ron, how are you doing?
Ron Keel: I’m doing great! Keel is back! We just released Streets of Rock & Roll and I’ve never been a bigger fan of Keel in my entire life than right now!
HRH: You sound really happy Ron!
Ron Keel: I am! You know, back in the ’80’s, I used to want to go down in a blaze of glory. I used to think it would be cool to die young in a plane crash or something crazy like that. All those crazy thoughts go through your mind when your young. Now, I want to live! I’m 48 years old and I’ve seen and done it all and I’ve never felt better about life! I’m a husband, father and grandfather now, I want to make music, tour, do the things I love most in life and continue to Rock! I want to continue on with Keel and talk about this band and new album to everyone!
HRH: I’ll have to admit Ron, I really like this Streets of Rock & Roll album, it’s a great album. It Rocks hard.
Ron Keel: Thanks, I really appreciate that, I’m glad you enjoy it. It’s an album that I have in my truck right now, a great album to listen to while taking a long drive through the desert with the windows down. People are liking it, unfortunately Streets of Rock & Roll has been downloaded illegally already. There are ten thousand illegal downloads that were aware of in the first two weeks alone. It’s the other one million illegal downloads that we don’t know about!
HRH: That’s terrible Ron, it’s definitely not like the ’80’s anymore, where each album sold is accounted for.
Ron Keel: Sure, only back in the 80’s there were people out there buying chart positions. It gets real bad with how some albums got pushed up in the charts back then. It’s something I might want to touch on with my autobiography that I’m working on.
HRH: I’m sure I would be schooled on some of those stories.
Ron Keel: Keel was a young band back then, we were screwed out of money, we didn’t know any better back then. We probably sold a lot more albums than was being told to us, maybe a million more. It’s not like that anymore, I’m in charge now of everything.
HRH: Going in to record Streets of Rock & Roll, were there any pre-conceived ideas that were scrapped at the last minute?
Ron Keel: None. The cream always rises to the top, we just let it happen. Recording this album was a natural, easy, creative process. The entire album was written last year, after our (Keel) reunion and there was an excitement of working together again. There was no band meeting or anything like that. It was a six month creative process, it came to be where expressing two to three songs a day was happening and we recorded on June 18th of 2009. Streets of Rock & Roll was the greatest joy of my recording career.
HRH: Sounds like you are very proud of this new album.
Ron Keel: Definitely, it’s a reunion album, it was the right move and I have no regrets. Streets of Rock & Roll has all the great qualities of past Keel albums, the twin guitars of Marc Ferrari and Bryan Jay trading licks, big choruses, rhythmic duo voicings, power grooves, the lyrical content, strong attitude and fighting for what we believe in. Lot’s of power. Plus there are different tempos and key grooves, a whole different feel on this new album that takes you on a journey. The strong bond and friendship among Keel shows through these songs. Life felt very natural in the studio while recording Streets of Rock & Roll. This new album would not sound as great if not for Pat Regan, he is the best in the business, his state of the art recording techniques made this album happen!
HRH: Hold Steady, bravo for writing such a patriotic song! Are there loved one’s of yours serving or have served in the Armed Forces?
Ron Keel: Both of my parents served and I have many dear friends that have served or are serving. Back in ’98 and ’99 we toured military bases and that inspiration carries to this day! Everyday is a sacrifice for our service men and women. I have dedicated, to their honor, a free mp3 download of Hold Steady that is available on Keelnation.com. We appreciate and honor the service men and women, by giving them and the fans this song.
HRH: The song and the free download are commendable, Ron.
Ron Keel: Thank you. We really care about our veterans, I like to donate money when it’s available by taking it out of whatever comes through the office in earnings. I don’t care about having the extra money laying around, I’d rather donate it. Just recently, I wrote a check out for The Veteran’s Hospital in Las Vegas. My wife and I strongly support and endorse a special charity as well, it’s to pay for arts classes for kids with parents that have been either severely injured or passed away in war or service. Anyone can donate by visiting http://www.our militarykids.org., it means a great deal to us.
HRH: Again Ron, very commendable.
Ron Keel: Thank you. I have lived a good life and made my money. Donating is not going to hurt our bottom line.
HRH: Live, from Streets of Rock & Roll, is this a personal message from the heart? Sounds like it to me.
Ron Keel: Forty eight years of experience wrote the lyrics to this song. I thought of these lyrics while driving home from a gig one night. I never expected to live this long, I love my life and all of it’s blessings. I have also gone through a change in my personality. My thought is now… you get through the bad times to enjoy the good times. Live is a celebration of good stuff in my life. Let me just say, finding the music to fit the lyrics for Live was the challenge! The melody and lyrics came first, then the music. I’m used to writing or being handed the music first, then adding the lyrics.
HRH: Live came out just fine to me, it Rocks!
Ron Keel: Thank you, I appreciate that you like it.
HRH: I have read recently your statement, that you have some unfinished business to still take care of. What singer or musician do you wish to collaborate with as an unfinished business item?
Ron Keel: One band I want to open for is the Scorpions, on their farewell tour. Keel wants to play with the Scorpions! I am friends with Jon Bon Jovi, Keel opened for him on the Slippery When Wet Tour, so I would love to sit down with him and write some songs together. I also would want to write songs with Chris Daughtry, he is a special, strong and unique talent. I feel Chris Daughtry has bridged the gap between modern Hard Rock edge and old school mentality.
HRH: Those are some powerhouse choices of musicians and bands, Ron. Plus, I really hope the Scorpions read this and give you an opening slot on their tour! You just never know Ron.
Ron Keel: Thats it, plus it would be a dream to play with the Scorpions! I would want to sit down with both Jon Bon Jovi and Chris Daughtry, drink some beers and kick out some songs for an album. I think the three of us together, we would write some great Hard Rock songs!
HRH: (laughs) I would love to sit down with you guys and share a six pack while you write songs.
Ron Keel: (laughs) Oh yeah!
HRH: How come Streets of Rock & Roll is not at Walmart or Target?
Ron Keel: Hey, don’t go to Walmart to buy your music! I buy everything online, it’s all out there. Walmart has nothing for Hard Rock or Heavy Metal! Hey, if Walmart wants me to send them two million copies of Streets of Rock & Roll, no problem! Just ask me! The AC/DC Black Ice marketing campaign was incredible, what Walmart did with them was brilliant.
HRH: KISS Sonic Boom as well. They had the KISS kiosk.
Ron Keel: Yes, KISS Sonic Boom was huge at Walmart! I remember seeing that KISS kiosk.
HRH: You know what you need to get into Walmart besides CD’s, is a Keel kiosk! (laughs)
Ron Keel: (laughs) Yeah! A Keel kiosk! That sounds good to me!
HRH: Well, you know how it is Ron, I’m caught in Walmart, with the family, the CD aisle is a cool escape to hang out in.
Ron Keel: I understand, actually, I went into a Walmart recently and looked for the new Chris Daughtry deluxe edition CD. Walmart didn’t even have it!
HRH: What 1980’s moment in your career do you laugh most about now?
Ron Keel: The ’80’s were happy times, it was a non-stop grind with all of the arena shows. Everyday in the ’80’s was like the 4th of July, New Years Eve and Halloween all together! We had nothing but sold out shows in Japan. As far as remembering a moment where I can laugh about today… there were many crazy female moments.
HRH: Crazy female moments? Such as? Or do we use our imagination?
Ron Keel: (laughs) Yeah! Use our imagination! That’s a good way to put it! Actually, there was this one time, where a girl handcuffed herself to our tour bus door.
HRH: Gee, what happened to this girl?
Ron Keel: (laughs) Well, no one had the key to the handcuffs! I really don’t remember what happened to her! Honestly.
HRH: (laughs) That’s funny.
HRH: What band would you pay top dollar to see, past or present?
Ron Keel: Well, top dollar or no dollar, because I’m friends with many of the bands. I like to support my friend Bret Michaels on his solo tours as much as I can. Nickelback, only when they came to Vegas, I was out of town on tour. Chris Daughtry, AC/DC, and a Van Halen reunion. Bon Jovi just blows me away every night as a fan! Queensryche as well, as a fan!
HRH: What band or musician has been ignored too long by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Ron Keel: KISS! They are one of the five most iconic bands that ever lived! Don’t even get me started on this topic! I’ve expressed my disgust for that place many times in my past. Who votes in that place anyways? I’m not trying to throw The Who under the bus here, but, one hundred years from now, most people will say who is The Who? Not with KISS! One hundred years from now, people will know who KISS is and was! I’m not just saying this because Gene Simmons is a friend of mine either. Man, Gene Simmons’s kids will be running KISS, then the grandchildren will have the run of KISS! Their music, marketing and brand will never go away.
HRH: What song or album did you hear, that inspired you to become a musician?
