Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Mac Sabbath, The World’s Only Fast Food Black Sabbath Tribute

While the legendary outfit Black Sabbath is ending this year, drive thru metal creators Mac Sabbath are starting to get a lot of attention. Mac Sabbath are a Black Sabbath parody band managed by Mike Odd of the comedy metal band Rosemary’s Billgoat. The band covers Ozzy era Black Sabbath songs, but changes the lyrics to be about a certain fast food chain. Though a parody band, they have already shared the stage with huge acts such as Elton John. They are to embark on their Rock,Sham,Shake tour starting on March 3rd. Over the telephone I was able to speak with manager Mike Odd. He talked about the crazy story of how this band came to be and how to best experience them at home.

What made you decide to come up with this project?

I got an anonymous phone call and went down to this burger place. This abomination of a clown dressed in red and yellow and had skull make up notices the food i’m eating and then starts spouting this incredible banter, saying it was my destiny to manage his band. I was looking for the hidden camera. I thought it was a practical joke. He then invited me to a secret show that was happening in the basement of one of these places. So I went to this secret show that only certain people were invited to and it was nothing I ever seen before. So I thought what the hell? I’d work with this guy. He was obviously crazy and was talking about how music and food haven’t been real since the 1970’s and how hes going to bring that back as well as all this talk about tyrannical food control and the government poisoning us. It’s been a hard long road dealing with him, but it’s also been amazing cause it moves so fast because people respond to it so well. Before we even left California, we played a festival in England with Motley Crue, Slipknot and KISS. We then did a tour were we played in Cali and then a festival where we went on right before Elton John.

Can you tell us a bit about some of your song parodies?

One of our most well known songs is one called “Frying Pan” a parody of “Iron Man”. The lyrics are much different. The song is about this clown who is kinda forced into this fast food culture. Here are some of the lyrics: “It’s a culinary crime, our future is pink slime, everybody wants it, turn this grease into gold, excluding the veggies, trimming the cheese of mold”. We also have “Brand of Doom”, which is obviously a parody of “Hand of Doom”. We take every Black Sabbath concept and make it about the ominous evils of fast food. When you are watching the band you are looking at four characters,Ronald Osborne, guitarist Slayer Mac Cheeze,bassist Grimalice and drummer The Cat Burglar. It’s an amazing theatrical show, its not just music and costumes. Ronald does magic and pulls crazy things such as pulling giant straws and burgers out of his pants. We also have lazer eyed skull clown statues! It’s a crazy, over the top show.

With lyrics like that I’m guessing you guys are more against fast food.

Though the band coined the term drive thru metal, they are against drive thru culture.

Ah, kinda like how Sabbath had lyrics about Satan, but because they were warning us about him not worshiping him.

Exactly! I’d say Ronald Osbourne is as misunderstood as Ozzy. I always wondered if Black Sabbath was going to find out about it and then on January 1st, they re-posted our “Frying Pan” video on their Facebook and Twitter and it went viral. It’s now almost at 1,000,000 clicks, so that really helped.

It’d be funny if your “Hand of Doom” parody is what inspired them to play the original song on their final tour, since they haven’t played it since the 70’s.

(laughs) I’d like to think so.

Any plans to put out a studio album?

That is being talked about. Ronald is literally stuck in the 70’s and all new technology angers him. He wants the album to be put out on eight tracks, which no one will buy. Maybe one day they will make a comeback. I never thought cassettes would be back and look what happened.

If you were to cover a song from the Dio era, which song would you choose and what would the parody be called?

I was thinking about covering the “Mob Rules” as “The Swob Drools”, but I don’t know if that will ever happen.

If you were to start another heavy metal parody band based on a different kind of food chain, which food chain would you choose and which band would you parody? 

Funny you ask that cause Ronald is always going on about other drive thru metal bands and how they are ripping him off. He goes on and on about how he started this genre and how all these newcomers are stealing food out of his mouth. He’s always ranting about Cinabon Jovi and Burger King Diamond. This guy does want me to manage KFCDC. I’d be down do it as long as Ronald doesn’t kill me.

KFCDC that would be pretty funny. I notice you play a band called Rosemary’s Billgoat. Does Sabbath influence that band at all?

Absolutely! In my opinion Black Sabbath influenced all the best bands. They are my all time favorite band and I feel they didn’t just influence all of heavy metal but also punk,goth and hard rock in general. Not only am I influenced by them but I’d argue with anyone who said they weren’t.

I‘d definitely agree. Speaking of influences, if you were trapped on a desert island and could only bring one studio album with you which would it be and why? 

I think it would be Master of Reality and a cheeseburger. Thats what I say to people who get on me about making a Mac Sabbath studio album. Closet thing to a Mac Sabbath experience at home.

Richard Patrick Talks Make America Hate Again: ‘It’s A F**k You To Trump For Trying To Alienate Brown People’

From achieving commercial success in the mid-late 90’s with platinum selling hit songs “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and “Take A Picture”, Richard Patrick is not shy, yet humble and confident when speaking in preparation of Filter’s 7th studio album release, “Crazy Eyes” on April 8th 2016. Upon my invite to their NYC album listening party, hosted by Matt Pinfield, Patrick discussed the pre-Filter days as guitarist “Piggy” in Nine Inch Nails to his latest role as head record producer as well as a musician’s approach to an ever-changing lineup.

 RichardPatrick

In explaining Patrick’s ‘break-the-rules’ style of writing, recording and producing, our interview would delve even deeper into his detest of modern-day political & mass-media corruption. What he believes Filter fans desire is the essential return to a non-radio friendly, angry-era that earned Filter its initial mainstream rock success. As Filter prepares for their “Make America Hate” Tour with Orgy, Vampires Everywhere & Death Valley High, I was on hand to learn the very latest in the world of Mr. Richard Patrick.

With your 7th full length record set for an April 8th release, what has your mindset been like during the course of the recording process and currently with its completion?

Patrick: “To speak up and stand by my guns the entire time…To stand by my methodology. That’s why I kind of made myself the producer. I worked with a lot of different, amazing people, but I was always like, “Dude, I’m sorry, you’re going to have to trust me, we’ve got to do it this way!”

With your recent statement regarding the musical direction of your upcoming album “Crazy Eyes,” you were quoted in stating, “The reason this record is so fucking heavy and strange is it’s exactly the opposite of what’s popular. It’s not pretty. It’s not cute. It’s real.”

With that being said, what influences you from a creative standpoint to go against the grain, musically speaking?

Patrick: “You just have to follow your own heart. I listen to so many different kinds of music and at the end of the day you want to make a record that you’re super proud of. I’m not a 22- year-old kid with a pretty smile. I don’t want to make it in the music industry like he does. I want to fuckin’ make something that’s artistic and reflective of my thinking or our generation’s thinking. You know, we live in a crazy time. Every other week, there’s a school shooting. There’s always some nutty thing and I’ve always wanted to kind of understand the crazy…When you turn on the news, they don’t say, “Hey, 2 Million kids went to school safely today…40,000 flights took place without incident.” They don’t say that. Crazy Eyes

For me, we’re all comfortable, we’re all happy, hopefully, but at the same time something will happen and you have to kind of understand that phenomenon. You have to understand what’s going on and I’ve always been fascinated by craziness and lunacy. ‘Crazy Eyes’ was just the most logic answer and I know it’s a good title because a lot of people didn’t really get it and I was like, “Well, let me explain.” That’s what I walk away with from this whole experience.”

Filter is set to kick off its forthcoming US tour, “Make America Hate Again,” Featuring Orgy, Vampires Everywhere and Death Valley High. With such a bold tour title to that of “Make America Hate Again,” where do you feel America currently stands in terms of political correctness, from an international standpoint and where are we headed as a country?

Patrick: “It’s kind of like a warning; it’s kind of like the old, extreme right-wing rhetoric that pulled Hitler to power. He found a group of people that he could blame everything on and he had tons of money when he wrote Mein Kampf. When he became chancellor, every person that joined the Nazi party had to get this book and it made him like a super, rich man. I just see Trump as being the next guy. I just see him as being someone that will say anything to get in office. One minute he hates Megyn Kelly, but before that he said she was an amazing moderator.

You kind of have to have a cynical thing sometimes. Like, Al Jourgenson made a record called, “A Mind is A Terrible Thing To Taste”, and as homage to him, it’s kind of like, Industrial has always been linked to heavy, aggressive, hateful music. Especially Trent and all the other guys and it just was like a tongue-in-cheek kind of mockery. It’s a cynical kind of “fuck you” to the “Make America Great Again” Tour, but with Donald Trump. So, with all of the political, cynicism and with all of the shit that he says, it’s just like, OK, we’re just going to go on tour and make fun of you the whole time.

 Filter Tour 2016

I mean it’s not like it’s some anti-Trump rally, it’s just the name of a tour. The last tour name before that was The ‘Anti-Folk Revival Tour in Drop D’. There’s a sense of humor to this band and I always like to tell jokes in a joking fashion. It’s The “Make America Hate Again” Tour because we’re dangerously close. Like I was saying with Hitler, he’s blaming brown people. Doesn’t matter if you come from Mexico, doesn’t matter. They’re not the problem. The problem is that corporations have way too much power in Congress and the government and they’re rigging the system so that they don’t pay taxes, but we do. We pay for all these crazy wars they come up with. So, to me it’s like a call-to-action. Make America hate on crazy right-wing nut bars that want to fuckin’ believe that Jesus told them to invade Iraq. George Bush, ya’ know?

Since we have a new tour on April 13th called The “Make America Hate Again” Tour. It’s kind of a “Fuck You!” to Donald Trump and all his efforts to alienate brown people. Even though he says he wants to help the middle-class, he doesn’t give a flying fuck. He just wants to hire his fuckin’ buddies to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out. “I’ve got a great idea, we’ll make millions. We’ll build a wall to go across the Southern border. It’s so easy to see, so as a joke, we’re just like, “Oh yeah, Make America Hate Again, yeah that’s what we’re doing.”

 PatrickFilter2016

As far as Orgy, Vampires Everywhere & Death Valley High being included on Filter’s upcoming US Spring Tour, are these artists that Filter wanted as part of the tour, a booking agency and record label decision, or a little of both?

Patrick: “We’re of similar ilk age, ya’ know? We’re birds of a feather and we stick together. I think that there hasn’t been a real, kind of heavy industrial tour in a long time and I haven’t chilled out, I’ve gotten meaner, I’ve gotten tougher. I wanted a band that plays heavy music without a bunch of guitars. Even though we love our guitars and we play them as loud as we can, there’s more than Industrial nod to this record. So, I wanted to tour with a band where we could put all our fans in one place and rock out with.”

In Billboard.com’s review of ‘Crazy Eyes,’ they stated the following:
“Crazy Eyes is hardly bereft of guitars but there are a substantial amount of electronics and effects in use. The result features heavy industrial crunch and solemn, ambient songs that reach back to Patrick’s time in Nine Inch Nails and the first Filter album, 1995’s Short Bus.” 

What is your opinion on their summarized depiction of the record?

Patrick: “Trent in 1988 was in a band called “The Exotic Birds” and I was in a band called “The AKT”. We were both really listening to bands like Ministry, With Sympathy, Skinny Puppy and we realized that you could be as mean as shit and you can use keyboards. Most stuff sounded like Kraftwerks or Depeche Mode. Depeche mode was awesome, but they were so specifically Depeche Mode. So, we were worried that we had to be like Information Society or something. When I was in Nine Inch Nails, I jumped on at the end when he recorded “Pretty Hate Machine” and then he released “Broken”. There’s a huge sonic change from those two records and he thanked his live band for being an influence. That credit on that EP was the fact that I was always saying, “We’ve got to fucking make it heavy and mean, man. We’ve got to fucking drop our balls down a little bit and fucking flex our muscles, be mean and fucking make heavy music.

PatrickNIN

I’m not claiming anything, but when you’re hearing that all the time, it was just coming from that point of view of, “Let’s say mean shit, fucking say it, scream and be angry because we were fucking angry. When we started the NIN Tour, we felt we’d never make it. I mean Bon Jovi and all that shit was always going to be there. We hoped it was going to go someplace, but we were downtrodden, pissed off musicians that had been picked on because we didn’t have Marshall amplifiers or something. Eventually we did get some Marshall amplifiers, but we were picked on because we were using synthesizers, samplers, fake drums. We had Simmons pads, we didn’t have real drums. We were all about breaking all those rules.

I miss drunk Ritchie from “Short Bus” screaming at people, “Do it this way, motherfucker!” I miss that guy. It took him to make this record, except that he wasn’t so angry, he just got his way. I worked with Amy Cappello on a bunch of songs. I produced it and co-produced it with a lot of different people and a lot of really great musicians. It was extremely important that I go, “Look, I’m sorry, this is just not going the way I want it to go, so let’s just stop this and start over on something else, let’s create something new. It takes the artist as well as the producer to really have all the final say.

I had to place myself in that position because no matter what was going on in Filter on those first 3 records, I was always getting my way. I was always the guy saying yes or no. To my detriment, in Amalgamut, I think some of the lyrics weren’t good enough and I was at the tail end of my drug problem. I’m not a perfect song writer, but I am song writing problems with dynamics, instrument change and arrangements. When I sang “Head of Fire,” I just kept on going like, “Head of Fire” in the 2nd verse. It just turned into this weird 10-bar extras bar. Normal verses are supposed to be like 8-bars and I just kept going. It went on until like 12- bars and I just kept repeating. I love that. I love not just being traditional.

I love breaking all the rules. In the middle of “Mother Eve,” it breaks down to a cello when he realizes what he’s doing, this person I was trying to understand, I just broke it down and had him sing like he was a little scared kid. I sang like I was this scared kid because I think he realized he was doing some pretty horrible shit. Then he rebuilt his energy and said, “I’ve got my reasons.” Then I’d break down to a cello part. That’s more fun than just, “OK, the intro’s done, let’s do the 1st verse and then we’ll do the chorus.” It just got really redundant on other records. So, for this record, it was just like, “Let’s just do it this way, fuck it. I know it’s not right. I know it’s not the traditional way. Let’s just do something weird” and all of that is why people like it. It’s reflective of that kid who didn’t necessarily know what he was doing, but created something original anyway.”

With so many recent losses in the world of hard rock, what are your thoughts on the recent passing of Stone Temple Pilot’s frontman, Scott Weiland?

Patrick: “I mean it was expected. I’ve been in recovery for a long time and people die every other week. It’s a sad place in America right now where kids are getting hooked on heroin. They go to rehab, then they come back out and then do heroin, overdose and die. That’s why I took to the internet. It was like, “Dude, what the fuck are you doing?” in talking about it in interviews. When I got sober, it was just one voicemail that really, really stuck in my head. It was this old girlfriend going, “You are a fucking loser. You’re fucking blowing it. You’re not getting away with it. You’re a fucking asshole. You’ve treated me like shit. I’ve got one fucking word. Rehab! Go to that fucking shit.”

SW

It was so mean, but it was so like, “Wow, she’s not holding back.” It was so honest that a couple of days later, I was in rehab and that was it. When it comes to Scott, it was not a shock. It wasn’t a surprise and it’s sad because he really was amazing, but he could never just hold onto being OK with himself. He could never self-diagnose himself as a person that was just addicted. There was a week where he was sober and I had seen his last interview. He was completely lucid. He wasn’t stuttering & he wasn’t slow. I think what happened was he went back to his normal amount and killed himself because his heart wasn’t ready for it. Just from observation and from knowing addiction, it looked like he kind of fell apart, went out, did some cocaine and it was just enough to kill him.”

Upon the release of 2006’s Army of Anyone record, considering your prior collaborations with the DeLeo brothers of Stone Temple Pilots & drummer Ray Luzier, what was your experience like working with them and is their potential to create music with them in the future?

Army_of_Anyone_-_Cover_-_2006         Army.Of.Anyone

Patrick: “It was a true band. We’d go into rehearsal hall every other day and play the music. We did the demos kind of like the way I do records, which is just write with a computer and approximate the drums, but then we rehearsed it and were a band. So, it was very much like a band experience. I had never been in a band like that, but it was cool, I love it and maybe one day we’ll do another.”

What is your current opinion on the overall state of the music industry in 2016?

Patrick: “I think Pledge Music is unbelievably fucking cool. You know, you’ve got kids that are willing to put their money where their mouths are. They’re like, “OK, I’ve got the signed CD and it’s not coming out for months. I’ve got the poster.” Then they tune in and they see us making the record and they comment, “Wow, that sounds really cool!” and you start to get a rapport with all these people watching you make this record and you learn from them. They specifically told me, they want “Crazy Rich.” They don’t want fuckin’ together, happy married, adjusted Richard Patrick. They want fuckin’ nuttier! The nuttier that they met on “Short Bus;” they want that young, alcoholic nut bag who says anything he wants. He writes songs about fuckin’ guys that hold press conferences and then blow their heads off. I’m like, “OK, shit, that’s fine.” Then showing it to all the other people, I’m like, “No, we’re not going to make another pretty radio song. We’re going to fucking just go crazy.” That’s the good part!”

In having the privilege to attend Filter’s “Crazy Eyes” album listening party in NYC last week, hosted by Matt Pinfield, how did you feel in response to the positive praise your latest works received by those in attendance?

Patrick: “I was really happy, I mean, I like this record. I listen to this record in the car a lot. This is a record that I’ve listened to a lot ever since it was made. Even though it’s done and I’ve heard every little version of it, I still like to listen to it. It’s fun. You get in your car and you’re just like, “Oh, shit, I want to hear “Nothing In My Hands.” I think the song-writing behind that was really cool. I’m just a proud papa and it’s nice to get that validation from my colleagues in the industry. You get up, you pull your pants down and you’re like, “Here it is!”

In 1993, you departed from NIN & signed with Warner Bros. in 1995 releasing Short Bus with the instant classic hit, ‘Hey Man, Nice Shot.’ At what point in being on the road as a guitarist with NIN, did you feel ready to embark out on your own in writing music on your own terms?

 NINPatrick2

Patrick: “From the moment I was in Nine Inch Nails, I was like, “Man, one of these days, I’m gonna’ do my thing.” Then it just became obvious. I mean it was so geared to support Trent and no one else and maybe if you did all this, maybe you’d get a little credit. And I just believed in myself and knew that I could do it. I quit a band right before the pinnacle of their career and I split to just be my own man. I think that takes a lot of guts, it was really risky, it could have gone south and I just believed in myself and went for it. I’m sitting here talking to you today talking to you about a career that’s lasted 30 years.”

