After having his articles posted from other outlets on Alternative Nation (and before that, Grunge Report) for years - heck, he was even interviewed by GR back in 2009! - Greg Prato finally began contributing articles to the site in 2014. He has written for various sites/mags over the years (Rollling Stone, All Music Guide, etc.), and is the author of quite a few books. And as evidenced by such titles as Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, and Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, he also has a deep fondness for alternative rock n' roll music. You can check out info on all of Greg's books here, see what he's up to on his Twitter page here, and shoot the shit with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Joe Satriani is the most successful instrumental rock guitarist of all-time (he has sold over 10 million albums and earned 15 Grammy Award nominations), it turns out he may have been an even more successful guitar teacher.
All you have to do is look at the impressive list of guitarists he instructed over the years, that have become extremely renowned – Steve Vai, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Testament’s Alex Skolnick, Counting Crow’s David Bryson, etc. And Satch’s teaching also affected alternative rock, as one of his students was none other than Primus’ Larry LaLonde.
Satch (who is currently touring in support of his latest album, Shockwave Supernova, of which a complete listing of dates can be viewed here), spoke with Alternative Nation about teaching Larry, as well as if he had any idea at the time how successful his students would eventually become.
What are some memories of teaching Larry LaLonde guitar?
Larry was a very motivated student. Really physically talented on the guitar. I think when I first met him, he was like Kirk Hammett and Alex Skolnick, his whole generation was really inventing thrash metal, at the time. This was an important thing to recognize, I think, because a lot of people forget, even though those players were into guys like Michael Schenker, Jimi Hendrix, and everybody else, they were part of something that was at the forefront of rock music.
And at the time, Larry was playing with a band called Possessed. And then during that period, he started playing with Blind Illusion, and then eventually, with Primus. And Larry was a great player – very well-versed in all forms of rock music, and played blues. Just amazing. People who know him through Primus probably would be really surprised at how what a well-rounded guitar player he is. But Larry had a very unique way of looking at music. I think once he joined Primus, it was “home.” It was a great place for him to express himself.
Did you have any idea at the time that so many of your students would go on to become famous.
No. One never knows that. One hopes. I think all of the students all hoped that one of us would succeed. And then in our wildest dreams, all of us would succeed to some degree. We had a pretty good track record, I think. Because when you’re a guitar teacher, you teach people for a few years, and you become comrades after a while. Because everybody eventually catches up to everybody else, and you want to help each other out – to see if you can make the dream a reality. We’ve all been really fortunate, all of us – myself and my students – that we’ve been able to create a life for ourselves that revolves around playing guitar. That’s pretty crazy.
Although Def Leppard has been one of the leading arena rock bands for decades by this point, their guitarist, Phil Collen, has long fancied punk rock and alt-rock. Case in point, who he plays with in his side bands – Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook (in Man-Raze) and STP bassist Robert DeLeo (in Delta Deep).
Last year, the blues rock-based Delta Deep issued their self-titled debut, and are planning a live release (titled ‘West Coast Live’) for later this year. And during late March/early April, the band – including Mr. DeLeo – will be touring the east coast.
Phil spoke with Alternative Nation about how it is playing in Delta Deep with Robert, and his favorite STP tunes.
How did the idea come up to play with Robert DeLeo?
A friend of mine, Chris Epting, who I had wrote a book with [‘Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard, and Beyond’], he said, “Do you know Robert DeLeo?” And I said, “No, but I’m a huge fan! A huge STP fan. Loved the songs, loved the songwriting, and everything he did.” He says, “Well, he’s a disciple of Motown – James Jamerson and those guys. That’s really what he does. And funk and blues and jazz. That’s really his thing.” He introduced us, I played him the demos for Delta Deep, and he said, “Oh man. This is going to be great.” And that was it, really. And the same deal with Forrest Robinson, the drummer – he used to play with India.Arie and TLC and the Crusaders and all these other acts. And hip-hop stuff in Atlanta, he had done a bunch of that, as well. It just fit perfectly. And I loved Robert’s songwriting, as well, which is another thing that hopefully we’ll get to do on the next Delta Deep album – we’ve got a bunch of stuff written already, but we haven’t written anything together. So that’s going to be a blast.
How it playing with Robert, stylistically?
Obviously, because he’s in a rock band…the big difference is it’s like, funk on steroids. It’s not your typical soul or groove or blues band, because me and Robert are from hard rock bands. Alternative, metal, whatever you want to call it. And what’s really interesting about Forrest Robinson is the fact that he’s from Memphis, he’s played with all these…the Crusaders is a jazz group. But when I first met him, what he said, “All I really want to play is double kick drum metal.” I said, “Really?!” Never judge a book by its cover! Because I thought he was like a groove guy, which he is, but that’s what he loves playing. So when Debbi [Blackwell] gets out and sings over the top of it, it reminds me of early Zeppelin. It’s got a feel like that. I didn’t really expect that – I thought it was going to be more subdued, it was going to be a bit of a groove and bluesy, but it turned into this other thing. It’s got element of Zeppelin, Def Leppard, STP – only it’s this soulful, funky, rock thing. It’s a very muscular version of that. Like I said, playing with Robert is a joy. We’re basically a three-piece – guitar, bass, and drums. And there’s so much going on that you’ll fill all of the gaps – and not just all with notes, but with aggression. And that’s the one thing that I always love. I have another band, Man-Raze, and we’ve got two albums out. Paul Cook is the drummer, and he’s the drummer from the Sex Pistols. I loved Paul Cook’s drumming. I loved the Sex Pistols album [‘Never Mind the Bollocks…’]. I always wanted that aggression in something. So we pretty much got that down, and again, with Man-Raze, it was that thing, it was the aggression. A lot of people miss out on that. It’s like a lot of rock bands are kind of wimpy or whatever and don’t quite have that thing. But this is…steroidal and muscular are the only words to describe it!
What are some of your favorite STP songs or albums?
I love the ‘Purple’ album. I think that’s just great. Obviously, “Interstate Love Song” is such a great song. But even when I first heard them, when I heard “Sex Type Thing” and “Wicked Garden,” I just loved the vibe of it, it was just amazing. All the way up the last album, actually. Even stuff like “Sour Girl.” I loved the fact that they were so different and had this very artistic frontman, and they actually combined elements of Zeppelin and the Beatles, and still made it sound fresh – not like a karaoke band. A lot of people go, “I’m influenced by the Beatles and Zeppelin,” and they just sound like a karaoke. But STP sounded like STP, but you could still hear those influences. It’s amazing.