Ron Keel: The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was two years old, it was February of 1963, I believe. The song was I Wanna Hold Your Hand. I remember looking at my parents and saying, this is what I want to do! I became so addicted and drawn to it at that moment. There were many milestone albums and songs, I devoured it all! KISS, Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Bad Company and Led Zeppelin all inspired me. Later on, the edgier stuff like Black Sabbath I listened to. As a kid, it all goes back to the 45, those little records I would buy at K-mart. The top thirty songs on 45, I bought them all! Every week, if the top thirty changed too. I learned them and sung them all! My father used to play Country Music all around the house, that is where my Country exposure came from. The Van Halen 1 album changed the world when I was a junior in high school! When I first heard Van Halen, everyone was saying, who is this guy Eddie Van Halen? No one was around that sounded like Eddie Van Halen on guitar. No one sounded like Van Halen, it was great! Because of Van Halen’s overnight explosion, credit Heavy Metal in America because of them.
HRH: Those are really cool influences.
Ron Keel: The kids today, they already know about most of these bands because of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. These two games are exposing all of this great Hard Rock and Heavy Metal to new generations, our music will be kept live and fresh for decades to come.
HRH: If you could go back in time and rewrite a movie soundtrack, what movie would it be and why?
Ron Keel: I’m a music movie fan, I also like music biographies of famous people. I would not want to go into the past, I’d rather want to do something new. It’s interesting to consider, with all the t.v. and film work that I do. If I had to go back, it would be Spinal Tap. I would rewrite all the music and lyrics for that one! I wouldn’t mind contributing to a Rock movie as well. My favorites are Eddie and the Cruisers, Pure Country, Crossroads and Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg.
HRH: If you were to make just one more album, knowing it would be your last, what genre would it represent?
Ron Keel: An acoustic album by myself. I already released an acoustic album called Alone At Last. It was the biggest and most personal music achievement of my career. I sang the best of my career on Alone At Last. I want my next generation to listen to it and know that grandpa gave this to them, to know that I am at my happiest when by myself with a guitar and song. Alone At Last was the single most demanding project that I have ever done in my life. My fingers literally bled while making that album. Alone At Last is driving at night songs, through the desert. You can find it on CDBaby.com. Sabre Tiger is the heaviest music I have ever done, progressive too. Country maybe… it would be another acoustic album.
HRH: What is the common thread that has kept Ron Keel, Marc Ferrari, Bryan Jay and Dwain Miller together from the very start?
Ron Keel: Friendship. We never let anything get in the way of friendship, not money, women, drugs, nothing. We became Rock stars together, sharing the best times of our life together. Now we get to do it again! This Keel reunion is not about money, together we have already pumped so much money back into the business. At the end of the day, we settle our differences. We raise our glass to each other, brothers in blood is what we are!
HRH: Just like the song on Streets of Rock & Roll.
Ron Keel: Just like that.
HRH: Any message you want to say to the fans?
Ron Keel: Listen to this new record and enjoy it! It’s special. Fans of commercial Heavy Metal and Hard Rock will enjoy it. Fans can stay in touch with us by visiting online at Keelnation.com. The Keel fans are the people that helped me, helped us, to live a dream life and I cannot forget that. Twenty years from now, I hope the fans still listen to Streets of Rock & Roll!
When you think of southern rock, a few legendary names come to mind: Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, the Allman Brothers. There’s no doubt that Blackberry Smoke will climb the ranks and land on this list one day. This quintet from Atlanta, Georgia is taking the southern rock world by storm with their authentic, down home southern rock. Their sophomore release, Little Piece of Dixie, is 11 songs of good ol’ fashioned rock with just enough outlaw country to make it twang. I recently caught up with singer/guitarist, Charlie Starr, in between recording with “The Possum” himself and a sold out show in Ohio.
HRH:. Tell me about how you guys all came together. Were you guys in different bands? Did you always play southern rock?
BBS: Brit, Richard and I were in a band for a few years with another singer. That situation didn’t work
out, so we left his band and started banging around as a trio. We quickly realized that it would be hard for a three piece band to win a fight with a five or six piece, so we added another guitar player. I ran into Paul, my old goofball buddy, playing in a little bar in LaGrange, Ga. He joined the band and here we are. We’ve all played different types of music, I guess, but this is pretty much the sound that is made when we play together. It just kinda comes naturally I guess. We play the sounds to fit the songs and if it’s comfortable, we roll on.
HRH: How did you come up with your name?
BBS: We were having problems coming up with a name and asked our long time friends Steve Gorman and Chris Robinson to help. After several weeks of both ridiculous and hilarious suggestions, Chris came up with THE BLACKBERRY SMOKE. So we were off and running.
HRH: Tell me about your new album, Little Piece of Dixie. How would you compare it to your first album, Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime?
BBS: I’d say the new album is us picking up where we left off. Once again we didn’t spend a lot of time over thinking the recording process. I’m afraid of what might happen if we find ourselves with a shit load of time to spend in the studio! Maybe a triple concept album.
HRH: Blackberry Smoke is a good mix of good old fashioned rock & roll and good old fashioned country. Who are some of your influences from both genres?
BBS: Short list: Stones, Little Feat, Skynyrd, Allman Bros., Marshall Tucker, Gram Parsons, Crowes, Satellites, Four Horsemen, Free, Humble Pie, Frankie Miller…Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Stanley Bros., Hank Williams, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Flatt n Scruggs, Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart!
HRH: Do you think this sound has hindered you in any way since some may feel the band is too country for rock and too rock for country?
BBS: It has kept the people away that we really shouldn’t be working with anyway.
HRH: You recently recorded a song with George Jones and Jamey Johnson. What song did you record and how did this come about? How was it working with country legend George Jones?
BBS: We recorded “Yesterday’s Wine.” I was listening to Merle and George’s duet of the song, and I called Jamey and asked if he would record it with us. He said he would love to! I called the guys from Bama Jam records and told them about the idea. They loved it and said they would mention it to Mr. George Jones. They did and he loved it! He showed up at the studio, and the rest is history. Unbelievable. Thank you Mr. Jones and Mr. Johnson!
HRH: You have had the opportunity to work with a lot of legends. You’ve toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. You’ve shared the stage with tons of people including Ricky Medlock and Slash. And now you’ve recorded with George Jones. Does working with such amazing artists intimidate you or just make you work harder? Is there one moment that stands out from the rest?
BBS: All of those opportunities are so amazing, it’s impossible to single one out. I love the fact that all those guys are still such music lovers.
HRH: You are going over to Europe in December. Have you played over there before? Are you excited?
BBS: We are VERY excited to go and play Europe. We have never played in Europe before and feel like it is time to go over and do some exploring.
HRH: You have been on the Lynyrd Skynyrd Simple Man cruise and the Rock Boat and seem to be permanent fixtures on both. How did you guys get on these cruises and what do you think is the secret to your success since you are one of the very few bands who are invited back every year? Are there any other cruises in your future? Do you like one cruise better than the other?
BBS: We were asked to be on the cruise by the great Lynyrd Skynyrd band. We had such a great experience the very first time and were asked back on the next Skynyrd cruise and offered a spot on the ROCK BOAT!
HRH: You have quite a nice collection of guitars. Can you tell me how you acquired some of them? For example: the Les Paul Jr., the carved Telecaster, and the Dan Armstrong.
BBS: I bought the Junior about 15 years ago. It was one of Rick Richards from the Georgia Satellites’ guitars. The carved Tele came from my old buddy Ted Lathangue in Atlanta. He got it from Haggis of The Four Horsemen. I’ve since become friends with Haggis and he told me the story of when the guitar was built and later carved. If I told you, I’d have to kill you. The clear Dan Armstrong is a gift from the coolest guitar player on the planet, the one and only Rev. Billy F. Gibbons! Thank you Billy G., Haggis and Rick!
HRH: What made you decide to add Brandon on the keys?
BBS: We have always wanted keyboards on recordings and as a permanent fixture. All of our favorite bands have piano and B-3 throughout their songs. We just couldn’t fit anyone else in our van in the beginning!
HRH: Who does most of the writing? And what is your writing process? Do you actually sit down with the intent of writing a song, or does it just come to you?
BBS: I write most of them at my house, then take em to Brit’s house where we all arrange them in ‘lectrified form. The last couple of years, we’ve made some great songwriter buddies and have all collaborated and written a bunch of great songs, in my opinion. I guess there’s no specific process, they just come when they come. Whether we’re all together, or with a collaborator, or I’m by myself.
HRH: Which one of your songs is your favorite and why?
BBS: I have several favorites at any given time. Today they are “We Got Company”, “I’d Be Lyin”, “Everybody Knows She’s Mine”, and “Ain’t Much Left of Me”.
HRH: What bands/music are you listening to you now?