Considering that digital streaming & download services such as iTunes & Spotify have completely reinvented how music is heard and purchased, what are your thoughts regarding physical vs. digital music?

Patrick: “I buy digital music off of iTunes all the time. I Shazam something in an airport or in a club or something; I Shazam it, I buy it. I am fully digital, but you know, CD’s are amazing because you get the artwork, you get to look at the lyrics, you get to look at the behind-the-scenes photos or something. And then of course LP, that’s the ultimate old-school, “Oh, wow, there’s a big, huge picture.” I was a CD baby because the quality was right there. There was no scratching and usually 9-times-out-of-10 it wouldn’t skip. I appreciate CD’s, but I’ve been digital for 10 years.

So, however it gets to you and as long as you’re paying for it because honestly, people have to know that if you didn’t pay for it, you’re not helping the band. You’re enjoying the music for free. You’ve got to fuckin’ pay for the cheeseburger. You can’t just walk into someone’s house and take $15 bucks out of someone’s wallet and then walk out with their song. You can’t do that. You got to know the difference between stealing from being cool to the band and paying them what they’re deserved. Everyone has to make money. Instead of kids buying CD’s, they bought hard drives and just fuckin’ raped everybody. That’s why I love Pledge. I can’t say enough from Pledge Music. I mean it was so reassuring to just get financial reinforcement to go make a record that they liked enough to buy before even hearing it. They had heard bits and pieces online, but they just trusted and believed in us and that was a really great, reassuring thing.”

Fans of the rock community may or may not be aware that you are related to actor Robert Patrick, most notable for his role as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, among various other roles both on-screen and behind the scenes. Were you both creative and artistically inclined from an early age and did either close friends or family members play a role influencing your career?

richard-robert-patrickPatrick: “Robert and I were just crazy. He was growing up in Michigan then I came around and was growing up in Ohio. He was waiting tables and I was not really doing well at school because I had really bad ADHD. So, he was just like, “Look, let’s fuckin’ go for it. I’m going to go off and be an actor. I believe in myself enough, I just want to go do it. I want to be Steve McQueen, man. And I’m just like, “Hell, if you’re going to do that, I want to fuckin’ play my guitar and I’d rather sing, perform and fuckin’ enjoy it. Yeah man, we should do it!” My parents were like, “Wow! You actually did this shit! He sings and I act, ya’ know. So, hopefully I can act this year and get out behind my normal comfort zone.”

In going public about your struggles with drug & alcohol abuse to your success with sobriety, do you feel Filter has been more artistically expressive as a band, pre or post sobriety?

Patrick: “That’s a hard question. I think that part of my success was the fact that I would literally threaten your life if you got in-between me and what I wanted to do with my music. I was so drunk and in-your-face and so ADHD and so unhinged that I kind of got what I wanted. When you get sober, they teach you to go with-the-flow and treat people with respect. So, you can kind of go overboard and be like, “Fuck what you think! I think we should go into a regular, traditional bridge and we should do the regular, traditional chorus instead of being like, “Fuck it! I want to do this. I hear it in my fuckin’ head. You know? There’s a difference, so. Especially on this record, I had to be like, “What were you doing back in the day? You were just hearing what you wanted to do and knocking the mouse out of someone’s hand and you’d sit at the computer, fuckin’ bang on it and probably erase half the song accidentally, but sit there and actually make it work. I needed to have that anger and that edge and I just kind of made it.”

In terms of song-writing and considering you’re a guitarist, vocalist and self-produced musician, are you geared more towards the digital Pro Tools approach of recording or are you more analog driven?

Patrick: “Pro Tools! I’ve been Pro Tools since 1993. We bought our first gigabyte hard drive, it cost $4,000.00 because our ADAT tapes were eating up the fuckin’ tape and we were like, “Fuck!” You had to wait 5 seconds before you could start recording. You couldn’t just hit a space bar. I remember our computer would crash and we’d have to wait 15-minutes while it was booting up again. And then you’d lose like he mood you’re in and you’re like. “What were we doing?”

PatrickStudio

I want it all right now. Like, take this out right now. Truncate that, fix it, edit this, move this, this amp sucks, go back into the plug-ins. No amplifiers on this record. We use fuckin’ plug-ins. It’s your ears that tell you what’s good or bad. It doesn’t matter how you mic a fuckin’ old 1968 old twin reverb. Who gives a fuck? It’s about getting in there and making it sound good right now, let’s go! “I’m hungry! I want to go get some lunch. Fuckin’ make this perfect, I can’t leave hear until it’s perfectly crazy or fucked up. Yeah, it’s always been just me, a dude and a computer. The first 3-songs I wrote, I was with Lumpy and John Radtke. That was, “Nothing In My Hands,” “Your Bullets” and “Head of Fire.”

What is the basis for how Filter approaches writing music? Has it always been centered around the guitar or do other electronic elements come into play?

Patrick: ”Well, you need something to play notes and chords. So, for me, I just grab a guitar, I just grab a little acoustic guitar I have and think, “Let’s get a cool sound.” Then we’ll mess with that and it will inspire something. There’s never the same road. It’s always, every time it’s always a different road.”

With the commercial success of 1995’s Short Bus record, did you ever have the gut-feeling that “Hey Man, Nice Shot” would inevitably become such a huge hit single?

  Short BusbuddFilterCover

Patrick: “I had no idea. I knew it was really cool to me and I was like, “Fuck, this is something I would listen to.” There’s a lot of shit you come up with where you don’t even want to be in the same room when someone tries to play it. They all sit there and they don’t get it and you’re like, “Ahh fuck, I hate this!” “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” I’d be with my buddies and be like, “Listen to this shit, I can’t believe I did it!” I’m really happy it’s a huge it. That’s what we all want. For me, I just want to touch people’s ears. I want to touch people’s lives. I want to give them something they can release to towards their anger.”

The black wave-like Filter symbol can be found on the cover of both Short Bus and ‘Crazy Eyes.’ If you could elaborate on the meaning behind this symbol?
Patrick: “The Zoom Zoom. One goes right, the other one goes left. It’s a yin yang. An artist came up with it and I just always liked it. I thought it was like the NBC logo or those old logos, TWA. It’s just a cool symbol for the band. We kind of went some other places with it, but then I felt that that logo and symbol were the things I like. I want to make a backdrop that’s just one, big, huge, red backdrop with a white circle and the symbol right in the middle. It’s like full-on propaganda looking thing. My general manager’s like “It’s a Zoom Zoom! It goes Zoom this way and Zooms that way!”

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Interview: Anthrax’s Charlie Benante Discusses World Tour And New Record

GMGLOGOHeader While attending the NAMM 2016 Convention in Anaheim, CA last week, I was honored in being presented with an opportunity via AlternativeNation.net, to interview, one of heavy metal’s best drummer’s, the one…the only…Charlie Benante of Anthrax.

As the band is currently embarked on a massive 43 date world tour and set to release their 11th studio album, ‘For All Kings,’ on February 26th, Benante took the time out of his busy schedule to speak with me.

FAKHow do you as well as the entire band feel to be celebrating Anthrax’s 35th Anniversary in what will be your 11th studio album, ‘For All Kings,’ set for a February 26th release?

Benante: Well I know we’re all pretty stoked about the record and the way it turned out. I think we made a really good record and the feedback so far…the people who’ve heard it kind of agree, so that’s a really good thing. I love good momentum. It makes everybody happy and in this time that we’re living in, especially musically speaking, if you can make a record that has more than 4 or 5 songs deep and it has a good variety of songs. You don’t frontload it with those first couple of songs. You continue the record taking the listener on a journey, musically speaking. I think you’ve really got something there.”

From 1st conception & recording ‘Worship Music’ to its completion in 2011, did you expect to receive such high praise from various rock & heavy metal media outlets? to name a few: Guitar World, Metal Hammer, Revolver, That Metal Show. When you were on That Metal Show, Eddie Trunk certainly expressed nothing less than how impressed he was with the record.

anthrax-worship-musicWere you also surprised when Worship Music received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock/Metal Performance (or) did you have a strong feeling it was going to happen?

Benante: “We had no expectations for that whole record. It’s really hard to say what a record’s going to do or how it’s going to be received. Basically you’re doing the best you possibly could do and until it’s out there and until people are hearing good feedback, I guess that’s how you know you’ve done something good. We’re so close to it that it’s hard to look outside because we’re inside of it, so it’s really nice when you hear good feedback on the outside.”

We live in a time where everybody has an opinion and everyone’s opinion can be featured somewhere, whether it’s an online column and everybody has their form because of the internet. I just find it really shitty that someone who never really produced anything, musically speaking, can just say, “I don’t really like it.” It just sucks because you put so much work into a record and someone disapproves.”

How are you holding up with your bout of carpal tunnel post-surgery? Have you had slight symptoms of it in the past or more recently, say around 2011?

Benante: “I struggled with carpal tunnel for about 15 years to the point where I was going anywhere from acupuncture to chiropractor to actually getting a shot or two of cortisone to dipping my hand in a bucket of ice water during a show to buying a can of air. You turn it upside down and spray it on your wrist to get the frozen aspect of it and hopefully it wakes your hand up so I could get the feeling back in my hand. I couldn’t deal with anything. I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing because of the situation. My Paiste rep, a symbol company, referred me to this doctor in LA. I went there and had a consultation done. So, he examined exactly what the problem was and I went for the operation and it was a success.

My problem now is I can play fine, I play great, but once I get past the three-week period on tour, it starts to get fucked up again. Not the way it was, but I need to take a little bit of a rest from it. A good friend, Jon Dette will come and fill in. I’m so happy that we have someone like Jon Dette. I jokingly would say that he’s my right-hand man, which is true because it’s my right hand.”

What date was it on the ‘Worship Music’ tour when you realized you were physically unable to play drums? Was drummer, John Dette your first choice to temporarily fill-in for the last tour & will he fill in on this tour as well?

Benante: “Yes he will. John will come out for just a few shows. You see, with the whole ‘Worship Music’ thing, you have to understand that we played over 300 shows on that tour and in the middle of all this, my mom got sick and she passed away during that whole Worship Music Tour, which took me out of the game for a bit to go be with her. Towards the end of the carpal tunnel thing, it just became too much for me and that’s when I decided to have the surgery. It was a very emotional time, but I didn’t want to hold the band back, so they went ahead with shows. During the time my mom was sick, Jason Bittner came in, did some shows and then Jon Dette came in and then basically stayed.”
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Once you confirmed Dette as your replacement and took time off to heal, did you know you were eventually going to emerge with having written 20 new songs, some of which would end up on ‘For All Kings?’

Benante: “I just went into my studio and started to compile stuff. I was so happy with what was coming out that good momentum just carried over and when I would listen back to some of the riffs and some of the ideas, I was completely happy because I felt like, “wow, this was a breakthrough!” The ideas and the songs were really strong and I couldn’t wait to show everybody the stuff. I had demos that I’d send out of the songs and I’d get, “Great, can’t wait to get in a room and actually play this and work on the album.” So, it was good all-around because they knew even though I wasn’t with them for some of the shows, I was being productive, which was really important because I didn’t want to just sit on my ass. Once I was able to use my hand again, I would go right into it.”

You are highly revered as one of rock and metal’s greatest drummers. What steps have you taken in your music career that have equated to earning this spot and reputation as a drummer?

Benante: “I think you set up certain standards. I’ve always kind of believed in the Neil Pert way of making records where I’m trying to step it up every time I do something. You’re trying to better yourself. You’re also trying to make your audience or your listeners more interested. So, if you can up it, I think that’s important.”

Since the departure of lead guitarist Rob Caggiano, was Jon Donais of Shadows Fall someone you had in the back of your mind to recruit?
JonDonaisBenante:
“Rob pretty much took care of that situation. He asked Jon before we even knew what his decision was going to be and he did it. We all knew Jon, we all like Jon. So, it was a pretty smooth transition.”

What is the overall energy like now that Jon Donais is the official 5th member and does the band feel a sense of comradery?

Benante: “I think he fit in very well with us from the start. He’s a great guy, great guitar player, easy to work with and he just loves metal!

Scott Ian recently interviewed with EMP LiVE TV about 2 months ago. In terms of what fans could expect to hear on the next record, he was quoted in stating “It’s A Fucking Metal Record.” As for yourself, you have referred to it as “Aggressive and super-thrashy.” Did Jon Donais have any influence on the band taking this creative approach?

Benante: “Nope, I think it had to do, especially with the first 3-songs that were written for the record,  “You Gotta Believe,” “Evil Twin” and a song called “Zero Tolerance” and when it came off of that whole “Worship Music” cycle, a lot of those bands that were helping us, like Exodus and Death Angel, just had an old-school thrash vibe. I think sub-consciously it just came in and I think it just stayed with me and those were the first 3-songs that kind of came out. After that, there were a few other tunes that were written and then like 6 or 7 songs that gave us a sigh of relief. Then there were other types of music, like the song “Blood Evil Wings” and all songs that are a little different than those other songs I mentioned. I’m happy because to me, a record should be a variety under that umbrella of hard rock and heavy metal, you know?”

The lyrics in the 1st track, “Evil Twin” state:

“You represent your discontentSlaughtering the innocent
Insolence
You’re no martyrs
The arrogance to reinvent
The holy words their meanings rent
Evil twin
You’re no martyrs”

Considering the song and lyrics pertain to modern day terrorism & the song calls out religious and political extremism, what initially inspired the band to write this song? Who’s idea was it initially?

Benante “Everybody is afraid to touch the topic of religion, especially with the extreme muslims. It’s such a touchy subject. You can attack any other religion and nothing bad will come about, but I think those that are extremists, the way they are taught or the way, as I’d like to say, “brain-washed.” they’re not of sound mind, They’re of a different mind. I think you should enjoy this life that you are given on this earth because we really don’t know what it is in the afterlife. We can definitely prove that this life is this life here because we wake up every day and do the same thing that we do.  The afterlife I’m not so sure about. So, I don’t understand why you’d want to hurt other people in thinking that you’ll go on in the afterlife to have bliss. I just don’t understand it.”

From the tragic loss of Pantera’s late, great Dimebag Darrell in 2004 to the more recent attacks at both The Charlie Hebdo building & The Eagles of Death Metal concertWhat are your thoughts on live event safety as a concert-goer and in terms of a band’s on-stage safety?

Benante: “It’s something that I am very aware of. I will always look to my left and right most of the time (laughs). I am very concerned about the audience, for their safety and ours. I think especially coming this Summer with festivals, somewhere like France, it’s pretty scary. I don’t understand why someone would want to fuck up such a fun time. We are concerned about safety.”

You seem to be the American Bruce Dickinson or renaissance man (if you will), drummer, guitarist, lyricist, songwriter, band leader, overseeing Anthrax’s marketing, merchandising, artwork & now with recently announcing ‘Benante’s Blend’ in early-mid 2015.” The coffee comes in two different varieties: ‘Be All End All’ blend which is a dark roast with a real kick, and the ‘Forever Metal’ blend, a milder coffee. ‘Benante’s Blend’ is currently available via your website, www.charliebenante.com/Store/

images(12)Tell us a bit about your appreciation as the coffee connoisseur you are and the decision to begin selling your own coffee line?

Benante: “Back many years ago, Dave Mustaine & myself released two coffees. I was 100% into it. It was a great moment and then something happened somewhere and it just stopped happening. I always said, “I’m going to continue this!” It took me a couple of years to find the right people to help me do it, but I did and I met with roasters and told them what I was looking for. We got together and tried each bean and kind of came up with a few together and we put it all in a pot and made it work. It just tasted great and I said, “This is it! This is the coffee I want.” And I just sell it online. Of course I’d like to branch out and get it into places, but I’m doing it very organically.”

How do you and the band feel to currently be on a 4-week/43-date tour with Lamb of God in celebration of Anthrax’s 35th anniversary. You also have opening support acts, DeafHeaven & Power Trip. Tell us a bit about how this Anthrax and Lamb of God tour came to fruition?
LOG Anthrax FlyerBenante:
“We’ve known each other for quite a long time and were contacted about doing it. We agreed it would make a great package and a good tour for fans to see. As far as the other bands go, I’ve been a Deafheaven fan for a bit now and the band Power Trip, I love them too! I think they’re great! Overall, I think it’s a great package!”

As of March 1st, you’re set to tour with Iron Maiden in Monterrey, Mexico & on April 28th with Megadeth in San Juan, Puerto Rico? What are your thoughts on touring with both bands in 2016, especially with Megadeth given that both bands are 2 of THE BIG 4?

Benante: “The Maiden thing is going to be pretty cool. You know, it’s South American shows, they’re going to be huge shows, so I’m very happy about that.”

Worship Music certainly had interesting artwork displaying zombified, deformed creatures gravitating towards the Anthrax symbol. With a similar theme on the “For All Kings” cover, who was the artist who created the art for both records?

Benante: “The cover concept I worked with Alex Ross on. Basically, it was just my vision of how I wanted the covers to be and how I wanted them to look. I collaborated with Alex on them. For instance, this new one, I’m trying to tie-in the last three covers: “We’ve Come For You All,” “Worship Music” and now this one, they’re all in the same world. So, when I met with Alex, he started discussing it. My first idea, he didn’t really like that much, so I scrapped that and then I talked to him about this other concept that I had and that’s when he said, “Well now I think you’ve got something.” We bounced back and forth; he made the composition and felt it was better to have the kings positioned in a way where it shows the depth of the hall, the stained glass window with the beam shining through. So, he went with that and it just turned out amazing. I love it and can’t stop looking at it.”

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What is your opinion on physical media versus digital downloads & streaming services?

Benante: “I don’t like streaming. I hate all that crap. I’d rather be a fan and have the piece in front of you where you could read the liner notes and everything about it instead of just consume. Enjoy it that way. It’s just a digital file. I know that’s how things have gotten, but I appreciate to listen to it the way it was intended to be listened to. The way the intro to the record starts. I just want you to stare at the cover, get absorbed in the whole vibe and let it take you on that journey.”

In your opinion, what is the current state of heavy metal music? What newer bands do you believe are currently making an impact?

Benante: “Some bands that are doing something new and something different. I’ve always been a Ghost supporter. I love the band Deafheaven, who’s out with us. I love the band Rival Sons. So, there are some really good bands. You just have to search a little bit.”

What are your thoughts on the recent passing of Motorhead’s, Lemmy Kilmister and the webcast memorial that was recently posted via YouTube?

