Exploding onto the scene in the late 90’s, Fuel became well known for their instant classic hit, Shimmer, and their riveting live show. The mega chart topping songs kept coming, with Hemorrhage, Bad Day, Innocent and Falls on Me leading the way. After some recharging time, Fuel has come roaring back as of late. They currently find themselves in the midst of the Big Night Out tour and have a brand new record that’s ready to be unleashed. I recently had a chance to board the Fuel tour bus and speak with Brett Scallions. One of the more charismatic and sincere frontmen in Rock ‘n” Roll today.
So it’s night eight of the Big Night Out tour. It seems like a really fun bill and tour to be a part of.
It absolutely is. We are having a great time together. I knew the guys in Alien Ant Farm to a certain degree and we had done a few gigs together in the past. The same thing with Hoobastank but we didn’t really know each other that well. So we’ve been having a really good time getting to know each other well on this tour, becoming friends and enjoying Rock ‘n’ Roll together.
Lit was originally on the bill too, why did they drop off?
Lit was supposed to do this with us then at the tail end they decided it wasn’t going to work for them.
Well that just means we get a few more Fuel songs each night.
That’s right, that’s right.
One thing I’ve noticed about present day Fuel is it seems the band is more straight ahead rock than ever before. Meaning, your live shows are raw, there’s a bit of a bluesy vibe on occasion and there is nothing extra sonically in the atmosphere. It’s just you four guys playing your instruments, your voice and your songs.
You’re nailing it, you’re nailing it.
There’s really no big production behind the performance. It’s just refreshing, straight ahead Rock ‘n’ Roll. Is that a fair assessment?
Yeah, I think first and foremost the music and the performance of the music is the most important thing. It’s top priority. We go out and try to play together the best that we can and really focus on having a good time and making every night just a little bit different. Just enjoying who we are and what we are doing together. We just finished a new record. I’m excited to get that out, it’s coming soon. Like you were saying earlier with the bluesy element to it, you will really understand that soon when you hear some of the new songs. We’ve totally gotten bluesy, jazzy and even hints of country at times. We really tried to make each song its own thing.
To me there is nothing better than a band being able to play their entire record live from front to back where there is nothing on the record that the band can’t physically play live. Better yet, it can even be stripped down and played acoustically. I think people get the vibe that’s the way it is with present day Fuel.
Yeah, this is just four guys on a stage. We are not going to lie and cheat on the stage and add all this stuff. We’re not going to dump all of this stuff in protools and play along to it to try and sound just like the record. We are going to play live. We are not going to fake anything, it’s 100% live. We are going to give the people what they want and this is to see Fuel live. We live in a day and age where we see a lot of bands that have the kitchen sink on with the protools rig. There’s a lot of pressure in the industry to sound amazing live and you do want to sound amazing live but at the same time I want to sound like what we truly are, four guys on a stage. We are going to give you exactly what you see.
I want to ask you about your time with Riders on the Storm. Sadly Ray Manzarek recently passed away. What was it like being with them and how did Ray influence you?
I feel so fortunate to be able to call Ray my friend. He was my friend. We had a lot of warm and awesome times on the road together. He took me to Europe many times, South America, Canada, Mexico. We rode in vans together, tour buses together, planes together, and had some wonderful conversations. He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He just loved art, he loved poetry and he loved life. He loved talking to people and embracing. He was very much a hippie. He embraced life and savored every taste of it.
I’m sure his legacy will live on forever.
He did things that go in the time capsule, ya know? People 100 years from now will know exactly who Ray Manzarek was and is. He will always live through the beautiful art he created.
Did he have any fascinating or funny stories about Jim Morrison that you can share? Does anything in particular come to mind that you always chuckle about?
There wasn’t a day that passed that Ray and Robbie wouldn’t say something about Jim Morrison. It was always an incredible thing to be in the room when they would talk about Jim. Sometimes there were stories about the frustration they had with Jim. They said Jim had an alter-ego. When he drank and would turn into “Jimbo” and they’d say whenever Jimbo came around get the hell out of the way. Ray always said that he loved Jim like a brother but when Jimbo came out it was something he had a hard time dealing with at times because he just didn’t enjoy that side of Jim.
So the new Fuel record is done. When do you expect the first single to be released?
Well, we’ve got a few bugs to work out but we’ve got the label that’s ready, we’ve got the record that’s done and it’s all right there we just have a couple of things that have to be worked out. The goal right now is to have the new single out in September or October, right in that area. If everything works out exactly the way we’re planning that’s when you can hear a new Fuel song.
Do you have the single picked out and ready to go? Do you know which one it’s going to be?
Yeah pretty much, there’s a good four songs that we have in the new catalog that we are looking at that could be our first song out of the gate. Our game plan is really there and structured we just have to finish up these last little things.
People have really taken to the new songs you’ve played live over the past year or two. Is it safe to say the bulk of the new songs you’ve played live will be on the record if not all of them?
Yeah, there are a number of new tunes that we’ve played live that I can say will make the record. I can’t speak for all the songs we’ve done live. You just never know until the time has come. You’ll have fifteen songs and you have to pick ten to make the final cut. So we’ll see but yes a lot of the songs we have performed live will be on there.
The past few months you posted updates as you went through the recording process, giving fans some photos and video. Did you record the new album in your home studio? I noticed Fuel plaques on the wall.