DELTA DEEP’s East Coast “Sugar Shack” Tour Itinerary
Having conducted seemingly zillions of phone interviews over the years for either mags, sites, or books, there are a select few people that you can always count on to deliver a good interview. And one gentleman I always look forward to chatting with is Filter’s Richard Patrick, having interviewed him previously for Songfacts (check it out here) and for the book ‘Survival of the Fittest: Heavy Metal in the 1990’s’ (of which an exclusive excerpt/ordering info can be detected here). Recently, Richard spoke to Alternative Nation about Filter’s forthcoming seventh studio album, ‘Crazy Eyes’ (dropping on April 8th via Wind-Up Records)…and his fondness for a certain website.
Let’s discuss the new Filter album.
The record is called ‘Crazy Eyes’ – I produced it. I worked with a lot of different people. Oumi Kapila co-produced some songs, Blumpy – Michael Tuller from Nine Inch Nails – co-produced a couple of songs, Danny Lohner co-produced songs with me. It’s kind of where I sit in the world of electronics. It was way more focused on electronics and less on guitar. The last two records have been these big, huge guitar records – heavy, dense, all-consuming guitar records. And I just decided that I love the guitar, but I didn’t want it to suck up all the frequencies. If you make them smaller and you make them a little bit more designated in the frequency when you’re mixing it, the electronics can come out a little bit. And that was the focus – way more electronics. It’s got new and old industrial vibes to it.
“Take Me to Heaven” is the first single.
That song was written in a time period when my father passed away. And as a lyricist, where do you start? You’ve got to kind of ask the big questions. When my father was passing away, I looked into his eyes, and he looked at me, and focused right on me. He looked grateful, and he passed away. I remember thinking to myself, “Did he see me? Was he grateful that I flew in and saw him for the last time? Was he grateful that he was passing away? Was he just high on medicine?” You know, the “end of life medicine” they give you is like morphine and stuff like that. There was all this question in my life – “If there is a heaven, is it real?” People talk about it – they’ve been talking about it since the Bronze Age, at least. And science leaves a pretty solid conclusion that once blood stops flowing inside your mind, it just shuts off. That question, “Who am I? Where am I? My existence, is it real? Take me to heaven, watch me go by.” It became about, “If there is a heaven, please take me, because I’d rather go with you than stay here.” This record, I don’t like giving away all the magic – I want people to come to their own conclusions on the lyrics. But to me, it was written at a time when my father passed away. I’m proud of that song.
You mentioned that you enjoy the Alternative Nation site [before the interview began].
It just keeps popping up on my newsfeed, and I see it’s accurate and it’s informative, and you send out two or three news stories a day or something. You keep me up to date on bands that I like! Rolling Stone will keep you up to date on Miley Cyrus – I don’t want that. I want the bands I like. I like finding out about all the stuff and I instantly see it on Alternative Nation. So I’m happy to be on that site – that’s cool.
Right photo credit: Scott Dudelson of Getty Images
Cleveland Stever? Daddy Deuce? Fire Deuce? If all this toilet talk has got you wondering what’s up, I suggest we point you in the direction of the 5-song debut EP from Fire Deuce, titled ‘Children of the Deuce,’ which was released today. And judging from such ditties as “Deliverance” (an audio clip is below), FD possesses an unmistakable ’80s metal vibe.
Alternative Nation caught up with the band’s leader, Cleveland Stever (aka Daddy Deuce), to chat about the disc, and it just so happens that Coheed and Cambria’s Travis Stever was nearby, and was up for discussing his thoughts/memories of Taylor Hawkins, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Blind Melon.
Alternative Nation: There appears to be a lot of doo-doo talk regarding the Fire Deuce – the band’s name, Cleveland Stever, etc. Was this a happy accident?
Cleveland Stever (aka Daddy Deuce): The name Fire Deuce is very multi-dimensional. You can take the name very literal and it’s the torturous flames you feel after a night of bourbon and numerous hot sauce drenched truck stop burritos. But a thinking man would realize the Fire Deuce means that hot shit on the street that can’t be beat. It’s a stinker or a thinker baby. Your choice.
AN: How heavy is Fire Deuce?
CS: Heavier then the heaviest sperm whale. So heavy we break the scale.
AN: I just checked out Fire Deuce’s Instagram page. How does one obtain a badass “Bud: King of Beers” guitar/instrument?
CS: Budweiser was a Fire Deuce sponsor at one point years ago. But I ran into issues with Tom Budweiser who was heir to the Budweiser throne. I fortunately had sexual relations with his then wife, 6 daughters, mother, grandmother, grandfather, and his pet rabbit. Unfortunately, Tom was not as open minded as I hoped. The events led to Fire Deuce being cut off from the Budweiser sponsorship. But I kept my trusty Bud guitar. And they will have to pry it from my cold dead hands.
AN: Has Fire Deuce played live? If not, will there be forthcoming shows?
CS: We have been opening up for the alternative rock group Coheed and Cambria as of late. They are an atrocious band, but it’s a gig. They give us a 10-minute slot every night. We fucking rule that 10-minute slot.
AN: Is Fire Deuce’s favorite Kiss song “Deuce”?
CS: Nah, our favorite Kiss song is “I Was Made for Loving You.” Disco Kiss all the way, baby!
AN: Was the tune “Deliverance” really inspired by the film starring Ned Beatty?
CS: I don’t know what you’re talking about. The song “Deliverance” is about a real Fire Deuce experience involving white water rafting, red neck pervert rapists, and liquid acid. How does that relate to this movie you speak of?
AN: What are Fire Deuce’s future plans? A full-length, perhaps?
CS: There are already quite a few deuce songs ready. We just need to get up in that stu stu studio baby. If enough people buy the newly remastered ‘Children of the Deuce’ EP, we will be right up in there, making magic.
AN: Daddy Deuce, if you wouldn’t mind handing the laptop over now to Travis, I have some specific questions that my editor at Alternative Nation would like me to ask him, as well.
CS: Ahhh fuck man. I knew there was a catch. Fortunate for you that asshole is letting me crash in his basement. It’s just temporary ’til I get on my feet. Anyway, he is on his way down to chain me up for the night. He’s afraid his wife will get the Ol’ Nancy Budweiser treatment. Hold on here he is.
AN: What are some memories of working with the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins in 2007?
Travis Stever: He was super enthusiastic and passionate about how he went about playing to the songs. His energy is quite incredible. Watching him play especially to our songs was an amazing experience. And funny enough, a majority of the time Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers was there messing with him and commenting on his playing as he blew through the songs. It was an honor to be in his presence, as well as we were all fans of his work. I think having him there made Taylor really want to play his ass off too. So that benefited Coheed, for sure.
AN: Memories of touring with Soundgarden in 2011?