Benante: “I played at his 70th birthday two weeks prior to his death. It was pretty shocking when I saw him. He didn’t really look that well and I thought to myself, “Lemmy doesn’t look so good.” Then I got the word and thought it was pretty shitty. We lost someone that was very important to this whole thing that we call metal and hard rock.”

How do you feel about the cancelation of Eddie Trunk’s, That Metal Show?

Benante: “It was pretty sad. I had a feeling it was coming and I think they did too. Maybe it gets picked up by some other outlet and maybe it can be better than it was. I just think it was a good show. It was kind of fun and I always equated it to a sports show for music. So, maybe it will get picked up.”

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Official Anthrax Tour Dates

  Date Venue Location
  Jan 31 Orbit Room Grand Rapids, MI
  Feb 02 Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland Kansas City, MO
  Feb 03 Anthrax Fayetteville, AR
  Feb 04 Revention Music Center Houston, TX
  Feb 05 Bomb Factory Dallas, TX
  Feb 06 Concrete Street Pavilion Corpus Christi, TX
  Feb 08 Anthrax Instore Signing Austin, TX
  Feb 08 ACL Live at the Moody Theatre Austin, TX
  Feb 09 Diamond Ballroom Oklahoma City, OK
  Feb 10 Anthrax Albuquerque, NM
  Feb 11 Instore Signing Las Vegas, NV
  Feb 11 Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, NV
  Feb 12 Hollywood Palladium Los Angeles, CA
  Feb 26 Scott Ian, Frank Bello Q&A + Signing New York, NY
  Mar 01 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Monterrey, Mexico
  Mar 03 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Granjas Mexico, Mexico
  Mar 04 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Granjas Mexico, Mexico
  Mar 06 Estadio Jorge Magico Gonzalez San Salvador, El Salvador
  Mar 08 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Versalles, Costa Rica
  Mar 11 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Santiago, Chile
  Mar 13 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Cordoba, Argentina
  Mar 15 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Buenos Aires, Argentina
  Mar 17 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  Mar 19 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  Mar 22 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Brasilia, Brazil
  Mar 24 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Fortaleza, Brazil
  Mar 26 Anthrax w/ Iron Maiden Sao Paulo, Brazil
  Apr 28 Anthrax w/ Megadeth San Juan, PR
  Apr 30 Anthrax @ Fort Rock Fort Myers, FL
  May 01 Anthrax @ Rocksville Jacksonville, FL
  May 07 Anthrax @ Carolina Rebellion Concord, NC
  May 21 Anthrax @ Rock’n Derby Schaghticoke, NY
  Jun 11 Anthrax @ SwedenRock Sölvesborg, Sweden
  Jun 12 PARKING BODART Leuven, Belgium
  Jun 17 Anthrax @ HELLFEST Clisson, France
  Jun 19 Anthrax @ Graspop Dessel, Belgium

 

 

 

 

Interview: Filter’s Richard Patrick Talks Collaborating With NIN Members & Praises Alternative Nation

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.

Scott Weiland: A High School To Core Retrospective

Written by Corey Hickok and Brett Buchanan

This is the first installment in Alternative Nation’s ‘Deep Cuts’ series, from Scott Weiland’s best friend and Mighty Joe Young/Swing/Soi-Disant bandmate Corey Hickok.  Alternative Nation will be launching a new section soon featuring more articles like this.  Check back tomorrow for an exclusive behind the scenes look at the recording of ‘Core’ and Stone Temple Pilots’ early shows touring the album.  Thanks to David Allin for many of the high school photos.

The year was 1984. We sat outside of Scott’s parents brand new house in downtown Huntington Beach. Scott’s mom had a very special gift in the kitchen, and could cook as good as any gourmet chef. Our stomachs were content from a healthy portion of her famous beef brisket. We sipped on hot tea and sat across from each other, discussing our future. We weren’t just talking, but mapping out our future as rock stars. I know it sounds trite, but we had decided our dedication and passion would lead us to a life of waking up every morning with music as our livelihood. We exchanged thoughts on what luxuries life would allow us as we rocked the world with our music. But at this moment, the love we had for our musical endeavors seemed to minor in a love for food.

I vividly remember Paris coming up as a place we’d go to dine at the finest France had to offer. The luxury of being able to order anything off the menu regardless of price excited us. We chuckled, and Scott had a way of shaking his leg in a back and forth motion whenever he was overly stimulated. It was a surefire sign that he was in the best of moods. Back in those days, that occurred on a regular basis.

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Scott and his family moved to Huntington Beach, CA from Chagrin Falls, OH in 1983.  He went to Edison High School as a freshman, playing football and singing in the choir. Scott would come to watch my brother Ross and I play in our band Awkward Positions, and he was intrigued by the whole idea of creating music. As that band came to an end, I asked Scott if he would like to sing for a new band I was forming. He jumped at the opportunity, and we went to play together for the first time at a drummer named David Allin’s house. There was immediate chemistry, and we started looking for a bass player, who initially ended up being Dave Stokes. When it came to picking out a name, Scott settled on Soi-Disant. It was a French name, meaning style of oneself.

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Soi-Disant perform live.

In choir, Scott was in ensemble, which was the best of the best, so he had total knowledge of how to sing professionally. He had perfect pitch, but as far as finding himself and who he was as a singer in a band, it was a process to find his voice. He had been sheltered from a lot of music in Ohio, which had a vastly different scene to southern California. I brought a lot of post punk influences into the band, and I shared them with Scott. Early Cure, the Psychadelic Furs, The Jam, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, bands with a punk energy, but with great melodies and hooks.

The Cure’s “Killing An Arab” was one of the early songs we covered.  I also remember turning him onto David Bowie, and he really liked Duran Duran. Scott started teaching me how to sing harmonies, and we synced perfectly. We could sing just acapaella, and it would sound almost like a chorus pedal. I was progressing as a singer, and he starting to find out who he wanted to be musically.

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Soi-Disant: (back, left to right) David Allin, Corey Hickok, Scott Weiland, (front) Britt Willits, and Scott Tubbs.

I was just getting to know Scott, but at the time I had a tight knit group of close friends, and on weekends I’d always go hang out with them. Scott was eager to spend more time with me, ‘Hey, why can’t I hang out with you?’ He wanted to hang out with me more because of what we were doing musically, but I only had so many friends, and it took a little time for me to consider someone a best friend.

During sophomore year, Scott’s parents found a very small amount of cocaine in his room, and they had paramedics come to our school and put him on a gurney, in front of everybody. He was put on lockdown in Orange at a place called Care Unit. They told him, ‘You have to partake in this program. You’ve got problems, so you better admit it!’ He told them he didn’t have any problems, and at the time, he didn’t. He was a kid dabbling recreationally, and he made a mistake, but it led to rumors at school. Everyone at school thought Scott had a drug problem, so I had to go around and tell everyone that he didn’t.

Scott called me from Care Unit, ‘Hey Corey man, can you come here?’ I went up there, and it was very emotional. I asked him what I could do for him, and he said, ‘I just need a good friend.’ I committed to him, ‘I’ll be your best friend.’ After that, not only were we partners in music, but we were best friends. I alienated a lot of other friends I had, and I was with Scott always for the rest of high school. We looked after each other through thick and thin, and always had each other’s backs.

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Our band became complete when we added a new bass player and keyboardist. There was a really talented band when I was in junior high called Tubbs and Company: Shawn, Lonnie, and Scott Tubbs. Scott would become our bass player after Dave, and Britt Willits became our keyboardist. Shawn and Lonnie would also play with us from time to time. Once Scott joined Soi-Disant, we got serious. As we started to play live, most people said it sounded like Duran Duran, but I was trying to infuse some more angst into our sound. Early songs titles included “Forever Four” and “In The Moonlight.”

Our school had banned bands from playing at lunch in 1980 after this one punk band played and the kids just screwed up the whole school. We were the first band they allowed to come back and play. At lunch when the kids would come out, we’d be playing the middle of the quad. We were definitely the high school band.

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Eventually we started playing at all of the different parties, the ‘jock’ parties. We got pretty popular, as a lot of the women started liking what we were doing (and the way we looked). A lot of the jocks started getting really jealous. We’d play these parties, and we were taking away the attention of all the girls. We got in some fights with the jocks, and Scott was a really good fighter. These jocks were messing with the wrong guy. He was one of those guys who would take you down no matter what, it didn’t matter how big you were.

There was one occasion where a few guys ganged up on Scott, and Scott didn’t forget it. Years later, when Stone Temple Pilots played on the main stage at Irvine Meadows for the first time in 1993, Scott said on stage something along the lines of, ‘It’s funny, here I am back in my hometown, and some of you guys who used to want to start fights with me now are now watching me play here. How do you like that?’

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We knew we had to take Soi-Disant to the next level, and we had to get out of the party scene in Orange County and play in Los Angeles. We played at ‘pay to play’ venues like The Roxy and the Whiskey, where you had to sell tickets in order to play. We got clever, figuring out that we could rent tour buses and then factor that into the ticket prices.

We’d have two tour buses show up in front of our high school, and mostly pack them with girls. Up to 200 kids would be driven up to LA, and the shows would be sold out. We were 17 years old and selling out The Roxy.  Music industry people were shocked that a teenage band from Orange County could manage to sell out a club in LA.

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We also would play at a 21 and over dance club in Orange County called Déjà Vu, so we all had to get fake ID’s. The guy who ran the club, Tom, let us play once a week and jam in between the DJ, and it took off. We got a whole different type of following, and it did a lot for us. Tom was such a big supporter that he paid for us to do a demo called “Divine Right.”

While we were playing at Déjà Vu, at the end of our sets we’d close with “Louie Louie.” One night, we asked if anybody in the audience knew how to play bass, and a guy rose his hand, so we invited him on stage, and he absolutely killed it. His name was Robert DeLeo. The next time we played, he was there again, and it became a regular occurrence.

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We graduated in 1986, celebrating with a trip to Hawaii. As we looked towards the future, Scott and I were determined that we were going to make it in the music industry, and Britt was on board as well. We were maturing, and wanted a new sound to take us to the next level. We had heard that Robert had a studio at his apartment in Long Beach, so we went up there to record some stuff. We also asked him if he would lay the bass down on some songs after we’d recorded our parts. We came back the next day, and our jaws dropped. It sounded incredible.

Scott and I looked at each other, and we’re like: ‘Hey Robert, would you like to be in our band?’ He said, ‘Look guys, I’m so serious about music, if I get in a band, it has to be 100% dedication.’ We responded, ‘That’s what we’re looking for.’ And we did it. We started writing songs that were in the same vein as Parliament P Funk and Sly Stone, going in a 70’s funk direction, and Swing was born.

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Robert DeLeo and Scott Weiland perform live.

We now needed a drummer, so we put out an ad in Bam magazine. We had a lot of interest, and a lot of them just weren’t any good, so we started requesting videos. We met this one guy who played great, but he had a girlfriend who was a nightmare. We played a few times, and it was always a hassle with the girlfriend, and we called him out on it. We told him that we didn’t want any outside distractions, and he was out. After that, we went back to the drawing board.

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Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland, and Corey Hickok perform live.

One day we were sitting in downtown Long Beach, and we had just heard a drummer play over the phone, and he was going to bring us a tape. We saw him pull up in his car downstairs, and up comes a man by the name of Eric Kretz. He put on a video tape of himself playing, and he was incredible. Bruford, Bonham, that’s what we wanted, so we set up an audition at a rehearsal studio in Long Beach. Eric set up his drums, we were so excited, we’d been looking for a drummer for months.

I go up to check my mic, I have my fingers on my strings, and I started getting shocked. I literally flew at least 10 feet, almost behind the stage on the riser. Saliva was coming out of my mouth, I thought I was going to die. Eric tried to free me from my guitar, but he got jolted when he touched me. Considering we had just met, I thought that was really brave of him and showed his character.

Everyone in the building could hear me shrieking. Scott came up behind me and shouted, ‘Turn the power off!’ I jumped up in the air, in shock, freaking out. An ambulance came and took me to the hospital, and the band followed me. The doctor told me if I hadn’t been wearing shoes, or I’d been older, I would have died. It really changed my outlook on life.

After that, Eric joined Swing. We played a lot of dance clubs, and we could get away with it, because people would dance to our music. We started to get a following, but we knew we had to go up to LA. I dropped out of school at Long Beach State, and Robert, Eric, Britt, and I moved into an apartment in Culver City, while Scott moved in with his girlfriend Mary Ann.

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Britt Willits, Corey Hickok, Scott Weiland, and Erik Kretz on Scott’s 21st birthday in 1988.  Scott’s birthday was on October 27th, close to Halloween, so typically we would always try to get a limo, it was kind of a tradition.  We would dress up as clowns, sometimes like A Clockwork Orange characters.

We just started playing every club we could, with the Coconut Teaszer being a mainstay. We played with No Doubt early on, and Tom Morello’s band Lock Up. Bam Magazine also started to give us some media attention. When you were Bam’s pick of the week, you knew you were going to get signed. Jane’s Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you name it. We ended up being the pick of the week.

When we played live, somewhere in the set we would do solos, and Eric would do a drum solo where he would get up from his drum set with his drumsticks and literally tap everything in the venue.  He would go tap the side of the mic stand, he’d even go into the audience.  People were like, ‘What the hell is this guy doing!?’  He’d then make his way back on stage, and slowly start to play, and then he would just go nuts.  He was so animated, the crowd loved it.

Robert would do a bass solo, and this is back when he would slap.  Everyone’s jaws would just drop, he could slap on that bass like nobody’s business.  It was incredible, and it completely captivated the audience.  Scott was really coming into his own as a frontman with Swing.  He started doing his James Brown and Mick Jagger moves, incorporating that into his stage presence.  So many times after we would finish playing we would have people go up to us, ‘You guys are going to make it.  Not only do you sound incredible, but you have the greatest stage presence.  You guys are going to be huge.’  That was a standard for us, and we felt it too, we had a chemistry on stage where we just fed off each other.  There was never a moment where people just sat there and watched us, people would be dancing, jumping up and down, they were always participating in some way.  It really helped fire us up on stage.

Our songwriting evolved as well.  When we started playing together, it was all my stuff, with Robert adding his licks to what I was writing.  Very quickly, it evolved to where Robert was bringing in ideas himself.  Robert had a great way of bringing in really catchy riffs, and my talent was to take those riffs and structure them in a song format.  As time went on, Robert wrote more and more, while I wrote less and less, but I was always helping a lot with the arrangements.  Robert is such a brilliant musician, he had so much music in his head, and just a plethora of licks.

“Ole Dixie” was a fun little country song we did, completely different from anything we ever did. Scott’s biological father Kent and stepmom Martha listened to old school country music, so he was a fan growing up, as was I. We were really into Dwight Yoakam as well at the time. One time we were goofing around in the studio, and we decided to slap it on the end of a demo.  We also did two really funky songs called “Dirty Dog” and “Love Machine.”  For “Love Machine,” we hired a woman to do backing vocals to get that 70’s soul sound, and we actually all did backing vocals on that song.

We really loved funk, but there was only so much we could do in that genre.  Our sound slowly moved in the 70’s rock direction, rather than our funk and 60’s soul influences.  Scott really started getting into The Doors and Jim Morrison.  When Scott would really get passionate about an artist he admired, it somehow became a part of him, and his own unique voice.

As we transitioned into a more rock sound, we didn’t have any more keyboard parts for Britt to play, so we let him go. We then changed our name to Mighty Joe Young as part of this transformation of our sound.  This is when there started to be some tension in the band, as there became a desire to have an anthem type lead guitar sound with what was going on with MTV at the time, with big solos. That type of playing just wasn’t in my musical makeup, and I didn’t see why I should change my style.

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Scott Weiland, Eric Kretz, and Corey Hickok perform live.

Two songs we worked on that were in our new rock direction were “Piece of Pie” and “Fast As I Can” (completely different songs from the tracks that later appeared on Core and Stone Temple Pilots).  “Piece of Pie” called for a lead, so Robert said: ‘Corey, we’ve got to do a lead for this song. I’ll tell you what, let’s get my brother Dean up here to just play the lead on it.’ Dean was this monster guitar player, but he was a foreman at a construction company, making great money.  I’d met Dean, we’d had fun with him riding jet skis down in San Diego, and he’d come to a few shows. He ended up coming in and playing the solo, and it was brilliant. After that, there was talk of Dean joining the band and making it a 5 piece, with me doing rhythm guitar and backing vocals. I said no.

I felt what we had been doing up to that point was great, and that we didn’t need anything else. Looking back now in hindsight, I see that what Dean brought to the band is everything they needed to get to the next level. But at the time, I felt a little differently.

Scott said, “Corey, we need this.” At the same time, Robert was progressing as a a bass player and musician at an incredible pace, Eric was so on the money, with the best chops, and then you had me, and I wasn’t progressing nearly as fast as them as a musician. There was some tension there, and I understand that. I also had a great job opportunity back home in Huntington Beach at the time too, so I was really at a crossroads. They could sense I wasn’t as dedicated as I once was.

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Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland, and Corey Hickok perform live.

It was a difficult decision, but I told Scott that I was leaving Mighty Joe Young. We both cried. Since the beginning of high school, he had never played in a band without me. He felt like a part of his whole experience as a musician was gone, but he was definitely in great hands. Dean’s a monster musician, with the synergy between he and his brother, and Eric, they were a force to be reckoned with.

I told Scott, ‘My Dad’s offering me a business, I understand the pressure, bring Dean in. I’m done, but I’ll always be your best friend.’ Scott looked me in the eyes and told me, ‘Corey, I want you to know this. If I don’t make it in music, I don’t know anything else I’ll be able to do. You might have to support me someday.’ He was 100% serious. This was all he ever wanted. Since we began this journey, I saw something change in him, his whole demeanor changed as soon as he sang in a band situation. He never looked back. It’s what he was meant to do.

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Mighty Joe Young after Dean joined the band.

After I quit, Dean joined Mighty Joe Young on a temporary basis, but was hesitant to join full time because of the great job he had in San Diego, so they put out ads looking for a new guitar player. They started auditioning guitarists and were just laughing, the same thing that happened when we were looking for drummers a few years prior.

As Dean was beginning to play with the band though, the chemistry was undeniable. Just as I was leaving the band, “Wicked Garden” was being written. “Where The River Goes,” “Only Dying,” and “Naked Sunday” were also early songs they did with Dean. After a month or so, Dean finally agreed to join on a full time basis. He was the icing on the cake for the band, and I became their biggest fan. I was there for their early shows, the day they were signed by Atlantic Records, when they were writing and recording the songs from Core, and as the Grunge scene exploded.