BBS: Frankie Miller live @ the BBC. Grateful Dead Europe ’72. Jimmie Rodgers Standing on the Corner. Willie and the Family Live. And always, Exile on Main St.
Check out Blackberry Smoke at http://blackberrysmoke.com/. Their new album, Little Piece of Dixie, is available at Best Buy and Walmart. Thanks to Charlie Starr for taking the time to answer these questions. Hope you guys kick ass in Europe!
For the majority of 2009 I have been preaching to anyone that will listen how great English rockers Heaven’s Basement are and how big I think they are going to be. So naturally I was thrilled when I made contact with drummer Chris Rivers back in August on the possibility of interviewing the band. The band agreed and everything was set to go and unfortunately as fast as it came together it also ground to a halt with the announcement of bassist Rob Randell leaving the band for personal reasons, a few canceled dates, and finding a new bass player, and not to mention getting back on the road to finish a European tour.
Finally Chris and I were able to make contact and reschedule, so now without further delay I proudly present to you one of the best new bands of 2009…Heaven’s Basement!
HRH: First off guys I would like to thank you for taking the time to talk to us here at Hard Rock Hideout.
Chris Rivers:: Our pleasure! Thank you!!
HRH: For the fans that may not know four of you guys (Richie, Chris, Rob, and Jonny) have been playing together for quiet a while first as Hurricane Party and then Roadstar. You released an e.p. as Hurricane Party and two kick ass albums as Roadstar.
Chris Rivers: Rob is actually no longer a member of the band, but yes, myself, Richie and Jonny have played together for 3-4 years in those bands. Jonny and Rob were actually the roots of this band, they have played together in bands since they were 14 years old. Myself and Richie joined Hurricane Party later on, we released one E.P as Hurricane Party on Sanctuary Records, soon after this the band changed name to Roadstar and later released 2 albums, the second was released at the same time as we split up.
HRH: What happened with the band as Roadstar after the release of the second album (Glass Mountain)?
Chris Rivers: We got ourselves into a very bad and unproductive situation with the bands management/label, it happened over time and one day we just all looked at each and said what the fuck have we got ourselves into. It wasn’t always like that, during the Hurricane Party days we had a fairly healthy working relationship with the people that worked for us and with us but that took a massive wrong turn around the time we changed name.
It came to the point were we all became sick of it and situation we were in, it didn’t feel like our band anymore so we ended it. We had some great times during that band, but it was totally clear to us when we had to leave it behind.
HRH: How long was it after Roadstar finished that you decided to give it another go?
Chris Rivers: After Roadstar split we all took about 6 months out in which we all went separate ways and done our own thing, we keep in touch and would regularly meet up to party, hang out etc.. It was only a matter of time before we started jamming together again! I think we all knew it was coming, it was just important for us to take some time out. There was no doubt that any of us wouldn’t be in a band again.
HRH: How did you come up with the name Heaven’s Basement?
Chris Rivers: During a party at Richie’s flat it was suggested we go down to Hevenz’s basement for a jam :)! it stuck with us from then!
HRH: Was it frustrating starting over 3x as a band just when it seemed you were starting to build some momentum?
Chris Rivers: Not really, Heaven’s Basement was totally different to anything we had done in the past! It was just us five with no ties or music industry bullshit to deal with, just 5 guys who love playing music, the band was born on energy and good times..it wasn’t forced. If we didn’t feel any vibe we wouldn’t have bothered, we didn’t have an attitude of ‘oh fuck, we gotta start again and get back to where we were fast!!’ When we started Heaven’s Basement we wanted to build up right from the start on our terms so it was an exciting challenge for us.
HRH: You have some great songs from Roadstar and Hurricane Party such as Crown of Thorns, Roadstar, Hold My Love, Stone, Get This, Rays, and especially If You Say. Do you still play any of these songs live or is there a chance we could hear new versions of them in the future?
Chris Rivers: 100% no, that’s all history for us, there is more chance of me becoming King of England haha! We need to make it clear that Heaven’s Basement is not another version of the former band, it just so happens that 3 of us played in bands together in the past!
HRH: When did Sid Glover come on board as guitarist replacing Robin Hirschfield?
Chris Rivers: Sid joined as the band’s touring guitarist about 6 months before the end.
HRH: How did the band meet Sid?
Chris Rivers: A few of us met him at a guitar show a few years back and kept in touch.
HRH: The band has always had a bluesy sound a’la Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones. What are some of the other bands to influence Heaven’s Basement?
Chris Rivers: We take our influences from many genres of music, we don’t try to sound like one thing really..we know what we are which is a good time rock n roll band with influences of blues, punk and glam but we all listen to lots of different types of music so all those influences come into our song writing and live show.
HRH: You guys are a songwriting machine. You have a 6 song e.p. available on I-Tunes and Heavensbasement.com but you have posted around 16 songs on your Myspace and Heavensbasement.com player. Of the songs I’ve heard so far Can’t Let Go, N.P.D., Mirrors, and Such Is Life are my favorites, but to be honest I haven’t heard a bad song from you guys yet.
Chris Rivers: Cool, thanks! we feel our song writing is getting stronger all the time, there are so many ideas between the 5 of us that sometimes we have too much to work with haha! we are really excited about when we get into writing our debut album, we already have loads of ideas for it.
HRH: How did the band decide what songs would make the e.p.?
Chris Rivers: To be honest, we didn’t have many songs at the time, so we just got into the studio and slammed them down in about 2 days, the songs that are on there are actually the only ones we recorded! We recorded ‘Can’t let go’, ‘Misunderstood’, ’10 Minutes’ and ‘deadman’ in different session. Those tracks were produced by Bob Marlette, Bob is one of the most talented guys we have ever met..he’s an absolute pleasure to work with and really knows how to get the best out of a band. We are really excited about working with Bob again in the future!
HRH: What are some favorites of the band?
Chris Rivers: Live favorites are ‘Tear’, ‘Reign’, ‘Executions Day’..also the heavy shit like ’10 mins’ is fun to play! I personally love the tracks where I get to really lay into my drums haha!
HRH: When will the world get a full album from Heaven’s Basement?
Chris Rivers: We are aiming for early 2010, that’s the plan.. we want to have it released before summer 2010, we will then do the full euro festival circuit next summer. We are still looking for the right label home, offers have come our way but nothing has felt right as of yet and we haven’t felt a desperate need to find a label so we won’t rush that side of things.
HRH: Will it be all new songs or will it have previously released songs also?
Chris Rivers: It will be all new songs, I am 99% sure of that.
HRH: Will you be posting anymore new songs on Myspace or the band’s website in the near future?
Chris Rivers: We will actually have some brand new tracks on our myspace in the coming weeks!!
HRH: The band tours like crazy, you just wrapped up a tours with Buckcherry, appearance at Sonisphere, and Papa Roach. What were those experiences like?
Chris Rivers: Amazing! At the end of the day Heaven’s Basement is a live band, thats where we do our thing. Being on the road has become second nature to us, we are still unsigned so we don’t have a label giving us tour support, we have to support ourselves and we do it very well! Its quite a nice feeling to be able to do it that way, hard work pays off you know. We have had a great summer touring alongside the likes of Black Stone Cherry, Tesla, Shinedown, Papa Roach and Buckcherry..there are so many stories from these tours already haha! Playing with bands of of that caliber really pushes you to become better as well, sometimes a good arse kicking is a good thing! :)
HRH: You just came off the road with Papa Roach. What were those shows like?
Chris Rivers:..It was insane!!!! the crowds were wild and Papa Roach/Madina Lake are all great to hang with.
HRH: Now the big question when are you guys going to hit the U.S.?
Chris Rivers: Ask Buckcherry;) .. we want to get over to the states asap, I am sure we will be over in 2010 to take a break from Europe.
HRH: It seems like 5 new bands from Sweden come out every week, but the U.K. has been holding it’s own with new hard rock bands making noise not only Heaven’s Basement but the Answer, Million Dollar Reload, and the Glitterati to name a few. What are some of the other British bands we should keep our eyes and ears open for?
Chris Rivers: Yeah, there is a few good bands in the UK that are touring hard like us guys, we have never really give a fuck about scenes, we are quite happy to do our own thing with or without other bands but there is no doubt that a few bands doing the same thing does help each other out, just like the the New wave of British metal back in the 80s, the thrash scene in LA, the grunge scene..etc etc. I would recommend people check out the following bands, Dear Superstar, New Device, The Crave, Decadenze, Sworn to Oath, Hollywood Tease, Tequila Rocking Bird and Wired Desire. These are all bands we have played with that are touring the UK hard.
HRH: I’m a big fan of all your music both as Roadstar and Heaven’s Basement and I could sit here all day asking questions. But is there anything else you would like to tell the fans before I let you go?
Chris Rivers: Sure, a big thanks to everyone that has supported us guys, no matter when from and where from, it means everything to us.