TS: My top memory is that I got to have all the members sign my ticket from the Soungarden, Blind Melon, and Neil Young with Booker T and the MGs tour I had seen in 1993. I got to be a fan boy.
AN: Memories of touring with Alice in Chains on the Uproar Tour in 2013?
TS: It was an honor to share the stage with them, Jane’s Addiction, and our friends Circa Survive. I loved being able to hear Jerry Cantrell get up there and warm up every day. And Jane’s Addiction had a jam room, so getting to hear them warm up with covers of songs like “Funk 49” by the James Gang and some of their own numbers was quite incredible.
AN: Not many people know – you’re a big-time Blind Melon fan, especially their second album, ‘Soup.’ Care to discuss?
TS: I love all their material, but ‘Soup’ is a very special album for me. Funny enough, that record was just as important to Claudio too. It has these memories of our teenage years in every note and melody. It always comes back up, too. Eventually, it became a van favorite in the early days of Coheed. And it’s still revisited all the time. It’s just so powerful in every way. And it is so underrated. Everyone I know who has ever given it the real listen has fallen in love.
In the Crüe book, ‘Kickstart My Heart,’ there is a quote from Nikki Sixx
in which he recalls being able to tell that Nirvana was going to alter the
landscape of rock n’ roll around the release of ‘Nevermind,’ which I found
Yeah, you always wonder how much truth there is to something like that, when
you’re looking back. I can’t remember the exact quote and I’m too lazy to look
it up, but there’s a significant difference about saying something like that
around ‘Bleach’ or around ‘Nevermind.’ I mean, I couldn’t care less if they were
going to alter the landscape or not, but I knew instantly the moment I heard
‘Bleach,’ that this was a cool, incendiary form of punky, heavy metal, and
there were things that Kurt was doing on the guitar there that by some
definitions were heavier than anything we’d heard out of any hair metal
band. Plus the vocals, the lyrics, I don’t ascribe too much of pontificating
about emotion or anger or intensity or energy on these things, but let’s
just say the overall vibe was of anarchy, of a need to retool metal. Grunge
was already a good three years old by the time ‘Nevermind’ was going to pop up
on big huge bad Geffen, home of the bad wind that was Guns N’ Roses.
Although you seem to write primarily about heavy metal, do you enjoy
alt-rock and punk, as well?
Definitely, although alt rock can mean a million different things. And so
can punk, I suppose, and the only punk that I really care about and am an
expert on is the original punk of 1976 to 1979. I know and love all of that
up and down, and I can see having a few punk books in me. And I do indeed
have a Ramones coffee table book coming out in the next few months. I’m
gearing up to write ‘Who Invented Punk?,’ having done a whole bunch of
research on that, and it’s a story I find fascinating. That will be the
companion book to my insane ‘Who Invented Heavy Metal?’ book out last June,
and I may even do ‘Who Invented Thrash?.’ Alternative rock, however? I just
get carsick thinking about that term. I’m more interested in the meanings
and the bands that fill up the spaces known as new wave and post punk.
After reading ‘The Big Book of Hair Metal,’ I felt like it was a good
companion piece to my book, ‘Grunge is Dead,’ as it sets the stage for what
happened in the ’90s in rock music and was interesting to read what was
going on concurrently in LA and Seattle throughout the ’80s and early ’90s.
I seem to think that for the most part, there is “good glam rock” (the early
to mid ’70s variety) and “bad glam rock” (the mid to late ’80s variety). Do
you agree? Disagree?
No, couple things here. First off, the first glam rock, as it existed in the
UK from about 1971 to 1974, really has very little to do with the LA glam
rock of the late ’80s. They basically just had the same name. And even
there, few people call hair metal “glam rock.” That music from the UK was all
over the board, and seldom heavy, except a little bit, Mott the Hoople,
Slade, and quite a bit, Sweet. The only thing they had in common was going
for an androgynous look, along with makeup. To me, the more interesting
comparison of good and bad is the quality of the originals from LA, wild
card Van Halen, but then not wild card, Ratt and Dokken, and then the
insipid nature of all the copycats through most of the rotten core of the
middle ’80s (especially Bon Jovi), and then, what somebody could do a whole
book on, the super high quality of the hair metal bands as they learned and
matured and even got influenced by their own distaste for the ’80s, but also
learning from grunge or other alternative forms of metal, stuff happening in
California like Jane’s Addiction and Faith No More, and made what I think
are pretty well, the best bank of hair metal albums, which arrived in 1992
1993, with 1992 being a particularly good year. Basically every crappy hair
metal band from the ’80s made some of their best music in the early 90s, and
then new bands like Love/Hate, Collision, Saigon Kick, I Love You, Liquid
Jesus, even people like King’s X, Skid Row. I think this is one of the great
unwritten stories of hair metal, how, once the pendulum swung to Seattle, a
bunch of bands in LA were making really good music.
According to your calculations, what were some of the most over-the-top
hair metal bands, songs, and videos of the ’80s? Could Vinnie Vincent
Invasion’s “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” be a winner of all three categories?
Sure, Vinnie Vincent, everybody talks about Nitro, although they forget how
really underground that was. Whitesnake, Warrant, Winger, always the
notorious “three W’s.” Even Guns N’ Roses. I really absolutely do not give them
a pass for being any better than any of the hair metal bands. They were
simply, and quite insipidly in a subcategory I called dirty hair metal, but
hair metal all the same. Firehouse, I also found particularly egregious. But
yes, of course, big poofy, almost misty looking hair, slow motion, shiny
everything, as many girls in the videos as guys, there are all sorts of
Were you sad to see grunge and alt-rock exterminate hair metal, or was it
– to quote Salt-n-Pepa – “very necessary” at the time?
No, it absolutely was necessary. Everybody at the same time was getting
pretty disgusted with the prima donna behaviour, the hedonism, the overt
materialism, and just the watered-down copycat nature of all the new bands
coming along. I’m not one of these guys that found no value in hair metal,
or hated it, because I was metaller than thou. My attitude was always, if
you are a huge metal fan, the more dedicated and more obsessive a metal fan
you are, then why wouldn’t you like more metal, widen your net, and include
hair metal? In other words, Paul Baloff, maybe a metal poser is one that
sees a whole metal category and dismisses it…because you aren’t metal
enough! If you’re into metal, then you should like hair metal! I’m not
saying all of it, or any power ballads for that matter. But the fact of the
matter is that was music completely based around guitar-and some pretty
pyrotechnic guitar playing, when it came to solos. Pounding drums,
screeching, high vocals. There’s lots of metal content across that genre.