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Mighty Joe Young’s original 1989 logo.

When it came to contemporaries, Scott had never heard of a band called Pearl Jam when he was writing Core. We were fans though of Alice In Chains when they came out, and Scott had great admiration for Perry Farrell, he thought he was mesmerizing and an amazing frontman. He loved Jane’s Addiction.

One thing that Scott became iconic for was his use of the bullhorn on stage, and there is a great story behind that. We were over at our buddy Gary Menke’s house one day, and Scott goes into the garage and sees a bullhorn. He says, ‘I want to start playing with this!’ Some time after that, I’m hanging out at Gary’s house, and Scott is on MTV. Gary says, ‘Hey Dad, you were asking where you megaphone was, there it is!’ His Dad Dale goes, ‘What the hell? I want my megaphone back!’ Word got back to Scott, so he wrote: ‘I heart Dale Menke’ on it. Dale let him keep it.

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Scott with his trademark bullhorn at a July 1993 concert in Berkley, CA

As Mighty Joe Young became Stone Temple Pilots, I remember feeling that everything I knew we were going to be, was going to be. With any type of career that takes drive and ambition to achieve, there will be naysayers. Whether you want to be a fireman or a doctor, then you get older and you find out it’s ‘1 in 10,000.’ When we were young, we had these people saying: ‘Do you know that 1 in 10,000 people make it in the music industry? Grow up! How are you going to make it?’

We said, ‘We’re the 1 in 10,000.’ Nothing ever penetrated Scott’s mind, he was laser focused. The chills I get remembering being at our 20 year high school reunion when they put the class of 1986 video on, and all of a sudden it shows me and Scott. We’re saying: ‘In 10 years, we’re going to be dominating the world, the biggest band in the music industry.’ Scott did it.

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Scott’s 1986 high school graduation photo, with his note to Corey.

When STP released Core in 1992, our local metal station KNAC picked up “Sex Type Thing,” but KROQ said it was ‘too heavy’ for the station. It became the number 1 song on KNAC. “Plush” was the next single, at the time STP were touring in an RV, and that song became a smash hit on rock radio. KROQ think they’re always the ‘hottest’ on alternative, but they had to swallow their pride and play STP after every station across the country had picked up “Plush.”

Once Scott became famous, and I was just a normal guy, every time I would see him, my goal was to try to take him out of that realm, because he called me so many times on the road and we had some very heartfelt conversations. Scott started to go into restaurants, and guys would come up with their shoes, and they’d put them on the table: ‘Hey, will you sign my shoes?’ For awhile he’d be like, ‘Okay, but that’s kind of odd.’ Then it got to a point where he couldn’t be seen in public.

He called me on the road, ‘Corey, I’m coming home, I want you to be at my house.’ Scott had just bought a home with his wife Janina, who is a great woman. She was there for Swing, Mighty Joe Young, and everything. So I meet Scott, we’re sitting at his beautiful house, and Scott tells me, ‘Corey, this is what I always wanted, but I feel like a puppet. I’m being torn. At 8 o’clock I do an interview, 8:30 pictures, then 9 another interview, then 10 I’m going to MTV.’ It was just a lot, and it was times like that that I would help ground him, and help him understand that this is what we were working for, and to just roll with the punches.

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Scott during STP’s early days.

We would see each other off and on because of Scott’s touring schedule, but when he would be in town, we would get together. I was over at his house one day in 1998 in Pasadena, and he told me he had a solo record coming out, 12 Bar Blues. He played “Barbarella” over his great sound system, and gave me an acoustic guitar and asked me to play along. He said, ‘I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you come and play with me? I’m going out to play David Letterman in New York, do you want to play?’ I said sure, and he invited me to rehearse with his solo band. Daniel Lanois was there, Martyn LeNoble, and Victor Indrizzo. The guitar tech gave me Dave Navarro’s 12 string to play, it was a lot nicer than the guitar I brought. We started playing “Barbarella,” and Scott stops the song halfway through and tells Daniel than I am going to be singing backups, like I used to in the olden days.

The next thing I know I’m flying to New York with Scott. When we get to David Letterman’s studio we were told we had to cut the song down, which complicated the arrangement and the beginning of the song. A person who worked for Letterman told me, “We’ve decided we’re going to put a click track in your ear, not the drummer’s ear, and when David says ’12 Bar Blues,’ on ‘blues’ you’re going to have to hit the first note to a click track.” So I hit the first note and it starts the drum track for him, and if I make a mistake, I butcher the whole song on live TV. We do it, and I pull it off, but it was quite the experience.

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Scott and his brother Michael before Scott’s interview on Howard Stern to promote 12 Bar Blues.

While we were in New York, we got wined and dined by Atlantic Records. At the restaurant, I go to the bathroom, and a guy walks up and asks me: ‘Hey, you’re here with Scott? Could you introduce me to him?’ It was Ben Stiller. So I introduced them, and Ben asked Scott to do a song for ‘There’s Something About Mary.’

Scott then asked me to join his band and come out on tour for 12 Bar Blues with him. This was my dream, but when I got to New York and I saw the schedule, getting up at 7AM, then going to Howard Stern at 7:30, and just being there for 3 days, it was so rigorous. For the first time I saw first hand what it does entail to be a rock star like Scott, and there really is a part to it that can definitely take a toll on you. You really need to have a foundation of some sort, because it can be very cold.

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Corey and Scott backstage at a June 2010 Stone Temple Pilots show in Irvine, CA.

After that, I would still see Scott off and on depending on his schedule. In 2009, he called me and said, “Corey, I need you to come up to LA, I’ve got the guys from VH1 Behind The Music here to do an interview with you.” I spent 2 hours with VH1, and the director thanked me for filling in the gaps from when Scott moved to Huntington Beach. It never came out. Apparently there’s so much red tape legally because of the many different musicians Scott worked with, that these guys all have their own publishing deals. They definitely have enough though to release the Behind The Music special.

Later that same year, Scott and I had one of our most memorable experiences as friends when we went to a Notre Dame football game. Scott’s dad David played football at Notre Dame, so Scott was a lifelong fan of Notre Dame’s football team. Every Saturday, no matter what, he was going to watch the game. In 2009, the coach Charlie Weiss heard that Scott had defended him on the internet, when a lot of people were calling for him to be fired. Charlie called Scott and asked him to come to the alumni game, and Scott asked me to go with him.

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Corey, Notre Dame’s athletic director, Scott, and Derek Mayes at a Notre Dame football game in 2009.

We stayed at the university hotel, and when we went into our room, and Scott was like a kid in a candy store, shaking his leg with excitement like he did when we were young. We’re talking about a rock star, where nothing surprised him any more. We met Charlie, who told us he wanted us to come on the field, and even let us park in his personal parking space. At the game, Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown came up asked for pictures with Scott.

At one point, Scott decided he wanted to go up to the college section and hang out with the kids. After the game, we ended up playing beer pong with some kids at a bar, and it wasn’t about drinking, Scott drank less than me, it was about Scott’s love for the school. We were invited to a house by seniors, and Scott was so appreciative of everyone we met. He loved the campus, and he wanted to be a part of it. We had the most amazing weekend. He was the old Scott. Scott left such an impression on everybody there, that the alumni director texted me the night Scott passed, 6 years after we’d met him.

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Scott and Tim Brown at the Notre Dame game in 2009.

As the years went on and I would see Scott in between tours, and in a beautiful way, I almost felt like a rock for Scott. He got to the point where he was around so many different people. As you become famous, you become this magnet that everyone attracts to. Everyone wants to cling to you, and they all start to become your best friend, and you don’t know their true motifs.

All of a sudden I’d see these new people, and I would be the same old Corey. I would see some uncomfortable stuff, and things I didn’t approve of, and I would be the first one to say something. They would be shocked: ‘Do you know who you’re talking to?’ I’d respond, ‘Yeah, I’m looking out for my best friend.’ It was a back and forth thing, where Scott would want to be around certain people, and then times where he would spend more time with me.

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Corey with one of his favorite photographs of Scott in January 2016.

I want to conclude by saying I’m truly blessed to have had a part in Scott’s musical journey, and will hold it close to my heart for the rest of my life.  Scott was a slice of the rock and roll revolutionary pie. He is a prominent voice for more than a generation, and his music has become the soundtrack of many of his fans lives. His ability to constantly reinvent himself and his voice inflections catapulted him to a level few have reached in rock and roll. How many musicians can you think of off the top your head that have been making music and remained relevant after 25 years? Scott will always be remembered as the “miraculous melody maker,” with his ability to write songs that stand the test of time.

Figuratively speaking, it was as if Scott was able to tap into a sacred realm of music, and it was the fans who got to reap the rewards of his rare findings. In time, I believe more of Scott’s contributions to music will be recognized as a major footprint for this generation. As a great friend, I’m terribly saddened he’s gone, but rest assured, he’s up in Heaven and playing among the best of them in peace. As his loyal fans pay their respects, I know Scott is looking down and proud of all of you for your heartfelt sentiments. On behalf of his close friends, we thank you for the love and support of a one of a kind, beautiful soul who will forever be remembered.

God Bless,

Corey Hickok

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Scott performing with Soi-Disant.

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From left: Scott, his high school sweetheart Heather Chapman, Geneva (David Allin’s girlfriend), David Allin, Ron Kaufman, and Corey Hickok.

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Scott with Ron Kaufman, our other great friend. At one time people called us the Three Musty Queers. All in fun of course. The three of us spent a lot of time together throughout high school and beyond.

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Ann Wilkens, Heather Chapman, Ron Kaufman, Corey Hickok, Claudia Stange, Geneva, and Scott.  Ann Wilkens is now the executive producer for KROQ’s Loveline.

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Scott, Heather Chapman, Robin Campbell, David Allin, Geneva, Corey Hickok, Ron Kaufman, and Liana on our 1986 high school graduation trip to Hawaii.

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Scott on the high school graduation trip to Hawaii.

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Scott and his first love Heather Chapman.

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We all went to a ‘Dynasty’ party in high school. This is Scott with Robin Campbell, David Allin’s cousin.

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Scott and David Allin.

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Interview: Coheed & Cambria’s Travis Stever Talks Chad Smith Motivating Taylor Hawkins, Soundgarden & Blind Melon

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.

Interview: Wolfmother Frontman On Drinking With Dave Grohl, Playing With Slash & Scott Weiland

Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother is one of rock’s most powerful modern voices, yet has possessed something of a tumultuous and unpredictable career. After the smashing success of 2005’s self-titled Wolfmother debut featuring enduring rock radio singles like “Woman” and “Joker & The Thief”, the band’s lineup imploded for their second release, “Cosmic Egg”. The band’s planned third album was ultimately released under Andrew Stockdale’s own name; however, Stockdale reconsidered the Wolfmother brand and used the “surprise digital release” format for Wolfmother’s third record, “New Crown”, released in 2014.

After that experiment, Stockdale recruited legendary producer Brendan O’Brien for the band’s next studio output, Victorious. This record, releasing in February 2016, marks the first Wolfmother “event” release since 2009, being hyped with the release of two huge-sounding singles, “City Lights” and “Victorious”. I recently had a brief opportunity to chat with Stockdale, who reminisced on some of his earliest influences as a vocalist and looked ahead to a promising career relaunch with Victorious.

Can you tell us a bit about Wolfmother’s undocumented recent Scott Weiland tribute, and your earliest memories of STP?

We just did a free show at the Great Northern Byron in memory of Scott, playing a bunch of covers including “Interstate Love Song”. I remember seeing STP on David Letterman in the 90’s and falling in love with them!

Being a vocalist is much like being an athlete as far as building and maintaining your vocal range. As a young guy back then finding your own voice, were there any artists you’d sing along to?

When I was a teenager, I’d sing Pearl Jam, The Beatles… Blind Melon was one of them. I’d sing along to Perry Farrell, and realize I was able to hit the high notes! I’d be playing guitar with my brother or something, and I’d be coughing up a vein or something. [laughs] From there, I just sort of kept going.

Flash forward to now and you will be working with Brendan O’Brien, who worked with Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, on “Victorious”. 

He’s done a good job of doing that “big” sound, viable for national radio… you know what I mean? He knows how to make that rock n’ roll sound in this day and age, when it seems like production has just been going through the motions.

You think you’ll be able to capture that stateside magic that Wolfmother’s 2005 album possessed? 

Victorious is going to sound fantastic on the radio anywhere in the world and it’s got the production people have come to expect. Ya know… some people need songs, some people need a haircut, some people need production!

A big moment in the years after that debut was your collaboration with Slash on his 2010 solo album, singing vocals on “By The Sword”. Can you tell us a bit about your experience in the studio with Slash? 

When you get to meet Slash, you also get to hang out with all the stars. When I went to LA to record I met Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Alice Cooper and all these icons. Wow, that was exciting. Dave Grohl was in the back room with a bottle of scotch, and when I walked in, he’s like, “Hey, you gonna come and sit?” [laughs] And I was thinking: “there’s no way I’m gonna say no to drinking a bottle of scotch with Dave Grohl!”

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I don’t think anybody could.

There’s a crowd of like thirty people around and he’s just telling stories. I had to do the Slash video the next morning…

Wow, that must have been difficult! [laughs]

[laughs] Difficult because I got to drink scotch with Dave Grohl? Yeah, I had to do the video the next morning, but Grohl was high on the priority list so I tried to do both at once. Slash… he doesn’t drink, and he’s completely straight.

Do you have any other dream collaborations?

Neil Young, Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones, Eddie Vedder, Lenny Kravitz. [laughs] It’s not on my “to do list”, so to speak, I’m not the best at planning things out, but if I got the invitation from any of those people, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

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Interview: Ringo Deathstarr Discuss New Album, Smashing Pumpkins and World Tour

Special thanks to Daniel Coborn

I can’t lie, I’m a bit stubborn and it’s hard for me to get into new music. I’m a bit fixed in my taste but when I discover new music I like, I like to enjoy a close relationship with it and try to get as close to the music as I can. A band I’ve been coming back to again and again lately has been Ringo Deathstarr,a spacey genre bending power trio of G.G. Alex, Daniel Coborn and Elliott Frazier. They’re kooky – it’s hard to believe they’re from Austin, Texas when it sounds like they’re from planet Cerubon 41-2 from the Bunoti galaxy. Slow and explosive but quick with dreamy harmonies, they continue with the legacy of bands like My Bloody Valentine but at the same time do not blatantly rip them off, which I see as being more commonplace nowadays from many “shoegaze revival” movements. With a new name like Ringo Deathstarr, expect the Good Vibes Express headed to a station near you. I had the pleasure of interviewing the guys and talking to them the last couple weeks. Originally it was to be in person at Fun Fun Fun Fest, but it didn’t work out because of transit issues. Below, enjoy our brief interview with Ringo Deathstarr as they just are recovering from touring:

How was your Fun Fun Fun Fest experience?
Seems like a long time ago now, but it was a great festival, as usual–we had to play first in the early morning sun but there was a good turnout and i think we went over well.

Your newest album, Pure Mood, is really neat. I’ve been listening it and really struck me as different from much of the “shoegaze revival” stuff I’ve been hearing this last year or so (excuse the labeling). Is there a particular influence, set of gear or happenstance that distinguishes your album for your past works, instrumentally?
It’s just a bit harder, maybe a bit grungier. We spent a lot more time on the recording and most of the songs were written beforehand so that helped in creating a flow, or something.

I’m bad with discerning lyrics – any particular themes or messages you were exploring on this album?We all wrote lyrics–no particular themes other than the usual–life, love, existential anxiety.

Could you expand on the term “existential anxiety?”
Death, the after life, the infinitely large universe and my relation to it.

We’ve noticed your relationship with the Smashing Pumpkins, especially with guitarist Jeff Schroeder. Was the band an influence growing up?
Of course, and touring with them in 2011 helped out in lots of ways.

Schroeder featured on a track from Pure Mood, “Guilt“. What is the Schroeder collaboration process like?
Send Jeff the tracks, let him do his thing, edit it in… Easy!

How did your initial tour dates with the Pumpkins go?
It was a dream come true, but I wish we could do it again, cause we are a lot better as players now.

How is your European tour going?
The euro tour was insane. We drove all over the continent in a rented station wagon playing in venues of all sizes. We drank lots of free beer, and kicked several asses.

In light of recent political and world events, namely the attacks in Paris, did this stop you from touring around Europe at all?
No way.  We played in Paris the week after the attacks with Protomartyr. It was a really beautiful thing to be a part of.

Any nice sights or sounds you’ve experienced out in Europe?
We saw a really cool cruise ship performance on an overnight ferry from Stavanger, Norway to Copenhagen, Denmark that redefined our belief systems about what it means to be cool.

What’s on the horizon?
US tour in February and back to Europe in March. Then new tunes.

I’d love to hear a holiday release from you guys. The shoegaze and alt-rock influences plus Christmas music, sounds like a tasty mix. What do you all do for the holidays?
Sounds like it could be fun. We all do normal family stuff, though.  You know, church, egg nog, watching scrooged.

Are any of you all involved in other musical and/or artistic projects? I know me personally and maybe some of our readers would like to check that stuff out.
None of us actively play in other bands but Elliott does some studio work, producing bands and the like. Check out the band from Austin, blxpltn! He produced their last record [Black Cop Down] and their upcoming one it kicks ass.

You guys will be headed to Japan very soon – excited? Do you guys have a following out there? [Note, this question was asked before the Japanese leg was completed]
Japan is our best place to play. The people there treat us like Nirvana.  We are friends with super famous Japanese rock star Sugizo.  Our record label rules.  It’s hard to explain how much it rules over there.  I pretty much live my life waiting for the next time we can go over.

How much rock and roll do your souls collectively contain?

666%.

Good answer.

Ringo Deathstarr is slated to come back to the United States in February before returning to Europe in March. The new tour dates will be announced soon. For more updates, follow their Facebook or Twitter and expect more news of them in the following months. Look for their new album Pure Mood on iTunes and other online streaming services and marketplaces, as well as record stores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unreleased Photos & Audio From Scott Weiland’s Tour Bus

Scott Weiland’s death hit me especially hard since I had just interviewed him last month for Alternative Nation in what ended up being his final in-depth interview. The interview was conducted in the bedroom on his tour bus where he died just under a month later, which has haunted me since the news of his passing.