HRH: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today we really appreciate it.
Chris Rivers: Thanks Brian and Hard Rock Hideout for taking the time to do this!
Note: As I was putting the final touches on this interview, Heaven’s Basement announced Rob Randell’s replacement had been found. His name ironically is Rob (no last name needed)
What do you get when you take four hot, wild, crazy ladies, thrown in some influences of Kiss, AC/DC, Motorhead, and Judas Priest, mix it up with some great songwriting and playing? Your answer would be L.A.’s Cockpit. If you think Cockpit is just another girl band you really need to pull your head out of the sand because these ladies are on a “Mission To Rock”, kicking ass and taking names along the way.
Skin basher Rachael Rine recently took the time to talk with Hard Rock Hideout about all things Cockpit.
HRH: For the readers that may not be familiar with Cockpit, who makes up the band?
Rachael Rine: Rachael Rine here and I beat the hell out of the drums for you. Alicia Blu is our shredding lead guitarist. Linda Lou is on pipes and rhythm guitar. Terrii Kiing is our wicked bass player holding down the low end.
HRH: Cockpit has been together since late 2003, how did the band get started?
Rachael Rine: I wasn’t finding any projects in Hollywood that I could really sink my teeth into. So I started rolling through girls as a cover band to see who fit. Linda moved here from Philly to join me and we immediately started writing songs. Shortly there after we found Terry on Craigslist. Over the next few years we went through a dozen lead guitarists who weren’t a perfect fit until we met our match…Alicia Blu. It was like playing with a kick ass muscle car in your garage for a few years and finally finding the ignition key. Time to let the machine out of its cage!
HRH: Judas Priest, Motorhead, Kiss, AC/DC are all influences of Cockpit, what are some other influences of the band?
Rachael Rine: We are highly influenced by fists pounding in the air in unison, screaming fans, and cruising down the freeway with the pedal to the metal. While at top speed you might catch us listening to Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Slade or the Stones. We just like good rock n’roll all eras all speeds.
HRH: You have a kick ass E.P. available right now called “Mission To Rock” , but for the people that are hard up for Cockpit when might we see a full album?
Rachael Rine: We are currently stowed away at a secret location writing and getting ready to record some new tunes. I’m not sure when it will be done. There might be some touring in between recording sessions. Once we have an idea as to when it will be released you will definitely hear from us!
HRH: Four ladies in a band…Do you have a hard time with people taking Cockpit seriously, especially being in a hard rock band?
Rachael Rine: It’s really not a problem for us. We are a far cry from a lot of the all girl novelty acts that are out there. Sometimes people are skeptical, but once they hear the tunes and see us play it’s pretty obvious we are a real rock band. Just like the boys, but we smell better on tour. People come out of curiosity and go home singing our songs, wearing our T-shirt, and telling all their friends about their new favorite band.
HRH: How long does it usually take to make people believers?
Rachael Rine: I’m not really sure, I’d guess one chorus? I do know that every show we play, we pick up a ton of new fans. The bottom line is that Cockpit fans are the best in the land! We love you all to pieces!
HRH: Every time I get a tweet or a message from you four, it seems like you’re in Hollywood raising hell on Sunset Strip. Everyone has heard the stories of Sunset back in the 80’s, but what is the music scene like there now?
Rachael Rine: We were wee babies in the ‘80s so we can’t really compare our experience to that. The strip definitely still has its moments. Wherever we are whether it’s Hollywood or Mankato, we make sure we are having a blast. Everyone around us is always invited to join in. If you’re going to buy the ticket, you may as well enjoy the ride!
HRH: What are some bands from L.A. you think we should be keeping our ears open for?
Rachael Rine: Cockpit haha! No one immediately comes to mind that you already don’t know about from LA. However, you should check out The Last Vegas from Chicago. We toured with them recently and let me tell you, those boys put on one hell of a rock ‘n’ roll show night after night.
HRH: Cockpit has the chance to open for any band active today, but only one. Who would the four of you pick?
Rachael Rine: That’s a tough one. There are so many bands we all love and would sound great with. We’ve also been lucky enough to play with a lot of our idols already. If forced to choose, and if they keep it together, I’d have to say Aerosmith. It’s kind of a rite of passage thing. So many great bands learned the ropes from Aerosmith or Ozzy.
HRH: So you got to tell us where we can find Cockpit online?
Bonus Question: Do you think Cockpit would make a good house band at Fangtasia?
Rachael Rine: Funny you should ask, we’ve headlined there a couple times! It’s filmed at a bar here in California that we have blown the roof off of. However, “Cockpit- The house band at Fangtasia” has a nice ring to it. I hope the Vamps could handle us!! They’d have their hands full! So, when do we start?
Ted Poley, THE voice of Danger Danger recently talked to Hard Rock Hideout about the upcoming release of Danger Danger’s new album “Revolve”, an album 5 years in the making and also his newest solo effort “Greatestits” which is a retrospective of his post Danger Danger career and a couple of glimpses of the future as well with the tracks “You Won’t See Me Cryin'” & “Tokyo Nights”
HRH: Ted, first of all thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.
Ted Poley: Thank You!
HRH: It’s been 5 years since it was first announced you had rejoined Danger Danger. How excited are you for all of D2s fans to hear the new songs on “Revolve”?
Ted Poley: Very Excited! In my opinion it’s the best D2 c.d. yet!
HRH: In my review of “Revolve” I described the sound as coming from an older more mature band with 20+ years of music business experience behind them. Would you agree with that description?
Ted Poley: Well, we are older but I am not more mature…I just released a Greatetits c.d. with boobs on the cover…(Laughing) The c.d. rocks that’s all I know.
HRH: When it was announced you were rejoining Danger Danger in 2004 it had been 11 years or so since you had played with Steve and Bruno. What was it like that first show back at the Sweden Rock Festival?
Ted Poley: I don’t remember, the photos look cool though. Actually it was my first day back and it was in front of the biggest crowd D2 has ever played for.
HRH: What was it like going back in the studio with them the first time to work on the new album? Did you feel nervous or more like you had never left?
Ted Poley: It was just another studio gig for me. It was great to work with Bruno because he is such a good producer and I knew he would make my vocals perfect, so I trusted him and just let him direct me in order to get exactly what he wanted. Some lines are first takes and some phrases he made me sing 20 times until I got just the right feel for him. I never argued with him once, I trusted him completely in the studio and it came out exactly as I expected, Killer.
HRH: I guess one question a lot of people would like to know is why did it take so long for “Revolve” to be recorded and released?
Ted Poley: No idea, that’s a question better left for my 2 bosses.
HRH: What songs are you looking forward to singing off of “Revolve”?
Ted Poley: I hope we play “That’s What I’m Talking About”, it would be a fantastic way to open the show. I also think that “F.U. Money” would be a great crowd sing along.
HRH: How many songs off the new album will you play live?
Ted Poley: Again, I don’t plan that stuff, it’s up to Westy & Bruno. I’m just the eye candy. (Laughing)
HRH: Speaking of playing live will D2 have a full fledged tour of the states or will it be more like pick and choose dates?
Ted Poley: It’s always pick and choose with us. When D2 is off the road (most of the time) I go out and tour the world as a solo artist. I have solo dates coming up in the USA, Brazil, UK, and Peru. Check my Myspace page for all tour dates, and please visit TedPoley.com to buy my new 2 c.d. set “Ted Poley – Greatestits”
HRH: Of course Danger Danger released 3 albums (Dawn, Four the Hard Way, and the Return of the Great Guildersleeves) with Paul Laine on vocals. It seems like most singers do not like playing songs off of albums they weren’t involved with. Are there any songs from those albums you would like to sing live or put your touch on?
Ted Poley: Not really, I really like “Grind” and “Dead, Drunk, and Wasted” and wouldn’t mind singing those songs. But I don’t really know anything from their other c.d.’s, I’ve never heard them I only have that one Guildersleeves c.d. But I do have a back catalog of over 40 D2 songs that I actually recorded so there’s plenty to choose from.
HRH: D2 played this year’s Rocklahoma in July what was the crowd’s reaction to the band?
Ted Poley: Well they looked pretty hot to me. It was way over 100 degrees and sunny. We didn’t play any of the new songs but the band and the crowd had a blast!
HRH: How did it feel playing with a heat index of 114 degrees that must’ve been hard?
Ted Poley: Hard, Yes! The hardest gig of my life, my mic was so hot that I had to keep switching hands! My new tattoos were fucking bleeding!! All of the ink from the session I had 4 days before Rocklahoma has to be redone, the colors faded and I sweated out all of the ink!! I had to keep pouring ice cold water over my head to keep from passing out, but it was fun. I would do it again, but hopefully not in the same time slot. It was the lethal 4:45 slot in direct sun with no shade and no place to hide!