Still, there was total magic and excitement around grunge. I was living in
Vancouver at the time, which is satellite enough to Seattle, and buying all
of those early EP’s and albums by Green River, Soundgarden, Nirvana,
Mudhoney. But as I think back, I was still buying every other metal genre as
well, including hair metal, which, like I say, got a lot smarter at the turn
of the decade. But grunge, man, that was incredible. It was dangerous. It
was not verse/chorus. Songs could be short, long, a lark, majestic. You were
constantly being surprised.
How difficult is it to assemble the “day by day” type books you have
assembled on Ozzy, Iron Maiden, and now, Mötley Crüe?
I love this format, because it allows for a really clear, easy reading look
at the story, and an easy way to suggest connections to things like
competing bands, solo careers, personal lives, recordings, as you move
along. And with Mötley, there were so many interesting things to talk about,
given how crazy their lives were. But there was also lots of solo material
along the way, especially stuff coming from Nikki, so that’s all covered in
there as well, plus of course, Vince and Tommy. But I love the idea of
researching, unearthing, nailing down dates for this stuff, and then boom,
right there, putting an elucidating quote about that event. And people love
the fact that with this format, it’s a true coffee table type read, where
you can pick it up at any point, and be instantly interested, rather than
trying to figure out where you left off, or who these characters are in the
story. And then all the yummy photography, pictures of memorabilia, etc.,
further enhance the tale along the way. The Mötley book is just gorgeously
laid out, and every page. I think the word for it is sumptuous.
What are your thoughts on when the Crüe “went grunge/alt-rock” on their
1994 self-titled release?
That is one of Nikki’s favourite Mötley records, and I’m pretty sure it’s
Tommy’s favourite, and Mick likes it a lot as well. And in fact, its way up
there for me as well. Nothing will beat the magic and the magic times of
‘Shout at the Devil,’ but in terms of bravery, cool, pioneering production,
fat drums, just cool writing, yeah, I love that album. And I might be in the
minority, but I really like ‘Generation Swine,’ as well. I just like the fact
that they were fearlessly experimenting, and making some of their smartest
music. Because they really were a stupid band on ‘Theatre’ and ‘Girls, Girls,
Girls.’ It was basically kiddy metal, like the last two Twisted Sister
albums, at that point. It seems like although that album was viewed as a commercial failure
shortly after its release, it has garnered a cult following over the years.
Absolutely. It went gold, simply based on curiosity. But of course, changing
a lead singer is always a tough thing to do. Plus the timing was really bad.
It’d been a long time since the last album, even grunge at that point was in
a mature phase, and we were moving to things like hard alternative,
industrial metal, other electronic forms of music. 1994 was the nadir for
heavy metal, although the rest of the ’90s weren’t much of a picnic either.
But yeah, I instantly loved it, and still do.
Care to predict if Guns N’ Roses will reunite?
No, I couldn’t care less. Especially if the question is specifically
predicting if they will reunite. That’s all gossipy and amorphous and
rumour-milled like talking about sports. Pretty meaningless. The stats and
the scores is all that matters. Talking about who is better is just
insanity. I just really think those guys are the luckiest band on earth.
‘Appetite’ was a pretty good album, nothing more. I even like ‘Use Your
Illusion,’ those records, better, and even then, it’s hard to separate the
sort of miscreant personalities and all the stupidity from the music, and
just enjoy the music for what it is. But I think Love/Hate and Badlands, and
even Skid Row by the time of ‘Slave to the Grind’ were three and four times
the band Guns N’ Roses ever were. So I really couldn’t care less if they do
reunite and run around and play those songs. But I have to give them credit.
People often reduce them to one album. Sure, I won’t give that album nearly
the props everybody else does, but in terms of the material they put out, in
the space of not too, too long – which, again, time is clouded by ‘Chinese
Democracy’ – they did put out the equivalent of about five records worth of
material between ’87 and ’91. So they weren’t exactly slouches.
I’ve said it once, twice, three times, and will continue to do so until the cows come home – I thoroughly enjoy the rock n’ roll band King’s X, and have for quite some time (since 1989, to be exact!).
The band has issued quite a few recordings that I continue to spin to this very day (‘Gretchen Goes to Nebraska,’ ‘Faith Hope Love,’ ‘Dogman,’ etc.), and they continue to rock to this day (I caught a live show this past summer in NYC, and I can honestly say they sound better than ever – if you get the chance, definitely catch them live).
The group’s long-time drummer, Jerry Gaskill, recently issued his second solo album overall, ‘Love and Scars,’ which shows that he is much more than just a time-keeper, as he also co-wrote and sings lead on all the tunes. Mr. Gaskill was kind enough to answer some questions about the release, King’s X, and his health (he suffered two heart attacks a few years back) for Alternative Nation.
What are some standout memories of when King’s X toured with Pearl Jam in 1994?
I remember every night feeling like I was watching history being made. It was a true honor to be a part of something as special as what Pearl Jam had become. We had known those guys before they were Pearl Jam and to be a part of this historic event was something I’ll always be thankful for. I remember one night, Dug was to sing “W.M.A.” with them, and David Abruzzese asked me to play octobans. He told me they never did this song because there was nobody to play those extra percussion parts. So he kind of told me how it went and I got up there and played along side him. It felt great! We did the encore with them and I remember walking on the stage and the ovation from the crowd was overwhelming. After the song, Eddie introduced Dug to the crowd, but never mentioned me. David stood and started shouting, “And goddamn Jerry Gaskill!” Of course no one heard him, and that’s ok with me. It was just an honor to be a part of it. I also had my oldest son, Jerrimy, out with me, who was 15 at the time. He hung with the guys quite a bit. I believe Eddie would come to the bus and get Jerrimy to shoot hoops together. At the end of the tour Eddie said to me, “Tell Jerrimy wherever we are, he’s always welcome.” When we got home I remember one day taking Jerrimy to school and he said, “You know dad, almost everybody at my school would give their right arm to do what we just did, and that’s just what we do.” I thought that was really special as well…
How would you compare ‘Love and Scars’ to a King’s X album?
To me ‘Love and Scars’ has nothing to do with a King’s X record other than the fact that I am in King’s X and also some of the players on the record are very much influenced by King’s X. For instance, D.A. Karkos (I call him Dan) who I made this record with, says that King’s X has helped shape his musical life. King’s X is a band. ‘Love and Scars’ is a record I made with Dan and other friends. ‘Love and Scars’ is more my vision, along with Dan, whereas King’s X is ultimately the vision of Dug, Ty and me. King’s X, in many ways, has afforded the opportunity to make a record like ‘Love and Scars.’ I am very excited and humbly proud of ‘Love and Scars.’ I hope that it can somehow spread out and reach more than just King’s X fans. I feel like a fan myself…
What are your favorite songs on the album?