When I conduct major interviews like this, I generally use two audio recording devices. The primary device for this interview was my Zoom recorder, which is heard in the interview audio I uploaded last month. My backup recording device (in case of an issue transferring the Zoom audio) that I always use concurrently to record is my iPhone. When the interview with Scott concluded, I turned off my Zoom recorder, but forgot to turn off my iPhone recorder. This mistake ended up being a blessing, as I went back to listen to the iPhone audio after learning of Scott’s passing and found 4 minutes of audio following the actual interview where I talked a little bit with Weiland and Tommy Black.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it was nice to be able to look back at the little bit of time I got to spend with Scott when I found this audio. I thanked Scott for doing the interview, and told him a big reason there were misconceptions about him (in regards to things like the recording of STP’s self-titled album) was because of interviews where he was asked the same generic questions. I also had my fanboy moment, asking him to sign all six STP albums for me, which had already been signed by the DeLeo brothers and Eric Kretz. Weiland obliged and signed the albums.

Weiland and Tommy had a TV on in the background (Scott had DirecTV on his bus). Scott said, “I was watching Homeland.” Black added, “It changed, this is Rampart.” He said Homeland was getting a little weird. Tommy then took photos of Scott and I. I mentioned that they couldn’t be as depressing as my photo I took with Richard Patrick, which looked like a prison photo. Scott’s manager then came in to take photos of Tommy, Scott, and I. Tommy then said that he did the ‘back tap’ for the photo. “I did the back tap again, like the James Iha back tap, remember that?” Scott said, “Yeah.” It was a reference to a photo they had taken with James Iha from The Smashing Pumpkins in 2014.

Tommy then discussed the similarities between James Iha and Jeff Schroeder. I then thanked Scott for the interview. I told him, “Scott, thanks a lot man, I really appreciate it.” Scott responded, “Hey, no problem brother.” I told him, “I look forward to getting this out there. Anything I ever post about you, it bums me out when I write certain stuff that I do, but this one will be great, and I think people will love it.” Scott said, “Alright, cool.”

It still troubles me that I didn’t push Scott to talk about his issues with addiction, especially with what happened. It’s hard to explain what I saw when I looked into his eyes. I didn’t know the guy personally, so it’s hard to judge based on not knowing what he was going through completely. But what I could tell was he didn’t emote at all (outside of forcing a small smile for one photo), and he just seemed burned out and like he needed a change. He just didn’t seem like the same vibrant charismatic guy I had seen years earlier headline the Hollywood Bowl.

I wish I had talked to him about alcoholism. Even before the list of pills (and cocaine) discovered on Scott’s bus came out, everybody knew Scott was still drinking despite being a self-described alcoholic in his book. His quotes in that book on how a ‘drink in my mouth is something like putting a lead blanket over my heart’ really resonated with me, especially since my stepfather died from drinking 2 years ago. I obviously wouldn’t have changed Scott’s ultimate path, but I wish I could have at least talked to him about it to get an understanding for myself and his fans as to why a great person could just throw their life away.

Anyways, despite all of this, it was an honor to interview Scott and run his social media for the last month of his life. Below is an unreleased audio clip from my interview with Scott on his bus, and a few unreleased photos.

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Devin Townsend Talks 2016 Plans And Why Strapping Young Lad Will Never Get Back Together

First entering the metal world with the progressive death  metal band Strapping Young Lad in 1994, Devin Townsend is one of metal’s most original and most hardworking gentlemen. Among his various projects, he has released a total of 23 albums, all which showcase his large variety of influences, causing some to dub him “The Heavy Metal Frank Zappa”. Just last year he released Z2with the Devin Townsend Project, and the self-titled debut album by his new project, Casualties of Cool. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him by phone. We talked about topics such as his plans for 2016 as well as why Strapping Young Lad will never get back together.

On being compared to Frank Zappa:

I don’t smoke cigarettes… so I guess that’s a difference. I do love Zappa, though if I had a choice, I would have gone with Captain Beefheart. Beefheart was completely unaware of how brilliant he was while Zappa knew it.

On Casualties of Cool:

Casualties are a project I have been working on for a long time. I guess because I do all this work with DTP and all these other projects it’s easy to forget the other stuff you have planned and easy to fall into a paint by numbers sort of thing.  This project was something that started slowly without any intention of it turning into anything, but it ended up being a very personal reflection of where I am in music at this point. I’m sure my typical heavy metal fans don’t have any interest in this, but for me it was a really important one cause I got to do something without anyone asking for it. People call this project country all the time but I think its not quite country. I think its more progressive and dark. I think the influence for the sound comes from where I grew up. I grew up on the Americana sort of vibe, stuff like Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger. Then in 2008 I remember hearing that Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration record Raising Sand and thought it was pretty cool. I guess in natural ways this sound just found its own footing.

On possible future albums:

There are always tons of future ideas! Kind of like how I let Casualties evolve the way it did,I let my future solo work evolve in whatever way it wants to. Next thing I’m doing is a Devin Townsend Project record which will be different than anything I’ve done in the past, but along the same lines of that epic heavy metal vibe. I plan on doing a symphony by the end of the year and I have a bunch of a little side projects I’m working on but I’ll let the ones that feel most important to me take a pole position and that would be  the Devin Townsend Project.

On 2016 tour:

We have a planned Devin Townsend Project 2016 US tour, but no dates or locations are decided yet.

On Strapping Young Lad Reunion:

I hate to disappoint you, but the short answer is no. Other then Jed, I don’t really talk to those guys anymore. A lot of fans are upset that there won’t be a reunion and that I’m not doing Strapping anymore, but I can’t spend anymore energy apologizing. I feel I have progressed as an artist and have moved on from that stage in my career.

On who he would like to collaborate with in the future:

Pretty much everyone I’d like to collaborate with I have already. I don’t listen to enough modern metal to have a new list of favorites. The biggest problem with metal in general is that its hard to sustain. Look at Metallica for example they are these 50 year old guys who can’t seem to put out another metal record. They had Orion fest, movies, and Lulu, but no new metal material. I see their problem being they just don’t have the energy anymore. Which I can totally relate to. The collaboration album Deconstruction was an idea I had at the time and though I feel its a good record, I don’t have any plans to do anything like it at the moment. I often wonder if the people I respect as musicians have anything in common, if we just hung out. I wonder if we tried to put together some kind of supergroup that we would end up just all hating each other’s guts… that would suck.

Interview: Brandon Boyd Talks New Incubus Album, Scott Weiland & Helping Dave Grohl

Photo: Ben Cope

“Human beings are inherently creative; we just all express ourselves differently. Some of us go towards the arts, some us go into finance, some us go into the service industry, some of us drive cars and some are Instagram artists. But we are a creative species. I see all of it,” Brandon Boyd tells me from a Miami café during last week’s Art Basel.

The most amazing thing about the arts is that there really is no definition. It is what you make it, whatever you want it to be. It can be external spewing of internalized haunts or simply a fun splash with no meaning at all.

Incubus frontman, Brandon Boyd, exudes art. Covered in unique and expressive tattoos, it’s almost as if he is art in human form. Whether he’s penning songs for Incubus, delivering a sweeping range of melodic vocals or painting a distinctive picture, Boyd embraces the arts as a trusted companion and complementary extension of himself. He spent the first week of December displaying new works and serving on a panel at the 2015 International Art Basel Conference.

If you explore Boyd’s personal website, the first thing you will notice is that you can go left or right. Enter for art on the left and music on the right. Though they each have their claimed space, “There is an area in the center where the hemispheres collide,” says Boyd.

After sharing a story about how we literally collided in Venice Beach a few years back, Boyd and I discuss in detail, the process behind expression through various artistic platforms; pausing only briefly to humorously witness a group youngsters posing by a tree for what would presumably be future acclaimed Instagram pictures.

To explore and purchase Brandon Boyd’s original art visit the shop at www.brandonboyd.me

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The passing of Scott Weiland is incredibly sad. Did you know Scott? You’ve crossed paths over the years correct?

We shared the stage quite a few times. Our mutual friend Brendan O’Brien produced a handful of their records. It really hits close to home.

I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in a handful of years, but the last couple of times I saw him, it seemed like he was doing really great. He was always such a sweet guy to me. We had a lot in common with people we worked with over the years. I am forever grateful to him and his band for being an inspiration for our band. I saw Stone Temple Pilots when I was kid and they were one of those bands that made us want to start being a band and playing music. It’s really a loss for sure and I feel for his family too.

How is the Art Basel conference going?

It’s kind of nuts, I’m sure you’ve been to music festivals of recent. They’re fun, but it’s also chaotic. It’s basically that but for art – which I am totally down far.

How long have you been into art, when did you start?

Expressing myself visually was my introduction. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawing things, writing things down and externalizing emotional circumstances. When I was a little kid I was very introverted. If I was sick or something and didn’t know what to do about it, I figured out if I would draw pictures of what was going on inside of me, what it felt like, it would eventually make me feel better. I learned at a very young age that externalizing these complex internal processes offered a kind of catharsis.

I have been doing art the whole time. While Incubus is on tour, and touring becomes this crazed, chaotic, monotonous whirlwind, I usually am able to escape into painting or drawing. I always have some basic form of pen and paper with me.

This past summer while we were on tour with the Deftones, I had a more elaborate watercolor kit with me and nice paper. Instead of going to the movies or the mall on a day off, I spent the summer basically hauled up in hotel rooms and would just paint. So what I am showing down here in Miami is basically the fruits of those labors.

That’s where the Five Modes of Transport came from right?

Yes, it is.

Did you ever have any formal art training?

After high school I was involved in what were probably my most formal art classes. I was studying life drawing and painting. I would learn to draw from a live model and then painting real life and still life images. I’ve also always been photographing. I’ve been working with some Polaroid’s, 35 millimeter and media format most of my adult life. With the digital evolution, I was able to excel more quickly due to the learning curve of the digital format. I do a bit of all of it, but none of it is technically, formally trained. It’s more what I call following my nose. It drives me down some really cool paths and I’ve learned from other artists who do have formal training, who go to art schools and have degrees. It’s funny because I envy their technique and they envy my untrained eye.

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photo by: Justin Wysong

How do you determine how to channel your inspiration having these multiple outlets?

It’s a good question. They usually call out. One of the mediums calls out more loudly than the others and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have to follow that, whichever voice is screaming the most loudly. Sometimes I do them back to back. I’ll be working on a painting and humming a melody. Normally when I’m working on a painting I don’t listen to music. Occasionally I will listen to a lecture or something, but usually I just listen to the glorious sounds of silence so I can let my own music filter through. So at times, they actually occur in a simultaneous kind of way.

Let’s say you just had a great morning surf and you are feeling very inspired. You are sitting back at your studio with a cup of coffee and you are looking at your instruments and your various art materials, are you going to music or art?

Some days it’s just a matter of focus. Like now, Incubus is actively writing an album. We have so much material we are working with right now and we’re in the process of finding the best of the best. There will be new Incubus music very soon. Some mornings though, I feel more focused like, no no no, I have to work on this song because Mikey (Einziger- Incubus guitar player) and I are getting together later today and I have to finish this one line in the lyrics. So I will force myself to hunker down and focus on just that. My favorite thing to do though is to allow a medium to dictate which direction I am going to go. That’s when I get the most art. When I let my ego surrender and I let the medium speak more. You’ll notice more flow in the work whether it’s a song or a painting.

At your home studio, it looks like all your worlds collide. I’ve seen pictures where your drums are amongst your canvases. Is it all just one large creative space?

It’s more hemispheric than you would think. The studio is above the garage in my house. One corner is almost entirely a space for making a mess, for throwing paint on a canvas and stuff like that. The other side has a pro tools rig and tons of drums and guitars. So it is hemispheric at first, but they do intersect at a certain point. You’ll see paint spilled over onto the drums.

With certain art, the work itself is the center of attention rather than just you. Is that important to you?

It’s an interesting challenge. I think it would be for anybody that came from a successful career in one regard, and then they are looking to diversify in other creative ways. It would be hard for anybody to see beyond why they showed up there in the first place. There are definitely a lot of people who show up to see the art that are avid listeners of Incubus. And that’s amazing. That’s so cool that they are so interested in us as a band that they are also interested in what we are doing when we are not playing music. It is definitely a long time dream of mine to have the work be seen and be appreciated beyond that. But that’s a real challenge. It’s actually harder for me to be taken seriously as an artist in it of itself. That’s OK with me though. I like a good challenge. In a way it inspires me to work a little bit harder.

When it comes to lyrics and music, you can express emotions in different ways – whether it’s a personal touch or telling a metaphorical story. With drawing or painting, you have the ability to be more mysterious where you can have no meaning at all, the viewer has to search for it or maybe it’s just a fun piece.

It’s certainly a little bit of all of those things. In music too, there’s such a thing a writing a song or a lyric just for the sake of writing and perhaps you are expressing nothing. Sometimes those songs are so much fun to perform and to listen to because they are mindless and meaningless. Then there are the songs that you had to take a second mortgage out on your sole because you are digging so deep. Those songs are equally as important. It’s the same thing with art. Some pieces are meaningless. They are just there because I felt like putting something down on paper. There are also things that are more complex in what they are trying to express. I think all of it is important. It’s our responsibility to interpret our experiences individually. That’s what we are. The human animal is a conduit. We’re the eye piece of consciousness.

I ask a lot about your behind the scenes process because I know for me, it’s obvious which subject matters go towards a song and which are written pieces. It can be an entirely different process. How about songwriting specifically? What made songs like “Lady Black,” and “Runaway Train,” solo material as opposed to being Incubus songs?

It’s always interesting writing music with Incubus. When I write with Michael, he’s like this wellspring of musical ideas. It’s constant. At a drop of a hat he will have a guitar riff or piano melody. It offers a creative challenge that I’ve been in love with the entire time we’ve been doing it.

When I write music outside of Incubus and those two songs you mentioned in particular, they started as just melodies with dispersed lyrics attached. There was no music whatsoever. A melody just emerged and lyrics just kind of showed up. It’s a different way of writing songs, it’s a different kind of challenge, but it’s just as important to allow all of the different ways that music or art wants to come through us. So I had these melodies, like with “Lady Black,” and I sang it to Brendan O’Brien. He really liked it and started playing this guitar riff around it. It’s really a totally different way of writing songs, it’s fun. Have you ever tried that? Writing the melodies first with a lyric?

It’s funny you should say that. With what I’ve been writing lately, that’s exactly how I’ve been doing it. Mostly because I want to immediately capture the subject matter that’s ripe in mind. It’s certainly been challenging since my process is usually music first, but just as you said, it’s a fun challenge and I find it creates unique melodies because you don’t comprise the melody, since that’s what started the whole thing.

Yeah, right on. We shouldn’t dictate how a song is supposed to be written. Just write ‘em. Even if it’s pounding out a rhythm on a coffee table. There are probably countless amazing songs that have been written like that. There’s no one way to do it. That’s what’s so intriguing about it. You can write a song in so many different ways, and that’s the most beautiful thing.

I completely agree. Speaking of Incubus, 2015 marks a major milestone and accomplishment as its 20 years since your first release of Fungus Amongus. Congratulations on that. What does it mean to you now?

Thank you. It makes me smile. It makes me smile that we’ve had this incredible, mostly unexpected life. You don’t know what you are going to get into when you’re a kid. There’s so much pressure in America around – what are you going to do, what are you going to be when you grow up? That gets asked of us so often. I can recall being six and hearing – what do you want to be when you grow up? And feeling like – how the fuck do I know, I’m six! Can I just eat my cheerios please!

That’s still my response.

(Laughs) mine too sometimes.

I think it’s good to set goals and follow through with them, but there are things that happen to us while we are making those plans that usually end up defining our life. Incubus has been such an unexpected pleasure. And the space it created to continue to express ourselves individually, in my case being here at Art Basel, showing art to an international art community. It’s so amazingly unexpected and so welcomed that I can’t help but smile.

What’s up next for Incubus?

We actually had written almost another album worth of material before we left for the summer tour in the states. The plan was to come home, immediately record that material and have it out before the holidays. But we came home and started writing and then kept writing, and we started seeing ideas emerge that just eclipsed the other ones. So we decided to keep writing, and we’re sifting through tons of material, trying to create the best of the best. We plan on having new music out, I would assume by early 2016. We are definitely going to be on tour as well, from the spring on I would assume.

Is it going to be Trust Fall Side B?

As far as I know it will be Trust Fall Side B, but it will be a longer than an EP. There’s so much music that we are trying to focus on it being more of an extended thing. More of an LP.

What was the intent behind having a Trust Fall Side A and B vs. creating a full length record from the start?

It was a few things. We got together unexpectedly to start writing. It all came from the opportunity to work at Hans Zimmer’s studio in Santa Monica. He offered us a room at his compound. We didn’t have a plan to make a record. We didn’t have a manager or a record label at the time. We were off in the woods and it was fun to not have a plan for the first time in such a long time. But we then got this opportunity to work in this incredible creative space. We just set up our gear and started tinkering. Really quickly songs started to emerge and we saw that a handful of them we really liked and they offered us the opportunity to go out and tour as well. We picked the songs we liked the most.

A lot of it also started as simple conversations amongst the band. This in particular, was a conversation revolving around how some of us missed Side A, Side B. Growing up listening to vinyl records, there’s a moment when the needle hits the center of the album and you have to physically take the needle off of the album, turn the record over and the experience reboots on Side B. Same thing with the tape experience. It was a quick stop, then you have to eject it, flip it over and the experience starts over into the next realm. It created once again, almost this hemispheric experience. We were also acknowledging that nobody, including us, has the attention span for an entire record, front-to-back, start-to-finish. So we decided to break it up. We already had an EP with Side A, we could put it out and go on tour and create Side B in a little bit. It felt like we can have our cake and eat it too.

One of the greatest rock shows in my opinion, was The Who – VH1 – Rock Honors show back in 2008 You guys were a part of that so I have to ask, was that as special of an experience as it came across to be?

We were honored to be asked. We were only supposed to play one song. That was more than enough for us. We learned the track and rehearsed it quite a bit. The Foo Fighters were playing too and when we got there, Dave Grohl approached us and asked us if we would play the second song that they were supposed to play because he was sick and his voice was messed up. We were like …uhhh … yes. The second song we played, “I Can’t Explain,” we learned in the trailer. Then we went on live TV and played it. It was cool and the fact that we pulled off made it even more fun. Getting to share the stage with The Foo Fighters, Tenacious D, The Who and all the others that were there was incredible. For us as a band, it was a really important night. To be able to be around all those guys too and speak to them was pretty special. I think back on that night very often as well. I love stuff like that.