HRH: What are the chances of the fans seeing a full reunion with Andy and Kasey coming back to play with D2?
Ted Poley: Nothing is impossible, but that is improbable. Personally I would love to see a reunion show with all of the original band members and film it for DVD release.
HRH: Since you returned to Danger Danger you have released 2 solo albums, a Poley/Rivera album, and a project called Pleasure Dome, and the newly released Greatestits Vol. 1 so you definitely haven’t been sitting around waiting. After everything involving “Revolve” slows down will we be seeing a new Poley/Rivera album or a new Pleasure Dome album?
Ted Poley: Pleasure Dome, great c.d. but nothing more is being planned, it was a one-off project. Poley/Rivera? Hell Yeah! We are already writing, upgrading the studio and getting ready to record the next one for a planned Fall 2010 release.
HRH: You covered a lot of ground musically with Greatestits Vol 1. What has the initial reaction to the album been?
Ted Poley: Completely amazing! Fans love it, it’s selling out fast though there are still a few available at TedPoley.com. It’s one of the most popular c.d.’s I’ve ever released, if you are reading this and you don’t have a copy yet. What are you waiting for? Come & get it!
HRH: One song that really caught my attention is “Wastin’ Your Luv” simply because it is the heaviest song I have ever heard you sing. What project was that initially recorded for?
Ted Poley: Many people have told me that! It’s my buddy Jack Frost. We did it for his really great solo c.d. He is one of the Gods of Metal and one of my best friends He has a ton of fans worldwide, please look him up and buy his stuff, that’s one of the reasons I made my “Greatestits” c.d. so fans could discover new things and go buy them.
HRH: Last year Andy Timmons and you played some shows together in Brazil for the first time in 15 years. What was it like playing with Andy again in a live setting?
Ted Poley: Well I find that playing in a live setting is better than playing in a dead setting. (laughing) No seriously, it was a total wet dream come true, Andy is a great guitar player and a great guy. I had fun with Andy at many Brazilian Churrascurias. We would eat Brazilian BBQ and drink red wine. Andy is quite the wine conneseur. I called him “Andy Winehouse”! He knows what he wants and “He knows how to drink it” (sung to the tune of Naughty Naughty)
HRH: He also co-wrote and played the solo “Yeah You Want It” on “Collateral Damage”. Is there any chance we could see the two of you working together on your next solo album or maybe a project together?
Ted Poley: I wish! If he ever needs me for anything I am on call! I was so happy when he played on that song, he wrote it along with Bob Held, it’s on my “Greatestits” c.d. available at TedPoley.com (laughing) seriously buy it now!
HRH: You were recently immortalized by C.C. Banana with the song “Ted Poley”, which is a parody of Kiss’s “Unholy”. For the people that may not know, what’s the story behind that song?
Ted Poley: One day, very early in our first tour with Kiss, I am backstage right after the D2 set and I am walking to my dressing room where my whole band was already waiting for me. I looked down the long typical white cinderblock arena backstage corridor towards my dressing room , and to my horror, there stood Paul Stanley, my ultimate hero, the Starchild, with his cool black Paul Stanley cowboy hat on, looking just as cool as fucking ice, walking in my direction. I knew at that point that it was inevitable. Our paths were going to cross. This was IT. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to leap out of my mouth.
This was my big chance, the chance I had waited for ever since i carved my first KISS logo into that first math desk. “in 10 seconds” I thought to myself, ” I am going to speak to Paul Stanley… and then, just as Paul walked past me – nothing!
Not one word would come out of my mouth. In the blink of an eye, all of a sudden I am Helen Keller. My mind just went blank and i put my head down and just kept walking. I fucking BLEW my big moment to say hello to Paul Stanley. I had shamed myself and my bandmates, none of who had met KISS yet and who all probably saw the whole thing.
I made it to the other end of the corridor, completely crushed and disappointed in myself…when all of a sudden at full volume, the corridor boomed with the Voice.
Yes, it was unmistakable. It was THE VOICE OF PAUL STANLEY. MY HERO. MY IDOL, MY REASON FOR BEING IN THAT HALLWAY IN THE FIRST PLACE.
And to the tune of “UNHOLY” he sang…”TED POLAAAAAYYYYY”
I heard it. My band heard it. But for a second, I still couldn’t believe it, until Westy said real loud, “Yeah, he knows you!” and everyone laughed, including Paul.
At that moment, I turned around to see Paul smiling at me with his hand out to shake mine…Paul Fucking Stanley, the coolest guy on Planet Earth.
He knew I was too shy to say hello. He had been watching my show, and I still don’t know how or why but he knew MY name and he sang it. I finally got a chance to say hello to Paul and life was finally complete.
I never made a million dollars but I wouldn’t have traded that moment for the million even if I had gotten it. I have seen Paul a few times at KISS concerts over the years since then as a fan and I still get the same thrill every time he says “Hi Ted”. So, to make a short story longer – Paul actually came up with the “Ted Poley” chorus…it was his idea 15 years ago and my buddy C.C. filled in the blanks.
HRH: When everything is said and done, musically what would you like to be remembered for?
Ted Poley: I guess being a good singer, a good live front man, making a lot of people around the world smile and releasing a c.d. called “Greatestits” with boobs on the cover.
HRH: You are on Myspace and tedpoley.com is there any other ways fans can keep up to date with you online?
Ted Poley: TedPoley.com, your one stop shopping spot for all things Ted Poley.
HRH: Ted, once again thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Is there anything else you would like to tell the fans before we let you go?
Ted Poley: Yes! Thank you everyone for enabling me to continue to live my life long dream. I love you all and hope to see you on the road sometime soon. Oh! And please buy my “Greatestits” c.d. set at TedPoley.com
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Big Cock guitarist Dave Henzerling not only about the future of Big Cock, but his past time in such bands as King Kobra, Keel, & Lizzy Borden, touring vs not touring, and a little bit about his days on Sunset Strip
HRH: I guess the first question should be with Robert Mason now the front man for Warrant when are we going to see a new record from Big Cock and will Robert be involved with the album?
Dave: BC is very much alive and well. Robert had a great opportunity to go play shows with Warrant and I think he totally kicks ass! Robert’s professionalism is something Warrant has really needed for a long time and I wish them the best. Like anything else, though, we each have our individual schedules and responsibilities to contend with, so we juggle all our musical projects the best we can. I have a bunch of new Big Cock material so it will have to rear its ugly head eventually. Not before next year, though, at the soonest.
HRH: Big Cock has released 3 albums so far but never really toured off any of them. Will there be any plans for a full fledged tour after the album is released?
Dave: Touring is just not economically feasible at this time. It’s a different story for legacy acts like Warrant, Ratt, etc. who can get booked because of their pedigree, but a new act just can’t make the money that would allow traditional touring. Even the acts I just mentioned do better just cherry-picking good-paying dates here and there rather than keeping an entire crew and support package out on the road. The per diem costs are astronomical and there would need to be supplemental support. This used to come from record companies, but doesn’t exist anymore. We are able to play when dates either justify the expense or we can afford to make the trip. How’s that for the brutally frank answer…?
HRH: How did Big Cock come together?
Dave: Did you just say “come together”…? Well, Big Cock “came together” out of the desire for a few old friends to make some music and have fun. The band happened really naturally and easy. Once you decide to call your band Big Cock, you definitely have an identifiable, focused theme with which to work from.
HRH: Do you guys have a hard time getting support from radio and others in the music business because of the band’s name?
Dave: My stock answer is that it’s been no more, no less. Traditional radio and record industry wasn’t going to play us or take us seriously anyway, even if we would have called ourselves “Knightwing”. The flip side is that the music and vibe has resonated with rock fans that look beyond traditional media for their rock fix. In that regard, we have been very successful selling CDs, merchandise, being played on Internet Radio and have had amazing word-of-mouth. Our YouTube video plays are in the hundreds-of-thousands, far more views than many, more mainstream bands. More visibility than King Kobra had, and we were on a major record label with a huge promotional budget.
HRH: You’ve had a pretty varied career playing Keel, Lizzy Borden, and of course King Kobra. Both Keel and Lizzy Borden played Rocklahoma. Did you get a chance to see them play or hangout with anyone from the bands?
Dave: I’ve stayed friends with or have been reconnected with all those bands in the last few years and have been fortunate to have made so many great friends. I saw Ron Keel this year at Rocklhoma, bump into Lizzy with some frequency and usually talk to Carmine a few times a year. We’re all thrilled to have played together and still have so much fun doing what we do. We take the time to catch up here and there and it’s always great seeing everybody.
HRH: How old you were when you first started playing guitar? How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a musician as a career?
Dave: My dad bought me my first electric guitar when I was 15. Yeesh, you’d think I would have been a better player by now…
I’ve always needed an outlet for creative release: when I was in grade school I used to want to be a comic book artist and so I drew all the time, making my own heroes and stories and distributing my own comics. When I got a little older and started playing guitar, I put down the pencil and never looked back.