Actually, each song is my favorite to the point as I’m listening to one song that I love I’m looking forward to the next one. If I mention one song as a favorite, I feel like I would be taking away from another that is my favorite. They all mean that much to me. I feel as though
I’ve given a big part of me in each song. They are all true musical babies to me…
Will you be playing shows in support of it?
I am definitely hoping to. I have ideas and I really hope they can come to fruition. I feel this music should be on a stage. I want as many people as possible to hear it. I believe in this record and I want to do everything I can to keep it around…
You have a good singing voice, but I don’t recall you singing on many
(any?) King’s X tunes. Why not?
Why thank you! I sing lead on three King’s X songs…”Six Broken Soldiers,” “American Cheese (Jerry’s Pianto),” and “Julie.” Like I said earlier, King’s X is a totally different thing than making my own record. I don’t necessarily feel like a lead singer in King’s X. Dug is the lead singer of King’s X, yet there are times when it seems appropriate for either me or Ty to sing lead as well. I say whatever works best for the song…
Looking back, what is your favorite King’s X album and why?
I feel like whatever record we’re working on is my favorite. I have fond memories of all the records, and at the same time, a lot of hard work and some maybe not so fond memories come with all the records. There is a part of me that always feels I can do better or I should have done better. The first four records are special to me because they are like a certain era. It was the beginning era for King’s X. Then ‘Dogman’ came, which was produced by Brendan O’Brien, and a new era was born, along with ‘Ear Candy’ produced by Arnold Lanni. From there, we did a few records of writing together from scratch. It started with ‘Tapehead’ then ‘Bulbous’ and ‘Manic Moonlight.’ Again, a whole new era. We ended up doing two records with Michael Wagener, ‘Ogre Tones’ and ‘XV.’ Again, a whole different vibe. I see all the records as times in my life. I prefer to think of them all as profitable for me in one way or another…
How are you doing health-wise?
I’m doing great great! I feel as though I’m doing better than ever in many ways. I have a better understanding of my body now. I’m learning how to take care of it. I work out every day now and I’m seeing a personal trainer once a week. I’ve been seeing him now for about six months. His name is Danny Weltman and I love him. I started out seeing him two to three times a week. I wake up every day now and start my day with a pretty intense workout. I generally feel healthier and stronger than I did before I died. I wouldn’t change a thing. Our bodies tell us what it wants and what it doesn’t want. I’m learning how to listen. Heart attacks have done me well…
What are the future plans for King’s X?
We’ll be doing some shows in 2016, and we’re also talking about a new record. A new record will most likely happen. I don’t know exactly when. I want to feel ready when we get together to do it. I want it to be right. I want to make the best King’s X record that we can possibly make. I will say though that I’m still very much focused on ‘Love and Scars.’ Sometimes I think if anything is holding up the King’s X record it’s probably me. But it’s all good and one day in the pretty near future we’ll get together and do that next King’s X record…
While yours truly was recently interviewing Ian Anderson (former singer/flautist for Jethro Tull) for BraveWords, the chat took a turn towards discussing Tull’s classic 1969 release, Stand Up. And surprisingly, Mr. Anderson mentioned a certain renowned grunge singer who was a fan:
“You could have also asked Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, because apparently that was his favorite album. He used to take it to Pearl Jam gigs and play it before every show, so he told one of my road crew, when they went to see him in concert.”
Anderson is currently on the road performing a rock opera entitled…Jethro Tull: The Rock Opera, for which dates can be viewed here.
There has been quite a bit of talk over the years that the guitar riff of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” bears some resemblance to an earlier tune by Killing Joke, “Eighties.” While recently interviewing JK singer Jaz Coleman for the Songfacts site, the subject of the lyrical inspiration behind “Eighties” came up, for which he responded:
We wrote that song in Geneva and it’s kind of an interesting story about it, because we played in a squat – we did two nights in this fallout shelter in Geneva that became sort of a legend in Switzerland. It’s funny, because in 1983, we were going through Switzerland, and the promoter said, “Do you want to stay at a Hilton Hotel or would you want to stay in this seven-bedroom farmhouse, where this couple will cook for you?”
So we took the latter option, and had such a good time there. What transpired is the next morning, I said to this couple, “Can I come back to this house again, to do some writing? I’ve had such a good time here.” And they were very kind and said, “You could.” After the tour, I got a flight back to Geneva, and went to this wonderful house again, and of course, Raven [Paul Raven, Killing Joke bass player at the time] was there – he’d done the same thing! [Laughs] So a new chapter started in Switzerland.
That song I remember was written in the house, and I still live in that house. I’ve still got a room in that house. That song was written upstairs.
That song, of course, became “Come As You Are” for Nirvana. I think of the repercussions of that song and how I went upstairs to the little room where Geordie had his amp. I remember when he knocked that riff out, it was so memorable, it kind of embodied everything that was happening at that time.
And at that time, I was reading Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, and that line is in the song: “I’m in love with the coming race.” So it was looking forward to the trans-human future that is upon us now.
Killing Joke recently issued their 16th studio effort overall, Pylon, and will be launching a U.S. tour early next year.
In addition to interviewing the great John Lydon for Songfacts, I was also able to interview the man that you also know as Johnny Rotten for Long Island Pulse.
When asked about the possibility of a Sex Pistols reunion, Mr. Lydon had the following to say:
“No. That’s done. Never say never, but it wouldn’t be a reunion. We’re trying now to get to like each other outside of work and I think that’s more important to us as human beings. Because when we get back on stage, all those old resentments just keep creeping in, and it gets foolish. I want to remember them as my friends. We did enough as a band. Can’t go back at it, don’t want to. Can’t write for it, don’t need to. That served its place in history really well. And now, I’m serving my place in history really well, in a completely different way. Welcome to progress. It doesn’t always make you popular, but I’ve never done this for popularity.”
Lydon’s other band, Public Image Limited (PiL), recently released their tenth studio effort overall, What the World Needs Now, and are embarking on a U.S. tour from Halloween through November 29th (of which a complete list of dates can be viewed here).
I recently interviewed Eagles of Death Metal singer/guitarist Jesse Hughes for the BraveWords site, and in addition to discussing the group’s new album, Zipper Down, I couldn’t help but ask a Guns N’ Roses question (in case you forgot, EoDM were set to open shows for Guns in 2006, but it only lasted a single performance, with Axl Rose calling the band “Pigeons of Shit Metal” from the stage):
BraveWords: I’ve heard that two guitarists recently left Guns N’ Roses. Would you be a suitable replacement?