We got to do something similar a few years before with The Pretenders. It was them, Iggy Pop, Garbage and Kings of Leon. That was also a great night. I’m a big Pretenders fan and a huge Iggy Pop fan. Being able to be around those people was huge for us as well.

It was also around the time period, with a year or two, where both you and Eddie Vedder put out your first respective solo albums. Did you and Vedder talk about that process at all?

I talked to him a little bit about it. We both love Brendan O’Brien. He’s an amazing musician. He’s so much fun to write with too. He’s got this little kid energy when you put a guitar in his hand. If you go anywhere near him when he has a guitar, a song is going to happen. It’s amazing. I really love Eddie’s side projects that he’s done. He’s such a talented guy. We are so lucky again to both have our cake and eat it too. We have our bands that we love and adore which is the main course in our lives, but then we get to have these side projects that offer us so much fulfillment as well.

You have a great quote which reads “Happiness balances delicately on the wings of the act of creativity itself, not at the finish line.” I can relate and take that as – the real enjoyment in creating art or music is the act of actually doing it. Being able to go someplace else and get completely submersed in the process. Is that what you mean?

In a matter of speaking, yes. There’s something that happens when we are involved in our own creative processes. There are moments that I identify with in an egoic sense. Like – Hi my name is Brandon Boyd, nice to meet you. Hey, that’s my coffee don’t touch it. The ego that most of us identify with, when we’re involved in the creating, that tends to go away temporarily. Maybe we forget about it and we get lost in these processes. I think the reason that brings happiness along with it is because that’s probably a truer expression of self than the – fuck you that coffee is mine version. We get to let go of ego temporarily and fall into a place that is a closer description to the real self. It’s a beautiful experience. You don’t have to be a painter, photographer or a musician to experience it, you just have to have your single-minded activity every day that you indulge in and it’s right there.

Follow Jeff Gorra on Twitter

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King’s X Drummer Remembers Pearl Jam’s ‘Historic’ 1994 Tour

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…

Interview: Cage The Elephant Singer Responds To Black Keys Comparisons On ‘Mess Around’

Bowling Green, Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant are one of mainstream rock’s greatest success stories of the past decade. Unlike many contemporaries in the genre, Cage have consistently redefined themselves sonically while moving past “one hit wonder” status, building up a pantheon of classic radio singles from “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” off of their self-titled debut to “Cigarette Daydreams” off of their third record, Melophobia.

The recording and touring process for Melophobia was exceptionally grueling for the band, who lost lead guitarist Lincoln Parish in the process, now building his name as a Nashville-area producer. Still strident, the band reassessed their career path and recruited Dan Auberch of The Black Keys as producer for their upcoming fourth studio album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, due for release on December 18th.

I had the chance to briefly speak with frontman Matt Shultz over the phone. Matt really is one of the hardest working rock singers in the business nowadays, literally defying death on a nightly basis with his insane stage antics. We discussed the eclectic style of the upcoming record, fan accusations of “ripping off” Dan Auerbach’s main project on the first single, Cage’s “legacy”, and the album’s drop date coinciding with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

You guys just released the song “Mess Around” to great success. However, there is a vocal part of the fanbase that dismissed it as “sounding like the Black Keys.” Were you guys expecting this working with Auerbach?

Yeah. You know what, I think when you go into a situation like this, especially making a record with one of your peers, people will hear and try to point out similarities. I’m not familiar making music with him, then you really start making a record together and both of your hearts are invested. I’d hope they are! Things are going to bleed over. We originally chose Dan as the producer because we were leaning towards more of an organic and genuine sounding record as far as production was concerned.

A lot of hidden magic in the fact that he is a very “reactive” producer who will try to keep you second guessing yourself. A lot of songs on that record are first take, and there’s a lot of scratch vocals. I think that that accompanied with a classic sound with the Black Keys… they’re one of the biggest bands in recent times that have broken through with a classic sound. I can definitely see where the correlation comes from.

On the other hand, “Trouble” was just released, and the tune is a total one eighty from the first song aesthetically. Is “Trouble” the second single, or just a taste of what’s on the record?

I don’t know yet… but we put it out. People are really getting into “Mess Around”, but it makes sense to have a couple of other songs out there as well. For us, this record is honesty, and the songs have so much diversity in them that I don’t feel like any song is representative of the entire album, kind of like each sound has its own personality. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when we release the entire album.

“Trouble” contains the line “You know what they say, yeah, the wicked get no rest.” It kind of reminded me of how David Bowie referenced his first hit “Space Oddity” in “Ashes to Ashes”. Do you look to him as sort of an inspiration for the aforementioned diversity of your music?

Definitely! I’ve always looked up to and been inspired by him. I don’t necessarily look to Bowie for his style or his sound, the sound that has become so iconic… it’s one of those things that you really can’t touch, you know!? But as an artist, as far as diversity is concerned and being able to re-imagine and approach each record, I don’t think there’s anyone better. He’s lived a creative life by constantly and consistently taking risks. I love that.

I was watching Live at the Vic last night and it got me thinking: this point in your career you’ve already had the full nine yards of the rock band output: four LPs under your belt, each with massive risks taken, a whole albums worth of b-sides, a really memorable live show along with the live CD/DVD release. You’ve already set a legacy for Cage the Elephant, which not many bands can say nowadays. Where do you see yourself going from here? 

I just want to continue to make records that feel inspired as we write them. I once said a number… like, seven albums. [laughs] With each record, it became a little more. I just know that I want to continue to make and insightful expressions, at least to myself, that I’ve gotten a carthatic experience out of, until it’s time to do something else. I think the whole idea of “legacy” is what kills the creative process. When you get down to it, it’s all scaleable. At the end of the day, it’s like filling a birdhouse, building a birdhouse, no matter how big the birdhouse is… that probably sounds pretty ridiculous! [laughs]

Thank You, Happy Birthday is approaching its fifth… birthday. That record came out as I was graduating high school and entering freshman year of college, so it will always held a special place for me. What are your thoughts on the record in retrospect? Would you have done anything differently?

I think there’s always a sense of “something you would have done differently” when you look back. I don’t consider it to be regret or anything like that, but I’d like to think that you are learning about the creative process. You reincorporate and elaborate on every album you make. There are definitely some times where I look back and wish I had let more of myself into the album. Earlier in my life, I had so much stock in the persona, and believed too much in “the character” in the realm of pop and rock music, whatever pedal you want to put on it. The modern… whatever. It’s part of the story, and it is what it was.

On my own end, I think back when I was in senior year of high school/freshman year of college and was so disillusioned with music at the time, I became enamored with the idea of you guys being the “modern Nirvana”. I just kept thinking, “I need my generation’s grunge revolution, dammit!” 

[laughs] Thank you, that does mean a lot to me.

mattshultz
Matt Shultz with Cage the Elephant, live from the Vic in Chicago, 2011.

Ending a lighter and sillier note, but I still feel it’s relevant to the topic of your upcoming record: Tell Me I’m Pretty releases the same day as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. [Doug and Matt laugh] Will the band be taking some time off that day to see the movie?

[laughs] Yes, absolutely. I’m probably catching it the day that we are releasing the record!

Are you buying into rumors that Luke Skywalker has turned to the dark side? 

You know, I have heard that that is what happened. The corruption… it’s everywhere. Anyone who comes into power is susceptible to it. I think it will be a great next chapter for him. [laughs]

cage
L-R: Dan Tichenor, Matt Shultz, Jared Champion, Brad Shultz

Interview: Tengger Cavalry Vocalist Talks Upcoming Tour Plans

Tengger Cavalry is a Mongolian Folk Metal band originally from China. Currently based in New York City, vocalist/guitarist Nature spoke to me about the band’s origins, the types of traditional Mongolian instruments used, and Tengger Cavalry’s future pursuits.

How did the band originate and who/what were your inspirations?

The band was originated in China. When I was learning Mongolian fiddle, Morin Khuur, with my Mongolian teachers in Beijing, I came up with this idea of blending traditional Mongolian folk with heavy rock/metal. I listened to many western folk rock and folk metal, and it really inspired me on how you can arrange your sound with folk and metal.

Can you explain the different types of traditional instruments used in the music?

Sure. Our main melodies are carried by the Morin Khuur, a famous Mongolian ethnic string instrument. And then there is the Tovshuur, a two-stringed plucking instrument that we sometimes use as the way we use an acoustic guitar. Also we have the Yatga, the Mongolian multiple-stringed plucking instrument, which has a very bright sound.

Why was the band moved to New York City?

Back in 2013, I decided to pursue a music career and I was successfully accepted to New York University’s composition master program, so that was the starting point of my music career in NYC. After 2 years, I find that NYC is a very open-minded city and it is good for me to write crossover music. People here like to hear different sounds.

Any plans to reunite the China-based lineup?

We already recruited new USA band members, and the current lineup works very well, so we will stick to what we have now.

How would you compare the current lineup to the original lineup?

The current lineup is more professional and efficient than the old one. I am satisfied with the present lineup.

Any plans to tour East Asia in the future?

Maybe next year or so. We keep getting invitations from Asia, but we want to do more gigs stateside first.

There has been a growing trend of the wearing of horse masks at Metal shows. Has anyone done that at your shows? If such a thing were to happen, what would you think of it?

Ha, I didn’t know this fun fact. Well, so far nobody did it but there was one time a fan raised a portrait of Chinggis Khaan, and it was so cool haha.

Do you think Tengger Cavalry’s growing fame would inspire more Mongolian-inspired bands?

We would like to think that everyone has their own music taste and somehow we crossover somehow we write our unique sound. But it is good that TC is getting more attention.

Any plans to perform at any festivals?

Yes, next year in July we will perform at the French rock festival, Ragnarok festival, as co-headlining.

What would you consider to be your favorite Metal album of all time?

I would say Slipknot’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUja-wrQVgs

Special thanks to Jason Han for providing additional questions.

How Rockin’ 1000 Changed Foo Fighters Forever

The story of Italy’s Rockin’ 1000 is one we find to be both fascinating and incredibly inspiring. The organizations founder, Fabio Zaffagnini, spoke to Alternative Nation shortly after their “Learn to Fly” video was launched and the campaign to bring the Foo Fighters to Cesena went viral. He explained how simple drive by the park (where the video would eventually be filmed) inspired this seemingly crazy idea.

Fast forward a little over a year. The idea, the dream, … became a reality as Foo Fighters were so moved by this effort they agreed to play a show in Cesena on November 3rd. Though a November European tour was already in place, Cesena was added in late October as a direct result of the video that Dave Grohl called “one of the greatest moments of my life.”

As a part two, Alternative Nation had the chance to speak with Zaffagnini after the concert about the overall experience, how the accomplishment is sinking in and what’s next for the Rockin’ 1000. He also discussed how Dave Grohl revealed to him that the Rockin’ 1000 changed his view on how he looks at Foo Fighters songs.

 

After your Rockin’ 1000 “Learn to Fly” video launched and went viral, Foo Fighters had you as their guests at their show in Washington back in August correct? How was that experience?

It was Mumford and Sons who invited us to the Gentlemen of The Road Stop Over in Walla Walla, WA. Foo Fighters were performing that weekend so we had the opportunity to meet them. It was a weird experience: we were treated like Rock Stars, the policeman at immigration asked me a selfie!!! Can you imagine?


What was it like meeting the band for the first time after all you had done with Rockin’ 1000?

It was a confirmation of our expectations. The Foo Fighters are the way any fan would imagine and hope: funny, ironic, friendly and extremely laid back. After a few seconds it was like talking among friends.

Was that the first time you had spoken to anyone in the band?

Yes, it was the first time.


Where were you when you learned the Foo Fighters had agreed to come to Cesena and play a show on November 3rd?

Well, we were pretty sure that they would have come after talking in Walla Walla. Anyway, we discovered it as we were back home. We heard rumors of people secretly making inspections in town in search of a location.

That must have been a very emotional moment?

Ever since the day after the Rockin’1000 performance, everything has been so emotional, unexpected and big that I feel like I’ve been detached from reality. It’s hard to explain. It’s like being a kid at Disneyland, with thoughts that rush so fast into my mind that I find myself staring at the wall for minutes…maybe I’m going nuts.

Can you tell me about the Foo Fighters Cesena show? How was it, what was the overall experience like?

Well once again, we had a lot of things to do and a lot of work – our documentary, all the press relationships and our communication work. I didn’t have time to think about what was going on until the concert started. It has been just magic: I almost knew all the people inside there, 3k people in a small location…it was like a party among friends. Foo Fighters have been so generous, it was a fantastic concert and everybody was so loud and happy all the time.

Did you get to help write the setlist?
Yes, a little bit! Right before the concert we talked about it.

Dave Grohl brought you on stage, let you sit on his throne and speak to the crowd? What was that like for you?

I will probably never get back to earth after that. It has been such a strong emotion. Every time I think of this my eyes get wet, but not because I was so close to the band or somehow “popular” for three minutes. It’s been the best ending I could imagine, after more than one year of hard work, joy and pains. Thinking about all my team, all the people who worked at Rockin’1000, the musicians, volunteers, donors, even the ones who watched our video, millions and millions of people that got goose bumps.
It is just overwhelming, crazy.

I got chills from head to toe when I first saw the Rockin’ 1000 “Learn to Fly” video, I know Dave Grohl said it was one of best moments of his life and brought him to tears, but I still can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for the band.

Dave said that they don’t really think about the rest of the world when they write their songs and seeing that video helped him to realize the impact they have on their fans.

What they (and other bands as well) do is entering people’s guts, and this means that for the past and future decades, millions of people were and will be inspired by their songs; while driving, jogging, working, studying, dancing, doing whatever they’re up to. All of them will be mumbling their words, shaking their head, tapping their feet.

I have no idea about how they feel about this now, but if they have time to think about it, I am sure that they would feel satisfied about their contribution to mankind.

As special as this was for Cesena, it also appears as if it was incredibly special and moving for Foo Fighters. Did you ever think of it like that when putting this together? How special this could be for the band?

Yes, I hope that it has been special for them as well. Rockin’1000 has been a declaration of love for them and for Rock’n’roll. Everyone likes to be loved!

Can you tell me about the after party? I heard/saw that the band showed up and Dave Grohl jumped on stage with some of your local musicians. Did you know that was going to happen, Grohl would show up?

I told Dave about the after party and told him that a few musicians brought their instruments for a jam session. Before the concert Dave told he would love to come…and so he did. I could not believe he was serious, but this is what makes him a very special person. Very special.

Looking at the entire experience now, thinking “we did it,” how are you feeling right about it all? What does it mean to you?

Well, I haven’t realized in full what happened. It will take time. I am very focused on what’s next, it is part of my being restless.

Of course I had the confidence in the potential that me and my team had, and I often think about what we can still obtain through perseverance, passion and study. I feel a lot more optimistic and self-confident.

How has life changed for you personally with this entire experience?

I try to keep a low profile and not to take myself too seriously. We did all this for fun and everything went by far beyond all our expectations.

I had to quit my previous job and my life has become a mess, I struggle to keep up with everything.
It is weird to be continuously stopped by people asking for selfies and receiving compliments, I feel amused and embarrassed at the same time, but I am sure that in a few weeks all this will stop. What comes out of the internet is so fast.

Is Rockin’ 1000 now your only and full-time job?

No it is not. I would love to and I am working on this, but you know, it is not so easy to make money in Italy for this kind of thing! Rockin’1000 was not meant to be business-oriented. We’re actually figuring out a way to transform it into a company that organizes non-conventional events, keeping the same values: integrity, passion, craziness, joy.

Anyway, if anybody is hiring send me an email! You never know!

Dave Grohl suggested you guys should keep going and do the same thing for bands like U2, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, etc. Do you think you will?

We’re thinking about it, it is very hard. Everything has been so perfect and great and successful that it is hard to measure up. We think that we may go on in another direction, but you never know!

What do you plan to do now? What’s next for you and Rockin’ 1000?

We’re planning to organize further events involving common musicians, giving them the opportunity to go big. What people don’t know is how cool it is to hear and see them live.

Will you be keeping in touch with Dave Grohl?

Well, I am going to write him if I have something to say, I could have a blink of how his life is like and I don’t want to bust his balls. Spending some time with him has been great and I could hear his stories forever, it is such an unusual and interesting perspective…but you know, I am a common guy and I don’t care about telling others that I and Dave are friends.

 

FOLLOW JEFF GORRA ON TWITTER HERE:

Photographer Danny Clinch Remembers Alice In Chains’ Unplugged Performance

Edited by Brett Buchanan

As a longtime fan of Alice In Chains, I have often wondered what photographers had to say about working with the band, so recently I decided to reach out to one of them. One prominent photographer was there for the best MTV Unplugged show that’s ever been done, which of course was Alice in Chains’ 1996 Unplugged concert in New York. That photographer and filmmaker is known for working with the most talented musicians and bands, and his name is Danny Clinch. Needless to say, getting a response from him so quickly was unreal and exhilarating. Here’s what he had to say, in our very brief exchange.

What was it like to photograph Alice in Chains at the MTV Unplugged show?

It was real cool to work with Alice in Chains, especially before the legendary MTV taping. I was able to be there for the sound check as well as the show. I love sound check, as you can hear the band work out the songs and discuss how they would play the songs in an unplugged setting.

aicunplugged2

Do you have any more photographs of Alice in Chains from the MTV Unplugged concert?

Columbia Records has most of them. I only have a few that I hung on to for some reason; maybe they were outtakes.

Did you photograph Alice in Chains any other time in your career?                                    

The “Unplugged” concert was my only shoot with them.

Danny went on to say that if his memory serves him correctly, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, both original founding members of Metallica, were among the audience.

Through his lens eye, Danny was able to capture the most vivid images; some looking like watercolor paintings. Alternative Nation thanks Danny Clinch for taking a few moments out of his very busy schedule to talk to us; maybe we’ll see some of those outtakes appear soon.

You can find Danny on Instagram, Twitter and his website:

Instagram: Dannybones64
Twitter: Danny_Clinch
Website:  www.DannyClinch.com

dannyclinch

Interview: Tonic Guitarist Talks 20th Anniversary & Scoring Fargo Season 3

Chances are you’ve had Tonic’s “If Could Only See,” or “You Wanted More” stuck in your head at some point. If you are comedy-crime drama fan or just a big Billy Bob Thornton follower, you most likely have come across FX’s TV series Fargo. What do the two successes have in common? Jeff Russo.