HRH: You are one of the first people I’ve had the chance to talk to that was on Sunset Strip during its heyday in the 80’s. Was it as wild and crazy as people say?
Dave: Actually, yes – but it didn’t seem so at the time. It was so fun to see thousands of people out on the street on a Friday and Saturday night. The roads were littered with flyers from all the young bands out promoting their next Gazzari’s or Whiskey-a-go-go gigs. I even met my wife in the parking lot of the Roxy Theatre and we’ve been married 17 years. Who says you can’t find love in Hollywood…
HRH: How did you get involved with King Kobra?
Dave: I moved out to L.A. (from Arizona) to join Keel and when I got there, Ron told us he was auditioning to be the new lead singer of Black Sabbath so we might have to find another gig. I sent a tape to Carmine and got the job in King Kobra. Ron never ended up joining Sabbath, so he soldiered on with Keel.
HRH: Carmen Appice and yourself are the only members of King Kobra to play on all 5 albums the band released. Do you still keep in touch with Carmen Appice?
Dave: I still talk to Carmine a few times a year. In fact, we performed a benefit here in Phoenix together a few years ago and it was great playing with Carmine again. He’s such a great musician and drummer.
HRH: Have you had a chance to see his SLAMM project?
Dave: I have not seen it.
HRH: Do you keep in touch with any of the other members?
Dave: Coincidentally, I just talked to Johnny Rod last week after 18 years. He’s alive and well and living in St. Louis. Same with Mick Sweda. Mark Free, not so much.
HRH: Has there been any talks of a King Kobra reunion for any of the summer festivals?
HRH: As I mentioned earlier you were at Rocklahoma this year and played two different sets one with Big Cock and one with Icon. How long have you been playing with Icon or was it a one off gig?
Dave: Rocklahoma was like a high-school reunion – lot’s of fun hangin’ with old friends. The Icon thing is a funny story. Way back in the early 80’s, Icon used to be called “The Schoolboys” and consisted of original singer Steve Clifford, bassist Tracy Wallach, guitarists Dan Wexler and myself, along with drummer John Covington (also the drummer in Big Cock). After I left to move to L.A. and join Keel, John Aqulino took my place on guitar, and Pat Dixon replaced John Covington on drums. They changed their name to Icon after they were signed to Capitol Records. Ironically, when I joined King Kobra after Keel, both bands ended up being label-mates at Capitol with the same A&R guy! Dan Wexler and John Aquilino reformed Icon last year and since we’ve always been good friends (all the way back to high school here in Arizona) I said I’d help out as a bass player while they were getting things back together. The chemistry was great and we just decided to keep on playing…
HRH: You played bass for Icon’s set is it hard switching back n forth between guitar and bass?
Dave: I love playing bass. It’s only got 4 strings, so how hard could it be?
HRH: Former Adler’s Appetite singer Sheldon Tarsha is now in Icon and sounded great. How did he end up in the band?
Dave: I saw Tarsha at an Adler’s gig in L.A. earlier this year and said to Danny and John – this is the guy. Icon’s high-register vocal style is incredibly challenging (a lost art, really) and it was surprising to see a young guy like Tarsha kick it old-school. He’s really a stellar vocalist and super nice guy.
HRH: You live in AZ so you are used to the heat, but the heat was pretty stifling in Pryor this year. You had to be glad you played night sets and not mid day sets.
Dave: Try living here where it’s over 110 degrees for weeks on end. Oklahoma was a piece of cake.
HRH: You were at Comic Con this year, was this for business or fun?
Dave: Definitely fun. As I said before, I’m a big comic book geek, but the Con is so much more now. It’s really a celebration of popular culture, with movies, graphic arts, games, and of course, comics. I got to meet a lot of my Twitter friends for the first time at the Con.
HRH: I’ve noticed that you and I like a lot of the same bands, one band in particular are the Poodles. What do you think of all 80’s inspired hard rock bands coming out of Sweden and Europe?
Dave: I think The Poodles are one of the better bands doing that sort of thing – very polished and professional. I hate to be a critic, but a lot of the 80’s-inspired bands these days are not doing anything different than their legacy counterparts, except the new bands aren’t doing it as well and lack originality and creativity. It’s one thing to dress up like Motley Crue, Poison or Gun’s ‘n Roses, but none seem to be able to play or write songs anywhere near as good as the bands they’re trying to copy. We need something to come along that’s reminiscent, but not overtly derivative.
HRH: What are some of the new bands out right now that you like?
Dave: I like a lot of different stuff from modern to classic. The new Halestorm CD is great, The Poodles, of course, AC/DC still kicks major ass, Slipknot, etc. I like the rock stuff.
HRH: Have you and your brother Dan (former Gin Blossoms drummer) ever played in a band together professionally or ever talked about putting a project together?
Dave: He doesn’t play much any more, but I have played with him a few times in the past when he had the band Gas Giants with Robin Wilson from the Gin Blossoms. Of course, when we were kids, we had a band that played nothing but Kiss songs.
HRH: You seem like a pretty busy man are there any other projects you want to tell us about?
Dave: I am currently busy finishing up a new project with Scott Hammons, the former Icon singer before Tarsha. I’m really excited about how it’s turning out. Scott has a great old-school, bluesy voice, very similar to Robert Mason’s (Big Cock, Warrant) but with more rasp. The music has a classic late-70’s, early-80’s hard rock feel that combines all the elements of the music I grew up on and always loved – Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Van Halen, Montrose, Crue, and Def Lep. I can’t wait for you to hear it…
HRH: I know you are pretty active online with myspace and twitter but for everyone else where can they find you online?
HRH: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Is there anything you would like to say before we let you go?
Dave: It’s been a pleasure to rattle on, Brian. Thanks to Hard Rock Hideout for the opportunity to talk and keep the rock-torch burning.
For those who have not heard the Poodles, you have no idea what an amazing band you are missing out on. The band has released two stellar albums in Europe “Metal Will Stand Tall” and “Sweet Trade”. With the release of their amazing new album “Clash of the Elements” the band hopes to finally break into the American music scene and once they do I think the sky is the limit for these Swedes. I recently had the opportunity to talk to bassist Pontus Egberg to tell me all about “the Poodles”.
HRH: For people that may not be familiar with the Poodles could you give us a brief history of the band?
Pontus: The band was formed in late 2005 when we had the opportunity to perform in the Swedish leg of the Eurovision Song Contest. For those of you who are not familiar with the Eurovision it is a contest for new music all over Europe, it’s a very big thing back home in Sweden, something like half the population of Sweden sit and watch the final on TV.
After the appearance in this contest the wheels started moving quite rapidly for The Poodles and in the spring of 2006 we released of debut album “Metal Will Stand Tall”. The rest of that year we basically spent on the roads in Sweden and in January of 2007 “Metal Will Stand Tall” was released all over Europe and we headed out on tour together with Hammerfall and Krokus, a trip that took us all over Europe with something like 31 shows in 35 days.
Back from that journey we started recording our sophomore album and with some touring back home in Sweden coming in between the album “Sweet Trade” was released in September of 2007. Right after the release we headed out on another journey through Europe, this time together with Swiss rockers Gotthard. During the spring of 2008 we hit the roads of Europe once again and this time as the headline act. The tour carried on through the summer back home in Sweden and after that we started the preparations for recording our third album.
“Clash Of The Elements” was released on the Swedish market May 20th of 2009, the early fall will see the European release and we really hope we will be able to officially release the album, or all of our albums, in the states really soon.
HRH: The new album is titled “Clash of the Elements” is there a story behind the title?
Pontus: No, not really, it actually came up when we were discussing the album cover design. Someone had the idea to use the old symbols for the four different elements, earth, water, fire and air, and to do something with that. Then the title “Clash Of The Elements” came up and it fits really well with everything we do. First of all we’re four musicians and when we clash together sweet music comes out and we’ve always liked to mix different styles and to use elements in our music may not be typical for our style of music so that can also be a clash of the elements that ends up in something great, hopefully.
HRH: This is the first album with Henrik Bergqvist and his playing is amazing. What was it like going into the studio with a new guitarist?
Pontus: It’s always a bit nerve wrecking, of course. We’d done two albums with our former guitar player and we weren’t sure what thing were going to sound like with Henrik but as you say yourself, his playing is simply amazing, he did a really good job. We weren’t that worried though, I must say, we had done quite a few live shows with Henrik and he had already blended in to the band in a fantastic way so we were pretty sure it was going to turn out great.
HRH: Was the band surprised when Pontus Norgren announced he was leaving the band to join Hammerfall?