Jesse Hughes: “You know what man, every year, since Axl Rose fired us from the tour [in 2006], I have sent him a very sincere request – around Christmas time – inviting him to come in the studio and record two Christmas songs, and be released as ‘The Pigeons Of Shit Metal.’ And I always close it with a very judgmental, ‘Because I want you to know Axl, I’m willing to forgive you, and I feel like the rest of the world is, too.’ So I think that final statement he probably doesn’t appreciate too much, but Axl Rose unfairly – and incorrectly – is identified as ‘Guns N’ Roses.’ And I take umbrage to that. To me, Guns N’ Roses is Duff McKagan, Izzy fuckin’ Stradlin, Slash, and Steve Adler, and then Axl. When Axl was alone in the band, it was just ‘G n’ R.’ The ‘uns’ and the ‘oses’ became Velvet Revolver. And we just played a show in England, and Duff was there. It was fuckin’ awesome. I think if Guns N’ Roses really wants to play again, then Axl should grow the fuck up, and let THE Guns N’ Roses play. And that ain’t gonna happen unless it’s the actual members. Unless you want to turn Guns N’ Roses into a band like Menudo, or if it’s trying to turn it into Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I mean, the Ringling brothers are dead, but you can still go to their circus, I guess.”
Read the rest of the interview (trust me, it’s an entertaining one) here.
The Police performed at three of New York’s most renowned rock venues – CBGB’s, Madison Square Garden, and Shea Stadium.
Well, CBGB’s was significant. We were pretty much immersed in the punk scene in London at that period, and CBGB’s – even in the UK – was legendary. It was like the mecca of punk. To get a gig there was almost like the stamp of approval or the stamp of authenticity. It was also huge fun for us, to finally get a gig in the US, and play at this grungy little club in downtown New York. But the reality was we went on stage at about 12:30 at night. Sting and I had flown in from the UK, went straight to the club, tuned up, played, beat the audience into a pulp, and it went down a storm. Then we did a second set at about 2:30 in the morning, and we were absolutely exhilarated by the experience. Shea Stadium is of course, the absolute opposite end – seven or eight years later, when we were #1 all over the world. In a way, playing Shea Stadium was like the pinnacle moment of the band’s existence. Where we were “it,” clearly. It was a glorious moment, that went by in a blur.
Now that it’s been a few years since the 2007/2008 Police reunion tour, what are your thoughts on it now?
It was fabulous. It was an incredibly successful tour. It was great to just get out and play to that many people again. And make people happy. So many people were thrilled to see us doing those shows. It was a lovely time.
A new book penned by author James Burns, Let’s Go to Hell: Scattered Memories of the Butthole Surfers, was recently released, which tells the story of one of alt-rock’s most notorious – and enduring – bands.
As the description on the book’s webpage explains, “Here for the first time is the complete story of one of the most controversial and dangerous bands to have emerged from the ashes of the punk rock movement. ‘Let’s Go to Hell’ compiles the scattered memories into the first comprehensive overview of the band. Featuring exclusive interviews, tons of rare and unpublished photographs, and analysis of the band’s vast recorded (and unrecorded) efforts, ‘Let’s Go to Hell’ finally tells the story that was thought (and often hoped) would never be told…”
And to get a taste of what to expect, the Songfacts site has published an excerpt from the book, which you can view by tapping your tapper here.
I have been an admirer of Truly’s music for quite some time – ever since I throughly studied the group’s tunes while putting together a little old book you may have heard of, Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music. And I was so blown away by their 1995 album, Fast Stories…From Kid Coma, that I just had to include it at #3 as part of the Top 10 Underrated 90’s Alternative Rock Albums list for this site! With interest in the trio – which includes singer/guitarist Robert Roth, ex-Soundgarden bassist Hiro Yamamoto, and ex-Screaming Trees drummer Mark Pickerel – building once more, Mr. Roth was kind enough to answer some questions via email, including the group’s upcoming live dates in the US (which are listed on the band’s official Facebook page) and future plans.
How did this run of shows come about?
We’ve been working on a new record on and off for a while and last year I was contacted by a guy out of Champaign Il, who had seen Truly when he was 16 and actually had to stand outside to listen. Now he’s an adult and a family man and has his own agency (Nicodemus Agency) and puts on a huge festival in Champaign called Pygmalion Festival. He’d seen that we’ve been playing and had toured in Europe somewhat recently and said he would like to be our agent. The plan had been to go on tour when the new record is done, but with the twentieth anniversary of Fast Stories… From Kid Coma happening this year, we decided it would be a good time to get out there and celebrate the record and have some fun with a few dates. We’ve acquired a lot of younger fans over the last few years and interest in that record in particular has grown steadily over the years.
What can fans expect from these shows?
Were still sounding heavy, loud, melancholy and slightly pretty with a good measure of spontaneity thrown in to keep it exciting. We’ll have a keyboardist with us in the band providing all of the Mellotron, Wurlitzer and strange analog keyboard sounds that are a back drop to the records. It’s still to be determined whether or not we will be playing the entire album from back to front at any of these shows, but we we’ll be playing at least about 8%5 of Kid Coma including some things we’ve never done live, like the 11 and a 1/2 minute “Chlorine”. Also hopefully “Aliens On Alcohol” which was supposed to be on the Capitol cd, but there was no room since the record was already seventy two minutes already without it. It was included on side three of the double vinyl that was co-released on Sub Pop. We will likely play something from the Sub Pop e.p.’s and a couple from Feeling You Up for sure.
Will there be new material played at this shows?
Yes, we”ll be playing a few new songs – our forthcoming single “No One Remembers the Game” and the A-side to a new 7″ that will finally be released very soon, called “Wheels on Fire,” and possibly more. I’d like to play more new stuff, but there are so many people who have never seen us or who are new to the band, so it will all be new for them.
Any updates re: a new Truly album?
It’s being mixed by a producer named Jordon Zadronzy, who has a studio outside Ontario, Canada. He’s in a really great band called Blinker the Star. Lindsey Buckingham played on his last record and he was also hired to co-write some songs with Courtney Love for Celebrity Skin. We’re passing audio back and forth through the internet with hopes of doing the final laps in person at some point soon. There are about twelve songs in the works. But just like our other records, I’m always writing until the end.
I understand that the song “Heart and Lungs” will finally be included on an upcoming expanded edition of the Singles Motion Picture Soundtrack – why was it not included in the first place?
It was on all the advance copies between Jimi Hendrix and Smashing Pumpkins, but was nixed the week before it went to the pressing plant to make room for another major label artist. We had heard that it was one of Cameron Crowes’ favorite songs in the film, but various band managers were putting a lot of pressure on the label to add these other songs, and with us being on an indie, Sub Pop, we were the most politically expendable. Our career likely would have been much different had we been included, but who knows, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten signed to Capitol and made Fast Stories…from Kid Coma?
Future plans for Truly?