A founding member of the Los Angeles rock band Tonic, Russo has further developed his craft and is now also a renowned musician within the world of TV and film. His scoring work can be heard within numerous TV shows such as – Power, CSI: Cyber, The Returned, Hostages, Tut, Complications and the award winning hit series Fargo. Russo’s feature film resume includes contributing score to Watercolor Postcards and Free Ride.
Though Russo has been gladly sucked in to the world of scoring, it’s his band Tonic that he credits as the foundation to which all his other accomplishments build upon.

Days after Fargo season 2 premiered, Alternative Nation had the chance to speak with Russo from his studio in Los Angeles, about the many projects he’s involved in, including the upcoming 20th anniversary of Tonic’s debut album Lemon Parade.
——————————————————————————————————————-

I assume it’s safe to say you are pretty busy right now. What is currently on your plate?

It’s pretty incredible right now. I’m super busy writing music and still playing with the band. It’s a lot but it definitely good.

I just started working on another show, an HBO mini-series that will come out some time next year. I also write the music for a show called CSI Cyber and Manhattan. I seem to always be doing a lot. It’s funny, people don’t really see what you are up to until it comes out, but sometimes shows or particular pieces of music don’t actually come out for a year. We started Fargo season 2 back in January, finished over the summer and now it’s finally coming out in the fall. We’ll start season 3 probably next summer, but I will have done four or five projects in between.

How did you get introduced to scoring and writing for TV?

A friend of mine named Wendy Melvoin from the group Wendy and Lisa introduced me back in 2008. At that time, the band was basically taking a break. Emerson was making a solo record, I was just writing on my own and in another band. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went over to Wendy’s studio and watched her write for the shows Hero’s and Crossing Jordan. She just asked me if I wanted to help write for Crossing Jordan. I started writing music for her and then I just got the bug to write for visual media. I never really knew what I could write in terms of overall music and what I was capable of. I had only written for my band. But I think I get the most joy writing music for a much larger pallet. This more orchestral and melodic pallet that I created for Fargo, I just love doing that. It has now transitioned me from writing music in my band only to doing this more and more.

What was the first instrument you learned how to play and how many different instruments can you play?

I was first a drummer when I was kid. Then I picked up guitar after that. I also play bass and piano. Basically anything with a strings on it or that can be strummed I can play. I mess around on bode instruments, but not well enough to play on any of my own scores. If it can make music, I’ll pick it up, figure out what to do with it and how to make music out of it.

How difficult is it to jump right in and write music for a show without being a part of its history like you did with Crossing Jordan?

It’s very difficult. Part of what the job is, is to support the narrative. With Fargo for example, I would read the script and know the story, then start writing. I normally write music to picture though. So, as I think of these themes I’ve written, I’ll adapt them to the picture.

When you are writing in general, do you ever have trouble determining if it should be a Tonic song or go towards a score?

That actually has happened. There are a few songs on Tonic’s last record that started out in my studio and I initially thought it might be score. It rarely happens the other way, but I will apply songwriting knowledge to writing score. It’s different. The way pop songs are written is different from how you would write score. Musical motifs can come back in different forms, but there isn’t a repeat or a chorus in any way.

Has your songwriting for Tonic changed since you’ve started scoring? I would imagine, naturally, your writing would get influenced by the more atmospheric feel of score music.

It has changed. I look at harmony and melody differently now. Now, I write with a wider thought of pallet, not strictly for just strumming guitars and vocals. When I think about it, it may have changed no matter what I was doing now. Songwriting matures. So, I do think it would have happened regardless, but naturally it has certainly been influenced by what I now do for TV or movies. Sometimes it’s subconscious.

When you work on show like Power, and 50 Cent is an Executive Producer, does he want to collaborate with you on placing music in the show? He must want to have a say as to what music is in there.

I have never spoken to 50 Cent before in my entire life. I’m not even sure he knows there is a score composer involved. He’s more interested in the actual songs we use within the show. We use a lot of both on Power. I feel the score is just as important though for setting the mood and the tone of the show. With that said, I’ve never gotten a note of any kind from 50 Cent.

Is the songwriting process for a show or film the same for the musician as it is for the actor preparing to play the role, in that you have to submerse yourself in the mind of the character?

I don’t know if there’s a major difference. I approach it from a way that is meaningful to me to get involved in the story telling process. I don’t try to get involved in the character perspective; I try to gain my own perspective on what the story is. I apply that to what I’ve seen and the part of the narrative that I am trying to support. Sometimes music plays its own character. It’s sort of my own addendum to the story.

How do you go about getting your scoring gigs?

It’s all about relationships and making relationships with producers, filmmakers and directors. I’m not locked into anything though. I start a show then hope to continue with it as long as people are happy with the creativity that you are bringing to the project. Sometimes it’s as simple as hearing about things that are happening and trying to get involved in it. Still, a big part of it is who do you know and what have you done?

Is there a certain type of show or film that is easier to write for?

No, I think the easiest stuff to write for are those that have the best storytelling ability. It becomes more difficult when a filmmaker relies on music to help make their story better or change the audience’s perspective because they couldn’t get it with picture or dialog. The easier projects are those with great storylines, great acting and great dialog. It’s then my job to support what’s going on, not make it better.

You’re coming upon 20 years with Tonic, that is a major accomplishment, what does Tonic mean to you now?

Tonic is the thing I’ve spent the most time, blood, sweat and tears on. It’s the thing that has been responsible for almost everything in my life. I grew up with those guys. We wrote those songs and played those songs together when we were making ourselves. I met Emerson when I was 16 and we started playing music together at 21. We basically came up together. Everything that I am, in my mind, was formed from those early years. The fact that we continue to play, continue to write and enjoy doing it, is a testament to how sincere our love for the band is. It still feels fresh and new when we get together and play, even songs from the record 20 years ago. It’s just near and dear to my heart.

Where you surprised at all that “If You Could Only See,” “You Wanted More,” or “Take Me as I Am,” have been your biggest hits?

Well, with “If You Could Only See,” it was one of the first songs that Emerson and I ever started working on. At one point we were not going to even put it on our first record. When we went to record it, we had to do it about five different times. It then got on the record, but it was not going to be a single. A radio station in Birmingham, Alabama just happened to start playing it. Then people starting calling in and were really digging the song. It took off from there. That’s actually a very little known fact about that song. There were so many obstacles with it. Even from a practical standpoint and having to record it so many times. We actually lost the first tape. Initially there were twelve songs selected for Lemon Parade and “If You Could Only See,” was number 13. I still don’t understand how that happened. There was a lot adversity with that song, but it persevered.

Every time we’ve had success it caught us by surprise. We never expected to have success to begin with, or to have success with our second record or receive Grammy nominations. You write songs and as long as you love them that’s great. If someone else loves them, that’s even better. I still get surprised when I hear one of our songs on the radio.

So what’s next for Tonic?

We have a few shows coming up and we will be in the studio soon for a week, doing something special for the 20th anniversary release, which is a surprise!

TONIC – IF YOU COULD ONLY SEE

FOLLOW JEFF GORRA ON TWITTER HERE:

Interview: Scott Weiland On The Rise & Fall Of Stone Temple Pilots

Photo credit: Jamie Weiland

“Why did you become such a douche to me?”

I knew it was coming.

As I walked into Scott Weiland’s room on his tour bus outside of the House of Blues Anaheim in Downtown Disney, I had a feeling that the former Stone Temple Pilots frontman may be aware of Alternative Nation’s critical coverage of him over the last couple of years. When Weiland posed that question to me immediately after I shook his hand, I told him I’m a huge fan and I don’t enjoy writing negative stories about him, but that many of them come directly from his most die hard fans on Stone Temple Pilots’ number one fansite: BelowEmpty.com. Weiland had never heard of it.

I mentioned that I get a lot of my Stone Temple Pilots news and reviews from that forum, just like I do with other fansites like PearlJamOnline. Weiland didn’t understand why’d I’d listen to those types of people, the types who will get upset when they don’t get an autograph. I then told Scott that there is an emphasis on the negative stories and those are the ones that get picked up from other sites, and that we actually did more to pay tribute to his late guitarist Jeremy Brown than any other site on the internet, and cover him more extensively than anyone. Weiland’s Wildabouts bassist Tommy Black, who was also in the room for the interview, agreed that the internet tends to focus on the negative these days.

I also told Scott many stories I do on him are based on other interviews he does with shitty generic questions, or ones that sensationalize his issues, which leads to me having to do stories on those poor interviews that have unflattering headlines since that’s the news out there on him. I told him that this interview is his chance to actually get his side of the story out there to his fans. At this point, we seemed to come to an understanding, as the questions on my coverage of him stopped. It was a conversation that I was glad we had, as there have been many misconceptions on how we cover Scott Weiland on Alternative Nation, and it really helped clear the air and move us in a positive direction to start the interview.

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Alternative Nation: I’ve got on an Aladdin Sane David Bowie shirt, so I was wondering what some of your favorite David Bowie songs are?

Scott Weiland: Most of my favorite David Bowie songs were from Low, Lodger, and Heroes.

AN: I’d love to see you cover “Panic in Detroit,” that’s one of my favorite Bowie songs.

SW: Yeah, I’d love to do that as well.

AN: Or how about a Bowie covers album? I think that would be really cool.

SW: Yeah, that would be cool, but it seems a little too obvious, though.

AN: Now I want to get back to the very beginning, something that’s always interested me. I’ve read your book, I’ve interviewed your original manager Steve Stewart, I’ve talked to the other STP guys [Dean DeLeo, Eric Kretz] about the early days of the band. There’s so much vague and contradictory information out there about the Mighty Joe Young and the Swing years. When it comes to you and Robert [DeLeo], it’s been said that you first saw him play at a UCI frat house then saw him again a year later.

SW: No, not a UCI frat house, he used to come and watch us play at a place called Kiss the Club. When we were teenagers, we’d play there three times a week, and he would come and watch us play, and he would come up and play on a song or two. When I decided with my best friend and guitar player Corey Hickok, when we decided we needed to make a change with the band, we got a hold of Robert and started writing songs with him.

An early incarnation of STP playing with guitarist Corey Hicock, circa 1989.

AN: What types of songs were you and Robert writing initially? I’ve heard the title “Drop That Funk,” which I’d love to hear, that got a rise out of Robert DeLeo when I met him a couple of years ago. So what types of songs were you initially writing with Robert and Swing, and do you remember any other titles?

SW: It was more Chili Peppers oriented, like early Chili Peppers oriented. A punk funk kind of vibe.

AN: Do you remember anything else besides “Drop That Funk” from your book?

SW: “Get Up With That Funky Feeling”.

AN: [Laughs] I’d love to hear these by the way, I don’t know why you don’t put these out. Speaking of that, Dean came into the band in 1990 or 1989.

SW: It was ’89.

AN: Finally a definitive answer on that. The band then morphed into Mighty Joe Young. It kind of confused me, there’s a picture in your book though that says it’s from 1990 when you opened for Henry Rollins, with Corey playing.

SW: No, that was Dean. Because we were both upstairs after we got done playing, when Henry was getting ready to walk down the stairway. Dean said, ‘How you doing out there?’ And he said, ‘Why? Is someone going to shoot me?’

AN: [Laughs] That’s why it’s great to get to talk to you, to get to hear about this kind of stuff. So when Dean came into the band, one story that I’ve heard is the first song that you guys wrote is “Where The River Goes.” There’s a demo out there that has stuff like “Dirty Dog” and the really funky stuff, some people say Corey played on some of that.

SW: Yeah, Corey played on some of that.

AN: Those are technically Swing songs then?

SW: They were still Mighty Joe Young songs, we had just changed the name. When Dean came into the band, the name was still Mighty Joe Young, and it was when we got signed, as well. We had to change the name because of the Chicago blues guy Mighty Joe Young.

AN: Yeah, luckily you didn’t go with Shirley Temple’s Pussy. That might not have worked out so well.

SW: It was there for a laugh for a few minutes.

Tommy Black: Really?

SW: [turns to bassist Tommy Black] STP, Shirley Temple’s Pussy.

TB: Oh, really? I didn’t know that. Wow, Shirley Black now.

AN: Yeah, I don’t think that would have worked in the politically correct times of today.

SW: Yeah, that’s unfortunate, [deadpans] that everything has to be Disneyland.

AN: [Laughs] That’s where we are right now.

TB: As we sit here.

AN: I always bring this up when people bring up, ‘Oh, they ripped other people off.’ But “Wicked Garden” and “Only Dying” are on that Mighty Joe Young demo, songs like that. How did you move into songs like that?

SW: Yeah, it started with “Where The River Goes“. Dean came in at our first rehearsal, and brought that song in. At first it was clean guitar, then we made it distorted guitar, and it went from a Cure sounding riff into a Zeppelin sounding riff.

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Stone Temple Pilots, 1990: Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland, Eric Kretz, Dean DeLeo.

AN: What about “Only Dying”? Why didn’t you guys ever re-record that? I know the story about Brandon Lee dying so it couldn’t be in The Crow, but why didn’t you guys ever do a studio version of that?

SW: It was written way before Brandon Lee died.

AN: When was it written?

SW: It was written in 1990.

AN: It’s good to get a definitive answer on that. The STP Wikipedia article is never going to be the same after tonight! So when did you first become familiar with some of the bigger Grunge era bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins? I heard something about you discovering Soundgarden when they were on SST, is that true?

SW: Actually on Sub Pop. I was a member of Sub Pop, and used to get singles every month. I saw Nirvana in 1989 I believe it was, at Raji’s [editor’s note: it was February 15, 1990].

AN: Wow, so you saw Nirvana. Did you get to meet Kurt or Krist?

SW: No, no. I was not a well known artist at the time. [Looks at Tommy Black and deadpans] Were you?

TB: No, I was not either.

SW: Did you ever get to see them?

TB: Back then, no.

SW: We used to play Raji’s all the time.

TB: Yeah, I used to go to Raji’s a lot.

AN: I don’t think I was alive back then.

TB: I saw Redd Kross at Raji’s.

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Pictured: Nirvana live at Raji’s, Hollywood, 1990

AN: So now, talking about the Grunge bands, this always pisses me off when I read it, what were your thoughts on being compared to some of them later?

SW: In the early days, it didn’t matter to me so much, because I felt it was the first real movement in rock and roll since punk rock. It tapped into sociopolitical connotations, and pop culture. It just had a vibe. It influenced fashion, I mean it was a huge, huge movement. But after that, I wanted us to be a band that changed, and we were, we changed from Core to Purple, then Tiny Music especially, we made a garage sounding album.

AN: Shangri LA DEE DA is the most experimental.

SW: Oh yeah.

AN: I play songs sometimes like a “A Song For Sleeping” and “Hello It’s Late” for people after “Dead and Bloated” and they don’t even think it’s the same band, so that proves your staying power.

SW: Or “Bi-Polar Bear.”

AN: You know, I was actually going to jump to that later because it’s kind of different subject matter.

SW: Well it’s not really, because I am bi-polar.

AN: I’ll ask you about that now then. I was just with my friend whose mother is bi-polar, and we were talking about that, and I was saying I’m going to interview Scott Weiland tonight, so I really should ask him about it. In “Bi-Polar Bear” there are lines in it like ‘Left my meds on the sink today, my head will be racing by lunchtime.’ It’s one of the most underrated STP songs to me. I love that you guys played it a few years ago when you were still together, but not at my show unfortunately. But how do you deal with bipolar disorder, how have you dealt with it over the years? Has it ever been better, or worse at certain times?

SW: There were certain groups of medicines that I took that worked for a long time, until they stopped working. Then I started taking a different regiment of medicines. I was on too high of a dose, and it affected some of the shows that I played, but I’m on the right dosage now.

AN: You hear the stories from the fans and stuff, and I want to get your side on this, how does it affect your personality when you are talking to people, and meeting strangers like fans?

SW: I don’t like meeting strangers anyway. I’m just not that kind of guy.

AN: Same here. My anxiety was through the roof in the last few hours before coming here. So right now you’re in a better place when it comes to dealing with it?

SW: Oh yeah, definitely.

AN: That’s really good to hear. Moving back to the early 90’s, when you were in STP you played with Jerry Cantrell a few times, and you played with Alice In Chains in 2007, you did “Angry Chair” when they first did the reunion. Are there any other collaborations you’d like to do with your contemporaries?

SW: I’d love to play with Jack White.

AN: That’d be great, especially with the style you’re going for now with Blaster and the garage rock. Or maybe Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.

SW: Yeah, The Black Keys would be great. Dan’s awesome.

AN: He’s producing the new Cage The Elephant album.

SW: Oh really?

AN: Yeah. You mentioned Cage The Elephant in your book, are you a fan of them?

SW: Yeah, I am a fan of them. They opened up for STP for awhile.

AN: Yeah, I mentioned to Matt Shultz a few years ago that you thanked Cage The Elephant in your book, and he was really honored, he thought it was really cool. Now going into your relationship with the STP guys, this is where I really want to get your side of the story. I spoke to Eric Kretz a couple of years ago and he talked about what a great friend you were during the early days of STP, and how you two co-writing the lyrics to “Plush” together in a hot tub was a perfect example of that friendship. When did that friendship with the STP members start to go downhill, and when did it become more of just a business relationship? I’m really interested in your take on that.

SW: It was really when I was asked to be on the cover of the magazines, and it wasn’t the band, and the band got really jealous about it. So things kind of changed from that point on, slowly, but surely.

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Scott was naturally the center of attention of STP during their heyday.

AN: One thing you mentioned on Howard Stern was in 1996 some Tiny Music shows were canceled, and the band held a press conference announcing: “Our singer can’t show up.” Do you think that was a turning point at all in the relationship?

SW: I think so, especially because Dean was a fuckin’ junkie as well, and not admitting to it.

AN: Now you kept going back to STP. After that hiatus where you made 12 Bar Blues, which I love. I wish you would play more of that live.

SW: Different band.

AN: Right. Then you went back to STP for No. 4., but that fell apart a few years later.

Tommy takes a picture of the interview.

AN: [To Tommy] Are you taking a picture? Cool. Say: ‘Scott Weiland and the douchebag.’ [laughs]

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Scott Weiland and the douchebag.

AN: So you went back to STP a few times, especially for the reunion in 2008, that was a huge tour. You were going through a lot at the time, Velvet Revolver was just ending, there was just so much going on. Do you think you guys should have reunited in hindsight, or do you think the relationship wasn’t healed at that point?