Pontus: Yeah, we were all taken a bit by surprise I guess but now, a little more than a year later, when Henrik has found his place in the band we’re all really happy. Henrik fills the spot of guitar player in The Poodles in the best possible way and I talk regularly to Pontus and it seems like he’s really happy in his new band.
HRH: When it came time to find a replacement for Pontus did the band already have Henrik in mind or was there an audition process? If so how many guitarists did you audition before deciding on Henrik?
Pontus: Yes and yes. Henrik was one of the first names that came up but we had quite a few applicants for the spot so we sorted out the top four names, Henrik was one of them, and held auditions. After a day in the rehearsal studio playing with the different guys it was pretty clear that our first hunch had been right and Henrik was asked if he wanted the job and he accepted.
HRH: When I compare “Sweet Trade” to “Clash of the Elements” I can here a big difference and growth in the songwriting. What was the songwriting process like for the band with the new album?
Pontus: The song writing process actually looked pretty much the same as on our previous albums. We’ve always liked to work with different songwriters in order to try to get the best possible song on our albums. We all contribute and I guess you could say Jakob is the common denominator to all of it because he’s involved in most of the songs in one way or the other. Then we sit with a whole bunch of songs and are having trouble choosing the top songs for the album. It usually works out pretty well though, no big fights or anything like that.
HRH: Was Henrik involved in the writing process for “Clash of the Elements”?
Pontus: Yes, Henrik and I wrote a few songs together that we put in to the pile of music and one of them, Don’t Rescue Me, ended up on the album.
HRH: When I listen to “Clash of the Elements” as well as “Sweet Trade” and “Metal Will Stand Tall” I hear Queen and Gotthard influence. Are they influences of the band? What are some of the other bands that have influenced the Poodles music?
Pontus: We’re all pretty much brought up on the classic Hard Rock and Heavy Metal of the ‘70s and ‘80s so I guess involuntarily we have a lot of influences from that style of music, bands like AC/DC, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, and many, many more. Queen is definitely one of those bands. Gotthard though I had personally never heard before we toured with them in 2007. It’s a fantastic band so I don’t mind if there seems to be some of them in our music but that’s definitely unintentional. Apart from that, as I mentioned earlier, we really like and listen to and take influences from a lot of different styles of music, pop, classical, anything.
HRH: I love every song on “Clash of the Elements” but “No Tomorrow”, “Don’t Rescue Me”, “Give Me A Sign”, and “Dream To Follow” are my favorites. What is your favorite song off the new album? What is your favorite song overall to play live?
Pontus: Thank you! I think you made some very good choices there. I guess I could add “I Rule The Night”, “Heart Of Gold” and “Too Much Of Everything”. Favorite song to play live varies a bit from one night to the other but I would say, personally, that my favorite is probably “Thunderball”.
HRH: What are the tour plans in supporting the new album? Is there any chance your fans in the U.S. will get to see you live?
Pontus: We are currently on tour back home in Sweden all through the summer and a tour of Europe is currently being put together and that is planed to start in October and will probably be a going on for a month or so. About the US, we would definitely like to come over and play for you guys and we are looking in to different options on how get our music properly released over there. If that falls in to place the way we want, who knows. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
HRH: How many songs off “Clash of the Elements” will the band try to fit into the live set this time around?
Pontus: We currently play five songs from the new album in our live set, “Too Much Of Everything”, “Caroline”, “Like No Tomorrow”, “One Out Of Ten” and “I Rule The Night”. During the European tour this fall we will probably add one or two more songs from “Clash Of The Elements”
HRH: When I wrote my review for “Clash of the Elements” I mentioned there was not an American A&R rep smart enough to sign the Poodles to an American recording contract. Has the band had any talks with U.S. record companies about getting your albums released here in the states?
Pontus: First of all let me say I really like that comment and yes, we’ve had talks and talks are still going on, right now as a matter a fact, and we really hope to get something together for the US this time around.
HRH: “Metal Will Stand Tall” and “Sweet Trade” are both available for download from I-Tunes and “Metal Will Stand Tall” is available as a digital download on Amazon. Any idea when “Clash of the Elements” will be available for download on I-Tunes or Amazon?
Pontus: No, actually I don’t. Real soon I hope.
HRH: Over the last few years the Swedish hard rock scene has just exploded to the point that it seems like there is a new Swedish hard rock band releasing an album practically every week. What do you think is the reason for the popularity of Swedish hard rock bands?
Pontus: I actually have no idea what the reason for this is but I love it, it’s a great thing and I think the popularity of this style of music is growing, not only in Sweden, but in a lot of other places as well and that is a really good thing for anyone who plays or just enjoys this kind of music.
HRH: Is there a lot of competition between the different bands or is there camaraderie between the bands?
Pontus: A bit of competition is just a healthy thing I think but mostly I would say everyone is supportive; basically we all have the same goal and the same mission. We all work hard to reach out with our music.
HRH: Did you know “Clash of the Elements” is the first and only album I have ever given a 10 guitar review for?
Pontus: No, I didn’t know this. Thanks a lot, I read the review and I’m still blushing. It’s really great to know that there are people on your side of the Atlantic who enjoy our music and it makes us want to come over there and play even more.
HRH: Is there anything else you would like to say to Poodle fans before we let you go?
Pontus: I would like to encourage you, if you like our music, to help us spread the word, talk to your local radio station or what ever and help us get The Poodles’ music out there. Then maybe some A&R rep will see things clearly and offer The Poodles a proper record deal in the States and we can come over and play for you all. We are certainly up for it.
HRH: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, we really appreciate it.
Pontus: It’s been a pleasure and thanks for the support!!!
Ever since I first heard the song, “Lets Rock-N-Roll” on the Cruefest Compilation CD last year, I have been anxious to hear more from the band formerly known as Chosen Son. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Charm City Devils front man, John Allen about their new CD, “Lets Rock-N-Roll’, their up and coming tour with Motley Crue and more.
HRH: When did you start putting together Charm City Devils? How long have you been together now?
John Allen: This lineup has been together, we just had our two year anniversary. Prior to that I was playing with my guitar player Nick, playing guitar and signing for about six months, maybe longer than that. I had to put the guitar down and be able to run around the stage like a crazy person and engage the crowd. Playing the guitar, I could only stand in one spot on stage, and stand in front of the mic stand. That is a drag. I want to rock out.
HRH: Did you play all of the instruments on your new CD?
John Allen: I played a lot of them. The real beginning of this project was me down in my basement studio messing around. I wrote “Burn Baby Burn”. I played all of the instruments on that one initially. I had a bass player come in and track an additional bass track on there for me at one point. A lot of the songs evolved that way. I would lay a drum track down, and then play guitars and stuff. Prior to this record coming out, I had guitar players go in and recut a lot of my stuff, so they had their flavor in there. Quite frankly, there stuff was better than mine was (laughs) I started out as a drummer for years. The whole band is on there in different places. Our drummer played on the last two tracks on the record.
HRH: The song “Burn Baby Burn” is a really catchy tune, and gets in your head. That is a perfect song for a single.
John Allen: Thank You. When I wrote that, that is the whole reason for this band. When I wrote that song, I thought that I might be onto something here. I am not sure what it is. But I think I may be onto something. That is the first song that started the whole ball rolling.
HRH: There is a video on youtube for Burn Baby Burn that has been out there since 2007. Did you did this prior to the band starting out? How did this video come about?
John Allen: Yeah, my idea originally was to put a video together, before I had a band together really. My hope was I guess to get an indie label to buy the record from me. My plan for world domination was, I was going to sell it off piece mailed to different territories around the world. It never happened. I would up working out the bugs, and learning how to be a front man, here in the region, beating my head against the wall in the clubs. Finally, once I had this lineup together two years ago. I played this show, and a local radio programmer happened to be out in the audience. He said “Lets Rock-N-Roll” sounds really great tonight. I am going to try to put this into rotation next week. I have been in the business for a while, and I thought it was really cool, but I never expected it to happen. Sure enough, the next week he called me and said hey man I need you to do me a favor. I need a copy of Lets Rock -N-Roll, we are going to add it this week. I said man, you need to learn the definition of a favor. That is not me doing you a favor, that is you doing me a HUGE favor. He put the song in rotation. He called me a couple weeks later and said “Hey man, I wanted to give you a heads up, but early indications are that the song is doing really well. I don’t have the final stuff back yet, but I just wanted to let you know.” So I was all fired up. I shot off some emails to people I know in the industry, but nobody hit me back. I sent an email to Eleven Seven, and I didn’t even know anybody. I sent it to an info@ email address. The next day I get a phone call back, “Hey we really like what we heard, we want you to come to New York to meet with us.” I thought somebody was punking me, but no one knew I sent this email. Ok, its real. A couple of weeks later I went to New York and had the meeting, at the end of the meeting, they said “Ok, lets do this.” I thought “you got to be kidding me, things don’t happen that way”.