Finishing the new album as soon as possible and hopefully with a renewed vigor and sense of purpose. I’d also like to get back to Europe for some shows. The 20th anniversary will be next year for the UK and several other countries since it was released in ’96 there. I also just got word that there will likely be a vinyl reissue of Fast Stories soon.
Lucky old me got to interview one of my all-time favorite rock n’ roll frontmen, John Lydon of Public Image Ltd (and formerly known as “Johnny Rotten” when he fronted the legendary Sex Pistols), for the Songfacts site. During our chat, we discussed PiL’s recently released album, What the World Needs Now, its leadoff single/video, “Double Trouble,” and I asked his thoughts on a belief I have had for a long time concerning three specific gentlemen:
Songfacts: Something that I’ve felt strongly about for a long time is I think that there are three musicians who spoke their mind the freest about their beliefs in both interviews and their songs: John Lennon, you, and Kurt Cobain. Do you agree with that statement?
John: As far as I’m aware, Kurt wrote one really excellent song, called “Teen Spirit,” which I think is more than enough for anyone in a lifetime. Even writing one most perfect pop song is quite great, that.I don’t know the comparison of Lennon and me, that’s something Oasis brought up years ago. I think we’re all very different from each other, and long may we reign. I seem to be the only one left alive! But in my memory, there’s always a great place for John Lennon. Always. “Working Class Hero” and the album Imagine are highlights of my musical collection.
You can read the entire interview here, and PiL tour dates can be viewed by clicking your clicker here.
During an interview that yours truly had with the Devil Wears Prada’s Mike Hranica for the Songfacts site, the subject of favorite all-time songwriters came up. And it turns out that Hranica is a major fan of Nick Cave – frontman for the Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds.
“My favorite musician/songwriter/artist is Nick Cave. I very much appreciate everything he does. He’s considered the ‘god of post-rock,’ which I love. I feel like everything is influenced by Nick Cave in some aspects, or very specifically, with my personal musical taste.”
Also discussed is TDWP’s recently issued EP (which turns out to be a conceptual recording), Space.
“One thing that I really wanted to battle compared to the Zombie EP was that I felt the songs – sonically as well as lyrically – blended together here and there. And that was strictly because of the process we went through and how we came about the songs. So this time around, we did things totally different. I wanted everything to have more of an identity – I didn’t want this part in this song to be able to be transposed to a different song. I wanted all of them to feel like they were strictly within their own “bit.” So that was a little bit of a challenge, but I wouldn’t say it was hard. I really enjoy it. I have this knack for choosing themes that aren’t really close to me. I’m not a huge zombie fan, and I’m not a huge fan of space, which works well for me, because I can become a little more dramatic or fictional and be able to create with less hindrances, which I think is also part of the process. I find it very much enjoyable.”
To read the full interview, click your clicker here.
When I recently chatted with Police guitarist Andy Summers for Long Island Pulse, we touched upon quite a few topics, including his band new all-instrumental solo album, Metal Dog, as well as the must-see Police documentary, Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police.
But most interesting, was the following update regarding the future of the Police:
LI Pulse: Are you still on good terms with the other Police members?
Andy Summers: Yeah. I saw Stewart [Copeland] last week. There’s always stuff. The band, or “the brand,” continues forever. We always have to make some decision about something. The relationship doesn’t go away. Stewart lives close to me in LA; we’re more likely to see each other than Sting…I’m not sure where he is. But we’re all completely connected.
To read the rest of the interview (including additional Police tidbits), click your clicker here.
For fans of Soundgarden, the ultimate coffee table size book of photos has been assembled, Photofantasm: Nudedragons To King Animal, which as its title suggests, chronicles the group’s reunion tour. And in addition to killer pix, there are interviews and recollections throughout, including Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, Chad Channing of Nirvana, and even yours truly!
The creators of the book, Jaye and Mike English, were kind enough to collectively answer some questions via email for Alternative Nation about how Photofantasm came to be.
–How did the idea come up to do the Photofantasm book?
We explain it in more detail in the Preface of the book so this probably
won’t do it justice. Towards the end of 2012 and after taking a multitude of
photos from countless SG shows in 5 countries, we wanted to share our
memories and collaborate with other fans and artists around the world to
create a book by the fans; something that had never been done before. The
name is a play on words; we’re guessing you can figure it out.
–Please explain more about where all the net proceeds of the book are being
We selected Canary Foundation (four star ranking and 501(c) (3), the first
and only charitable foundation in the world solely dedicated to the funding
of early cancer-detection solutions, as the primary benefactor for the net
proceeds of Photofantasm Soundgarden: Nudedragons to King Animal. We explain
in more detail on our website Photofantasm.com under Charity.
–How many Soundgarden shows did you see after they reunited? Which ones
were your favorites and why?
Well over 30 plus shows. Honestly each one had its own flavor so to speak
but obviously Seattle was epic, not only as a home coming but also due to
our friend Tiffany who was invited as a VIP guest by the Cornell’s (her
dedication in the book is called Keep on Rowing). Red Rocks had to be the
LOUDEST show we ever heard accompanied by the most beautiful backdrop
imaginable. We loved the shows overseas; it was a totally different vibe.
Milan in particular agreed with SG. It was also on a train in Italy (from
Milan to Rome) where we came up with the idea of Photofantasm.
–Please describe some of your favorite photos in the book.
That’s a hard question, (made obvious by how big the book is) but we love
the action shots. The images where you can feel the band feeding off the
energy of the crowd are the ones we prefer. A few of our favorites are Kim
in NYC flipping the bird caught intimately on camera, one of Chris at the
Gorge where he looks crazed like something out of a JCP video while
overlooking a fan crowd surfing in a wheel chair, plenty of Ben series
photos smashing his bass and beer bottles and Matt up front and center
engaging with the fans!
–Are you friends with the members of Soundgarden?
No, wouldn’t say that.
–Is the band aware of the book? If so, have they been supportive?
Yes and yes..of course the band and their team are receiving their own
–Is it ironic that ‘Photofantasm’ may be one of the heaviest books in my
collection weight-wise, and also, features photos of one of the heaviest
It was huge f*&%ing deal to have SG reunite and also why it’s a huge f*&%ing
book. So no it’s not ironic lol.
–Was interviewing Greg Prato for the book a clear highpoint of both your
Greg who?…. Seriously Greg has a shitload of stories collected from all
the books he has authored and is a true Soundgarden fan. It was an honor to
hear some of these tales and hope to hear more over a few beers.
Yours truly recently interviewed Sublime (and current Sublime with Rome) bassist, Eric Wilson, for the Songfacts site, during which several topics were discussed, including memories of the creation of the song that was their commercial breakthrough, “What I Got”:
Songfacts: Did you have any idea that it was a special song when you recorded it?