SW: I think we should have reunited. I just don’t think that we should have tried to produce our own album, especially when Don Was was asking to produce the album. He was so frustrated because no one in the rest of the band would listen to any of his ideas, so he finally went back to the Stones and did that Exile on Main St. reissue.

AN: Yeah, I was going to mention that actually, you just keep going into the things I want to talk about. No matter what went into it, I loved the self-titled STP album. I think “Take a Load Off” could have been a hit, some other songs too. I love “Maver”, that is one of my favorite songs you’ve ever written.

SW: I think “Maver” is a great song.

AN: Yeah, and it’s never been played live unfortunately. “Between The Lines” too, it’s just a really catchy album. For a lot of these veteran bands that come out, the songs don’t have the hooks, but for that album you guys did, and I loved it. But when I talked to the other guys a couple years ago, they mentioned you were working on your vocals separately from the band, and the DeLeos were producing the album.

SW: Everyone was producing the album.

AN: At Eric’s studio, Bombshelter.

SW: Yeah. Those guys were doing their part of the production, doing the instrumentation, and I was at my studio Lavish with Don Was producing my vocals.

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STP recording 2010’s self-titled/”Peace” record.

AN: So where did you guys get crossed up there? That you wanted Don Was to be the producer and the DeLeos wanted to produce it themselves?

SW: Yeah, they were insistent on producing themselves, and I didn’t feel that was a good idea, there’s too many producers in the band. We had Don Was at our disposal, and we should have let him be the leader.

AN: Do you think that did a lot to hurt the relations of the band at the time?

SW: Yeah, I think so.

AN: That’s very interesting. Do you think if Brendan O’Brien had produced it [Editor’s note: He produced the original five STP records before their 2003 separation], it would have turned out better? Why didn’t you guys go with Brendan?

SW: That was the idea of the rest of the guys. It was always something that we voted on, and they didn’t want to work with Brendan.

AN: Do you think in hindsight obviously, you had your point of view, it does sound like having an intermediary producer would have probably worked better with what was going on with the band at the time, but do you have any regrets in hindsight? Do you think you guys could have worked it out better when it came to the decision of making that album?

SW: If we would have gone with a producer, just like we did with all of the rest of our records with Brendan, where he was the guy where if it came to it, he had the last word.

AN: Another point of contention about STP during that era was the setlist, it was the greatest hits setlist especially as we went into the last couple of years of the reunion. I read that you wanted to work in more deep cuts, and freshen it up.

SW: Yep. I also wanted to do the 20th anniversary of Core, and do that album in its entirety, but they didn’t want to do that.

AN: Why didn’t they want to do it?

SW: I don’t know. I have no idea.

AN: Did you guys have conversations about that? Because I know there was a meeting at somebody’s house.

SW: Yeah, there was a conversation, but they didn’t want to do it. They said: ‘Let’s do Purple.’ Or let’s do the 21st reunion of fuckin’ Core. It’s like 20th works, 21st doesn’t.

AN: So they wanted to combine the tours then?

SW: Yeah.

AN: Then you ended up doing that tour. I don’t know if you can talk about that.

SW: I can.

AN: What led to you doing that?

SW: Because we didn’t have an album yet, so we decided to do a combination of the two albums.

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Weiland’s “Purple at the Core” tour in 2013 received some of the most polarizing reviews of his career.

AN: Now I’ve got to ask you, I like Blaster, but that Purple at the Core Tour, some fans weren’t big on it. What do you think went on with that tour that led to criticism of it?

SW: I think because we had a five piece band, and that five piece band had two guitar players, and the main guitar player who really was the most impressive, was Jeremy Brown, and he was only the rhythm guitar player in that band.

AN: I recognized the faces in the Wildabouts before it was even the Wildabouts, like Jeremy and Tommy, but after Doug [Grean] left it seemed like it got a lot better, at least musically.

SW: Yeah, it became a lot cleaner.

AN: Because there was a lot of noodling before that.

SW: There was a lot more space between the notes. What do you have to say about that Tommy?

TB: The space was good. The space opened things up. It got heavier.

AN: Just coming from a fan’s perspective, that’s really improved the show. You never really know if someone’s going to be ‘tired’ or something, but everything always sounds great musically. When it comes to playing live, do you wish you could tour less? Does it burn you out having to tour so much?

SW: Not really. It burns me out missing my wife, that burns me out, but she comes out every now and again on the road.

TB: She’s the band Mom.

SW: Yeah, she is the band Mom.

AN: You mentioned on Howard Stern a few years ago, I don’t know if circumstances have changed, but you have to tour a certain amount to make a certain amount of money.

SW: Well you have to, because rock bands don’t sell. STP and fuckin’ Velvet Revolver sold 6, 7, 8 million records at a time, and that just doesn’t happen in rock and roll any more. Taylor Swift might sell, might smell, a million records.

AN: You should have pushed “The Man I Didn’t Know” [from Happy in Galoshes] to the country crowd [laughs], that’d be a big crossover, another song I love. You do a ridiculous amount of shows. I look at your contemporaries like Chris Cornell, and sure they tour, but it’s not crazy like you when you look at the amount of dates. Do you think there’s a way you could do less shows and maybe monetize them more so you could tour less? Maybe an acoustic tour, where the fans help out with the setlist?

SW: These songs aren’t really acoustic in nature. The only thing we could really do is license more songs to film and TV to come up with a financially better situation, but other than that, the only way to make money is to tour, [sarcastically] is to be a road dog.

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Velvet Revolver, 2007: Matt Sorum, Scott Weiland, Slash, Dave Kushner, Duff McKagan.

AN: [Laughs] Now I’ve got to ask a little bit about Velvet Revolver. Somebody told a reporter of mine this, I think it was 10 years ago, your bandmates in Velvet Revolver who were in Guns N’ Roses were offered hundreds of millions for a reunion, and there were rumors at the time. I think you wrote a letter to Axl [Rose] at the time, it was pretty funny, calling him a wig wearing fuck or something. It was pretty amusing, I don’t know if you’d remember it.

SW: I remember a little bit about it. There was a little going back and forth between the two of us at the time, but I think that Guns N’ Roses are getting back together.

AN: Why do you think they’re getting back together?

SW: I just heard that.

TB: We’ve heard rumors.

SW: Oh, so there’s a scoop. My next question was going to be who is more likely to play with Slash at this point, you or Axl Rose. So do you think it’s Axl at this point?

SW: I think Slash is actually a bigger star right now than Axl.

TB: Slash is a brand.

SW: He’s the hat.

AN: Now I’ve got to ask you too about the Velvet Revolver thing, you said the band was reuniting a couple of years ago.

SW: Because we did a show together, and there was talk about us getting back together, but Perla, Slash’s ex-wife, kind of put the kibosh on everything.

AN: Oh wow, really? That’s surprising. But you did an interview at the time, I even remember the outlet, ABC News Radio, you said the band was getting back together and writing a new album.

SW: Not writing a new album, but as far as getting back together, I thought at the time we would get back together and do a tour.

AN: Dave Kushner said there was a little miscommunication at the time when I talked to him. Moving onto Blaster, there’s some pretty emotional stuff lyrically… “Circles” and “Amethyst” especially, those are two of my favorites. I feel like with the right push those could do well on radio.

SW: I think “Circles” would be great for a film, for an indie film.

AN: I love the song, but why did you choose to use autotune on that? Or was it autotune?

SW: It’s usually a harmonizer. It’s a harmonizer, not autotune.

AN: Then that will dispel that myth, because that’s what a lot of fans say.

SW: No, no autotune.

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Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, early 2015: Joey Castillo, Scott Weiland, Jeremy Brown, Tommy Black.

AN: So what was your inspiration lyrically behind those songs? I listened to those songs, and they still have the emotional resonance your older stuff does, because sometimes I’ll listen to other 90’s artists as they age, and it doesn’t really have that, but how are you still able to get that emotion down lyrically, especially this late into your career?

SW: A lot of it had to do with my relationship with my wife, and the producer Rick Parker that we had, who was a huge friend, and played in bands with Blacky Onassis here.

TB: Yeah. I was a band called Sparklier with Rick. We brought Rick in, I’ve always worked with him, and he had such a good vibe, I knew they would be a perfect match, and his bedside manner in the studio would work perfectly.

SW: Yeah, and he brought Jeremy to really advance –

TB: He helped him bloom.

SW: He helped him bloom, exactly.

AN: Another thing about Blaster that I don’t think anybody has asked you about, is James Iha played on “Blue Eyes,” how did that work out?

SW: Yeah, he wrote part of the song, then we finished writing the song, and then he wanted to play on it, so he came in and played on it.

TB: He’s a cool guy.

SW: He’s a cool guy, very nice. A gentleman.

AN: I’ve interviewed him and Corgan, very different personalities. It’s hard to see how they played together. Now where do you see yourself going in the next 5 to 10 years musically? Is your goal to get back to an arena level, maybe with the right amount of hits with the Wildabouts?

SW: Hell yeah!

AN: Or with another STP or Velvet Revolver run, or another supergroup? Is it your goal to get back to that level?

SW: I’m not interested in another supergroup. If there was a tour for STP or Velvet Revolver, I would do that, but this is my band, this is where I want to be in arenas. I think we write great enough songs to be able to put us back in that place. We want to follow the path of, like, Queens of the Stone Age.

AN: You’ve always had the passion for your solo career, even when you were still with Velvet Revolver or STP. You love your solo career so much, do you think that might have affected what was going on with STP? Do you think if you got back together with STP or Velvet Revolver, it’d be for the right reasons at this point since your heart is in the Wildabouts?

SW: I can’t say about Velvet Revolver, but I can say about STP, they had three bands besides the band that I was in with them. I had Magnificent Bastards, then I had my own two solo albums.

AN: And Art of Anarchy.

SW: Well no, that wasn’t a band of mine though. I wish those guys the best of luck, I hope they do great, but I was told by my management at the time, Carl Stubner, that all I had to do for the money was write the melodies, write the lyrics, and sing the songs. I was lied to by him.

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The members of STP with their children in Irvine, CA. 2012. Photo by Brett Buchanan.

AN: When it comes to STP at this point, do you think about the legacy at all? Because Chester is in the band –

SW: He’s not in the band any more. [Editor’s note: STP have confirmed our Saturday report from Weiland that Chester Bennington has quit the band]

AN: Chester’s not?

SW: No.

AN: What do you mean?

SW: I’ve heard he’s not in the band any more.

AN: Really?

TB: They played recently with him I think.

AN: It was a couple of weeks ago, they only did one show. They had canceled a show before that. So you don’t think he’s in the band any more?

SW: He’s got a band where he gets paid $700,000 a night with, and with STP, the brand is kind of falling apart, which is a shame.

AN: I wanted to ask you about that, do you think the legacy can be repaired, at least during your guys lifetimes? No matter what, people are going to love those songs 100 years from now, they’re just timeless. But do you think the legacy can be repaired during your lifetime?

SW: Yeah, if we did a reunion tour, it could be.

AN: But what do you think you’d have to do to make it different from the previous run, to really make it end on a strong note? Do you think there’s a way to do that, and repair the relationship with the guys?

SW: I don’t know, that depends on them.

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Overall, the interview was a very positive experience. It was a dream come true to get to interview one of my favorite singers of all time. We can be critical of Weiland on Alternative Nation, but at the end of the day it’s because we care, and we’re always rooting for him. Weiland was right on time for the interview, we cleared up the issues he had with our coverage of him, and he was able to share his side of the story on what led to the rise and fall of Stone Temple Pilots’ original lineup.

Weiland’s entire crew, and bandmates, were class acts. Wildabouts bassist Tommy Black definitely helped Scott feel more comfortable during the interview, and I had a quick conversation with drummer Joey Castillo (formerly of Queens of the Stone Age) about Pearl Jam’s early days as Mookie Blaylock. Scott’s new manager Tom Vitorino is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in the music business. We talked a bit about David Bowie, and he even hugged me following the interview! I can’t thank him enough for making this happen.

When it comes to the concert, The Icarus Line and Slater Slums were solid openers for Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, and Weiland’s headlining set was a vast improvement over the 2011 Christmas album tour I saw. Weiland’s backing band is much tighter now with Joey Castillo on drums, the lineup seems primed to record some solid material in the near future.

Weiland recently released an app featuring a new song called “Back to the City.” He is currently touring the United States with his band the Wildabouts.

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Scott Weiland, Alternative Nation owner Brett Buchanan, and Wildabouts bassist Tommy Black

 Co-edited by Doug McCausland.

Interview: Hate Eternal Bassist Discusses New Album And Response to Solo X-mas EP

Tampa’s Hate Eternal has been pummeling the masses since 1997. 2015 has been no exception with the release of their sixth offering Infernus. Recently I had the opportunity to have an exchange with bassist J.J. Hrubovcak via e-mail. We discussed a range of topics from the new album, to what motivates him, and even touched on his death metal Christmas record from 2013.

Looking back what was your favorite moment of the recording process of “Infernus”?

My favorite moment is the actual writing. This band is a collaborative effort and I really enjoy being able to contribute so much to the process. Erik and I live pretty far from each other so we exchange Pro Tools files and Skype, but the best moments are flying down to sunny Florida to jam in person. We both grab a guitar and go to town and see what comes of it, then arrange it. Chaos Theory was one of those born from a 3am jam. I’ve been in the band 7+ years at this point and I really feel like I am in the groove. I contributed on guitar to Phoenix [Amongst The Ashes] as well, but I was newer to the band and my approach to the riffing is different now. Anyway, I’d have to say the creative process is my favorite part of any album. That and hearing the final result!

Any plans for a promotional music video? What track do you feel deserves one the most?

The plans are in the early stages on that front. I’m so proud of every tune on this record and there are choice cuts throughout the album. I think each person has their own favorite and it really depends on what we want to convey in the video. This record is really dynamic so do we choose a slower one? A faster one? A mix? On this album, I don’t think only one tune stands out. There are multiples – all of them! You tell me! Which one is the best for a video?

Speaking from a rhythm perspective, do you feel new drummer Chason, is a great match for you when playing together?

Chason is a great match! He brings a spastic, animalistic energy to the table and you can hear it in his fills. Plus the guy hits like a champ and plays with tree trunks for sticks – I think they are 3A. He also has a lot of groove and can play multiple styles. The videos are out there for folks who are interested in just hearing him jam.

Regarding your upcoming tour with Misery Index, Beyond Creation, and Rivers Of Nihil; Who are you most excited to be touring with?

All three of these bands have their unique styles. Rivers of Nihil have been killing it. I’m new to Beyond Creation and I like what I’ve heard. I’ve always loved Misery Index and we are good friends so it will be a fantastic tour.

What are your thoughts on letting albums stream in their entirety before they hit stores? Did you have any say when it came to “Infernus”? Do you view it as just giving your art away for free?

I leave that up to the professionals. Labels release many albums per year and they’ve obviously seen a boost from it, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. I’m old school so originally I wondered if that was a good idea when labels started it. But the bottom line is that folks who want it for free, will get it for free. By streaming it yourself, you are giving someone the opportunity to 1) realize just how badass the record is, 2) click ‘buy’ on the stream page when they otherwise wouldn’t and 3) view the special collector’s edition packages. Will the future show everyone that it is the right thing to do? I don’t know.

Overall, how would you say was the response to your X-mas metal EP? Would you do it again?

The response was overwhelmingly positive! I was hoping that would be the case because I put so much effort into crafting it as a dark death metal record regardless of seasonal theme. There are so many death metal Christmas tunes out there that are cheesy and campy. For instance, you can find a bunch of growling “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer” covers. I wanted to do the exact opposite of that. I didn’t want this EP to be a joke, but instead base it on dark, morose hymns with a twist on the lyrical content and frame it in a death metal context. I would like to do another one, but it would have to be right. The musical themes would have to be dark enough, but also recognizable enough. There are a lot of happier, recognizable Christmas tunes, but many of the darker hymns are
religious in nature and I don’t know if they would be too obscure. We shall see…

Who’s your favorite 3-piece metal band (besides Motorhead)?

There are so many good ones – among them are Krisiun, Deeds of Flesh (for a long period) and of course Destruction! Destruction is great!

What is your favorite Hate Eternal song (pre-Phoenix) to play live?

Definitely “Whom Gods May Destroy”. That song is just hauling! Fury and Flames is so tortured! I love that record. Alex’s bass lines on that tune are fun to play also.

What is your desert island album?

That’s a hard one. It’d probably be one of the big four thrash band records like Reign in Blood or Peace Sells. I think that either way, if you have to listen to one record over and over on a desert island alone, you are going to go crazy! My brother used to like some of the Japanese noise bands. If you are going insane, you might as well get there faster with a bunch of noise band static on endless loop!

Interview: Girlschool Vocalist Talks New Album ‘Guilty As Sin’

I had the opportunity to interview Kim McAuliffe, the frontwoman of the legendary all-female Heavy Metal band, Girlschool. They have collaborated with major artists in the Metal community such as Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and Ronnie James Dio. Girlschool have a new album coming out on November 13 called ‘Guilty As Sin’ and are very much looking forward to its release.

On the early days of Girlschool: Edin and me grew up together in the same street. Her brother and my cousin both played guitar and so we got interested too! We started Painted Lady as a girl band because we couldn’t get any boys to play with us!

We decided to go pro when we met Kelly [Johnson, guitarist] and because we had all been to all girl schools, we thought that would be a good name!

On 1981 collaboration with Motorhead: We had been touring around Britain and Europe for a couple of years sleeping on top of our gear in the back of the van when a friend who had formed his own record label, City Records, asked us to record a single. UK Subs, our mates, had just done one, so of course we said yes. Lemmy was looking for a support band for their first major British tour, heard our single, loved it, and invited us on their tour!

Lemmy has been a great supporter of us, but also many other women in rock. He is one of a kind. A real lovely bloke!

So looking forward to catching up with him and the boys on tour soon!

On Screaming Blue MurderOh yeah, Screaming was produced by a different producer and we had a new bassist Gil. We went in and went nuts for three weeks. I hope the energy we put in shows through!

On working with Dio on “I Spy”: It was amazing to have Ronnie sing on our song! We had got to know him over the years. We first met him when we supported Black Sabbath at the Hammersmith Odeon for four nights in 1980. A lovely man.

On new album Guilty As Sin: Looking forward to the release of our new album. We are very proud of it and hope people will love it as much as we do. Great working with Chris again!