HRH: So, things went really fast once your song hit.
John Allen: They really seemed to, then the lawyers got involved and delayed it a year. (laughs)
HRH: What station was it that broke “Lets Rock-N-Roll” ?
John Allen: 98 Rock here in town.
HRH: So you met with Eleven Seven, how did you meet up with Nikki Sixx?
John Allen: He was on the west coast at the time. It wasn’t until I talked with him on the phone a while later. It has been Surreal, a month or so later, I was on the tour bus with him and the Sixx A.M. guys on the first Cruefest. He said, I really dig your record, and maybe next year you will be on Cruefest 2. I said that would be awesome!
HRH: Are you pretty excited to be playing on Cruefest 2?
John Allen: Oh My God Yeah, to put it mildly. We are jumping out of skin. We can’t wait to play for the crowds and play in the amphitheater and arenas. I have managed to do it for a little while playing the drums and there is nothing like it. I have been playing in clubs for a long time. Clubs are fine and good and everything, but when you to an arena it is awesome, and to play with such great bands like Motley Crue, and Godsmack, Theory of A Deadman and Drowning Pool. It is such an honor.
HRH: You have played in front of a couple of large crowds already this year at Rock on the Range and The Preakness.
John Allen: Yeah, those were awesome shows. For me, fronting the band, it is so much easier to play for a large crowd. People are there to rock out. They love live music and are there to party. It is a great thing. There is nothing like it in the world to play music for people and see their instantaneous response right there.
HRH: I first found out about you guys when you had “Lets Rock’N’Roll on the Cruefest compilation CD. Your song was under the name Chosen Son at the time. You went through a couple of name changes before you settled on Charm City Devils.
John Allen: That name, I am adopted so, Chosen Son, it is kind of like, well my adopted parents picked me. I am forever thankful for that. I am very fortunate that those two adopted me, and have been supportive of me throughout my life and my career. It is also happens to be a motorcycle gang here when I was kid called the “Chosen Sons”. I thought they weren’t around anywhere. Right we we decided to keep that name, there was a news item on the evening. One of the leaders of Chosen Sons was killed by police. I though aww man, this is bad. We decided that it wasn’t a good idea to keep the name so similar as a motorcyle gang. They might get offended, and might not look at it as a tribute. I was on the phone with Nikki Sixx talking about it, and brain storming names. He called me back a week or two later and said “I got it!” Charm City because that is the nickname of Baltimore, and Devils, because you guys are a rock and roll band, and are a gang. I said “done that is perfect”.
HRH: You were recently in Motley Crue’s “White Trash Circus” video. What was that experience like?
John Allen: That whole week was so surreal. It was crazy. I got the call on Monday around 10:00 A.M. from management saying congratulations you got the Motley Crue tour, Cruefest. We need you to cut the vocals for the chorus for White Trash Circus and have it back to us by 9:00 P.M. tonight or something crazy like that. That was fine I could go into the studio in my basement and cut the vocals real fast. You have to be on a plane to L.A. on Wednesday to shoot the video on Thursday. The whole week was an incredible trip.
HRH: You and Nick Kay were both in a really cool band called “Child’s Play”. Any chance you will work some Child’s Play music into your live set?
John Allen: Not right now, there is not a plan to do that. We were talking about dusting off “My Bottle” the other night. What would you like to hear?
HRH: The one song I like a lot is “Wind”.
John Allen: Yeah, that is a great tune our bass player Idzi wrote that tune. We only have a half hour to play on Cruefest. We will probably stick with the first record. If we have shows that we can break out to an hour or an hour fifteen, who knows what we will play.
HRH: Do you still keep in touch with Brian Jack (former singer from Child’s Play)?
John Allen: Yeah, he was just at our CD release party on the 29th. The night before M3.
HRH: Is there any chance you will re-release the Child’s Play CD’s Rat Race or Long Way?
John Allen: I doubt it. Rat Race was on Chrysalis Records. I am not sure of the legalities of the whole thing. I think the catalog is owned by EMI or Capital EMI. I don’t know what it would take to get that back out. I don’t know how much it would take to get that back out. Every once in a while I have people hitting me up to see if I have an extra CD, but I only have one.
HRH: You were a big part of SR-71’s CD “Tomorrow” as well as their Japanese disc “Here We Go Again”. You were the drummer, as well as the song writer and producer. How did you get involved with SR-71?
John Allen: It is a long convoluted story. I have known Mitch forever. I showcased with the band with their drummer was having some health issues, before they got a record deal. I appeared on the first album singing back up vocals on the song “Paul McCartney”, and then during the first tour, their drummer got sick again. He had mono or whatever. He couldn’t do two weeks worth of Christmas shows. I wound up filling in for him again. After that, they wanted to make a change. I joined the band right before they opened for Bon Jovi for the last couple of months. That is what I alluding to earlier, as far as getting to the arena level. Aw man, finally this is awesome!
HRH: Is SR-71 done now?
John Allen: Yeah, we never really said hey its done. Mitch came into town for the CD release party. I pulled him in to produce two cuts on the “Lets Rock-N-Roll” record, and we co-wrote one of those songs together. His song writing and producing career is really taking off and doing well. My time is pretty eaten up by this. We tried to get SR-71 a new U.S. deal. We thought after the success of the song “1985” that would be forthcoming, but that didn’t happen.
HRH: One of the songs that Mitch Allan produced, “Almost Home” really hit home with me. What inspired the lyrics for that song?
John Allen: My mother is a breast cancer survivor. So, the song, we don’t really let you know that. The song is about when we found out that she had a lump. She didn’t want to get a mammogram. She put it off forever. My old girlfriend really, really hammered her, you really need to do this. Your cousin died from breast cancer, and your aunt had to have a mastectomy. It runs in your family, you need to do this. When she finally did, my dad got the phone call from a doctor saying hey there is something here. My father didn’t know how to tell her. I wasn’t living at home at the time. That is what the song is about. Getting that phone call and having to break the news to your mom, its pretty heavy. The rest of the record, there is a lot of fun stuff on there, but that is a pretty heavy subject on that song. It is real. When I wrote it, I played it for my girl. We just sat there. Every time we would play it back we would cry. We were real fortunate. This was in 96 or 97. She is doing real well, getting check ups and stuff. She has a great doctor. I definitely advocate mammograms for early detection, I guess that is the key.
HRH: There was talk that Mitch was going to release a singer song writer album, called “Clawing My Way To My Middle”. Is that something you were involved with?
John Allen: Yeah, most of the tracks were stuff that were cut in my basement studio. I think his song writing and producing career in Los Angeles has slowed that down quite a bit. That has made this take a back seat. He is working with Kara Dioguardia. The last track for the two co-finalists on American Idol, he wrote that with Kara. He has some really great things going. Any help he needs with that, I would be glad to do. He has been so good to me over the years. I know a lot of fans would like to hear it.
HRH: With Charm City Devils it seems like you are getting back to your hard rock roots.
John Allen: Yeah, I think you are right. With SR-71 I was trying to fit in as my role as a drummer, and then trying to help out as much as I could on the song writing end. I wasn’t the main song writer in the band, Mitch was. There was only so far I could put my imprint on what we were doing musically. I think you are right. I think I have come full circle and I am back to the blues based hard rock where I got my start. I still think there is some raw elements and energy, and a little bit of the punk energy that gives it a little bit of a different flavor, but yeah, I would have to agree with you.
HRH: How big of an influence were AC/DC and Aerosmith on you?
John Allen: HUGE. Two incredible bands, both heavily blues based. Both bands have a lot of groove elements albeit both of them have a different take on groove and how they approach it. They are both two incredible bands that I have loved for most of my life from the point when I discovered them. I wear my influences on my sleeve I guess.
HRH: I think your CD is a good mix of classic and modern hard rock. It ought to appeal to a large group of rock fans.
John Allen: I appreciate that. There are a lot of modern guys that I like a lot too. The Hives have that high kinetic energy, punk, raw stripped down ethic. Jack White, White Stripes, he really plays a huge nod towards early blues men, Delta Blues. I really love that stuff too. I dig where he comes from. That stripped down garagey version of that stuff. Hopefully like you said, we can appeal to a wide range of listeners of rock music.
HRH: So what is next for you guys, Cruefest doesn’t start up until late July right?
John Allen: July 19th. We are going to head down south, and do some regional one off shows here and there. We are going to do some shows with Red and Framing Hanley just prior to Cruefest. We are trying to keep busy, and meet as many people as we can.
HRH: Is there anything you would like to tell your fans out there?
John Allen: Hit us up on myspace or facebook or whatever. Come up and say hello to us at the shows. We are very approachable, and we like to meet as many people as possible. Check out the record. We are getting a lot of positive feedback from people who have bought the record. Please pass the message along to others!