Eric: Yeah, I thought so. Actually, that song was produced by David Kahne. And then we ended up doing that one again with Paul [Leary].
I was fortunate to meet Half Pint – he’s a legend and an inspiration. And it turns out that Brad had gotten parts of that song from one of his songs that was like a B-side [the song “Loving”].
I thought I’d heard all his stuff, but I found out it was one of his songs, but not one of his hits. Brad turned that song into something totally different than what it originally was. Half Pint wanted to get paid for it, so then we got a relationship through that, and when we did the Dub Allstars, Half Pint went on the road with us for a summer, and I got to know him really well and play with him every day. That was a blessing in itself.
To read the rest of the interview (in which quite a few other Sublime classics are discussed), click your clicker here. Sublime with Rome recently issued their sophomore full-length, Sirens, and are on tour – dates can be viewed here.
I recently had the good fortune to interview Police guitarist Andy Summers for the Songfacts site, and learned quite a few interesting tidbits, including that although Sting is listed as the sole author of the group’s biggest hit, “Every Breath You Take,” it was Mr. Summers who saved the day by providing the song’s classic guitar part:
“We had a vocal – a rough vocal, probably – so everyone knew what the song was, and finally, Stewart [Copeland] and Sting agreed on the drum and bass pattern. But no one could agree on anything else until I went in and just played that guitar part – almost in one go, one take. Everybody was thrilled with it, and that was it. That’s what put the icing on the cake and made the song. It sure didn’t start off like that.”
Also discussed was a Police instrumental penned entirely by Summers, “Behind My Camel,” which won “Best Rock Instrumental Performance” at the 1982 Grammy Awards:
“I was thinking about something that was sort of edgy. Like a horror movie. [Laughs] I wanted something with a lot of atmosphere. But it wasn’t jazz, it was almost like movie music. I wrote a lot of music like that. It was almost like a blues in a way. A Middle Eastern blues.”
And perhaps most surprisingly, it turns out that the guitarist is a major fan of the metal band King’s X:
“A few years ago I discovered them, and God, this is a great band! They’ve got an incredible feel. They’ve got the best kind of bluesy rock – they’ve got so much feel. They rock and they really swing, as well. Great voice, the guitar player’s great. I don’t know why they’re not huge, that band. I guess they’ve done OK.”
Summers recently released a new, all-instrumental solo album, Metal Dog, as well as a fascinating documentary of his years as a Police-man, Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police, of which the trailer can be viewed below, and you can read the rest of the interview right here.
And in 2015, author David de Sola has written a new Alice in Chains book, Alice in Chains: The Untold Story (published by Thomas Dunne Books), and was kind enough to answer some questions for Alternative Nation, including his thoughts on where Alice In Chains would be today if Layne Staley had lived. Where do you think AIC would be today with Layne? Leave your thoughts in the comment section. Read on/rock on!
How did the idea come up to write a book about Alice in Chains?
In 2011 while I was simultaneously in summer school at Georgetown University and working at 60 Minutes, I put on the Dirt album for the first time in a long time. After it was finished, I went online looking for a Layne Staley or Alice in Chains biography, thinking somebody had must have already written something. When I didn’t find anything along the lines of what I was looking for, I decided to do it myself. I started working on it in August as soon as my school and work responsibilities were done.
What was your biggest challenge in writing the book?
Not having cooperation or access to the band meant that some people weren’t willing to talk. Others were skeptical because they were protective of the band and/or Layne or Mike Starr. I would try to convince them that they should talk to me, because I was capable of telling the band’s story in a credible and responsible manner. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes I wasn’t. Beyond that, there was the occasionally tricky question of how I would tackle the drug issue, in a way that was credible without sensationalizing or minimizing it.
Who were some of the top interviews you conducted for the book?
Several people agreed to speak on the record for the first time, which was a very gratifying and humbling experience for me. Jamie, Jim and Ken Elmer (Layne’s sister, step-father and step-brother) are definitely up there, as are Matt Muasau, Bobby Nesbitt and Scott Nutter – Jerry Cantrell’s band mates in the original Diamond Lie when he lived in the Tacoma area. Kathleen Austin (Demri’s mother) was an invaluable source. David Ballenger (Layne and Jerry’s former boss at the Music Bank) had some great stories, as well as documents from his time running the place. I’m also grateful that I was able to get Dirt engineer Bryan Carlstrom on the record a little more than a year before he passed away. I am profoundly grateful to all of my sources, because they are the ones who made this book what it is.
Did the band have any input in the book?
None. I made several unsuccessful attempts to contact them while I was working on it, and ultimately wrote the book without the authorization or cooperation of the band, their record label, or their management.
What is the most misunderstood thing about Layne Staley?
Layne’s substance abuse issues, as well as his death, have overshadowed a lot of other things about his life. Yes, he was a drug addict, but he was also a wickedly funny guy with an amazing voice. He was also very generous, even before he was rich and famous. Drugs shouldn’t define him. They are part of his story, but not the entire story.
Do you enjoy Alice in Chains’ music with William DuVall on vocals?
Yes. I think he was an inspired choice, not a derivative one. From everything I have seen, read, and heard about him, he doesn’t try to be Layne, even though that’s the standard he’s held to. He has his own musical background and upbringing different from his Alice in Chains bandmates – past and present. He’s confident being himself.
I always wondered what would have happened with the Layne era of the band if drugs didn’t play such a big part behind the scenes. What are your thoughts on this?
I think the subject material in a lot of Layne’s lyrics might have been different. Beyond that, the band probably would have been much more active touring. The last really intensive tour they did with Layne was in 1993 in support of the Dirt album – after that they became a studio band for the most part until they regrouped with William in 2006. There might have been a second Mad Season album in 1996-97. Jerry presumably wouldn’t have felt the need to do two solo albums – Boggy Depot and Degradation Trip might well have become Alice in Chains albums. Assuming that Layne was still alive and had managed to kick his drug addiction, I think it’s safe to say the band would have continued to make records and tour. Remember that of Seattle’s “big four”, the only band that has kept going continuously for the past 25 years is Pearl Jam.
I take it as a compliment that bits from my earlier book, Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, are quoted in your book. Just wanted to say thanks!
One of the reasons I was able to do this book is because of books about the grunge scene like yours and several others that have been written over the years. They gave me background information, as well as names of people to look up and leads to try and verify or elaborate on in greater depth. Your book and others – Mark Yarm’s Everybody Loves Our Town, Pearl Jam’s Pearl Jam Twenty, Charles R. Cross’s Heavier Than Heaven, Jacob McMurray’s Taking Punk to the Masses – were a great road map for me, especially when I was starting out.