We did all the drum tracks at place called the Steak House which is in the Studio City, West Hollywood area. Then we did all the guitar tracks at my home studio and we did all my vocals at my partner Eddie Wohl’s studio. So we were working out of three rooms.We also did some Hammond B3. We were just trying to go wherever we could to make sure the record was getting the best tones sonically.
Do you foresee any songs that you solely wrote on previous Fuel records getting injected into the setlist at anytime? Songs such as Luck or Knives?
You never know. One thing I’ve really been focused on over the past couple years is fresh and new. Writing new songs and preparing to put those into the show. Once we get that down then maybe we will get to the point where we look at some other stuff and maybe pull out some tunes that I’ve never performed before or haven’t performed in a long time and throw it in there.
A few years ago you, Scott Weiland and Duff McKagen were part owners of the rock club Snitch in New York City. I’m curious as to what your opinion is in regards to what is going on presently with Scott, Stone Temple Pilots and their new lineup?
I know Slash, Duff, Matt Sorum and the DeLeo brothers and they are all absolute sweethearts. They are just good guys, great people and they just love being musicians, love being artistic and creative and just love their bands. I think they just couldn’t take it anymore, ya know? I heard the new single that the DeLeo’s and Eric did with Chester and it sound great. It’s a pretty bad ass tune. Those guys are all pros, they know how to write a good song. I wish them all the best and I hope it works for them. Chester is an amazing singer and I think he will fit that very well.
Also going back to your New York years, let’s talk about the band you were in called The X’s. Oddly enough, the songs Blame and Suicidal Lover came on my iPod this morning.
Those are my favorite songs from that catalog. That was such a great time in my life man. I loved writing songs with those guys. We were having a lot fun just being creative together without being concerned about what our first single would be or anything like that. It was just four guys writing fun songs. That’s still is one of my favorite records that I’ve ever made.
What was it like for you at that time coming from Fuel? You were playing sold out shows, playing with Aerosmith, playing big clubs and theaters. What was it like to take a step back out of the spotlight, be the bass player and seemingly relax a little bit more?
It was exactly what I needed. When I left Fuel I was so burnt out. I was not happy and I was really contemplating whether or not I still wanted to be a musician. When I started jamming with The X’s I really started finding my passion for music again and what I love doing. Being able to step out of the lead singer role was great for me too. I was able to step out of my own element, just be a bass player, rock out and become a better musician. I was able to focus on playing and getting tight with my band while having a good time. I had never been a bass player by any means. I had only played bass when I would write songs or record demos. I’d go in and play the bass on it, play the drums on it and then guitar so I had a little bit of a knowledge on how to play bass. It was so much fun for me to break away from playing exactly what the guitars were playing and make something unique but still flow with what’s going on.
Was there ever a Brett Scallions solo record in the works at any point?
I haven’t ever planned on a solo record but never say never.
Another collaboration I’d like to ask you about are the various projects you’ve done with Mike McCready from Pearl Jam. 1,2,3 Go and the World Fire Brigade music which by the way, is one of the most unique and melodic rock records I have heard in a long time.
We didn’t know what we were getting into when we made that record. That was Sean, Eddie and I sitting in a room and saying “OK, who’s got something?” Finally we just started figuring out some riffs. The songs came together rather easy once we started rolling. It was a fun record to make and I’m very proud of that record. I think we kicked ass on it. We were just trying to make a solid heavy record that was melodic so people could sing to it yet the lyrics were saying something. We didn’t want to make a record of just mindless drool, we wanted it to really say something. We were writing a record for ourselves more then anything.
So what’s it like collaborating with Mike McCready? He seems like such a terror on guitar.
Mike is a lot of fun to play with. We did the 1,2,3 Go thing where we get together and play a lot of fun covers. Playing anything from Skynyrd, to The Clash, to Sex Pistols, to Pink Floyd to ZZ Top. Just having a really fun time. He’s such an incredible player and such a great guy. Within my relationship with him, he actually came to me and said “Brett, if you ever need me to play something for you just let me know,” and I was like “it’s funny you should say that because I have something for you!” So I sent him the song Shell of Me and he put some blistering leads on it which was exactly what the song needed.
What music do you find you draw the most inspiration from these days? What would we currently find spinning on your iPod?
I always go back to the classics. I tend to put blinders on because I want to influence myself and not have someone else influence me unless its the Beatles, Led Zepplin, Van Halen or Johnny Cash. I don’t listen much to new music out today. With this new record we were just trying to write a fun record. Everyday when I was working on a song I would think about what’s going to make people sing and dance and break out of the realities. That’s the mind-frame I was in when making this record.
Do any of the new songs make an appearance on this tour?
We’ve pulled back a bit on that right now. Tonight we’ll probably just play songs from the back catalog. Once the first single comes out then we’ll start pepper-spraying some new stuff in again.
What are Carl Bell and Jeff Abercrombie up to these days?
Carl is trying to crack the Nashville scene as a songwriter and possibly a producer I think. I don’t really know but I think he’s trying to get into the writing thing out there. Jeff, he’s got some rehearsal rooms in L.A. that he rents out to other bands.
Well Fuel fans certainly have a lot to look forward to. With a brand new record on the way, the new single coming out soon and the Big Night Out Tour goes until September 1st so there’s a lot lined up with a ton of passion and energy behind it.
Yes definitely. We’ll go until about the first of September then we’re going to start back out in some form. We’ll go out in very late September and go through October. I don’t know if it’s going to be the Big Night Out tour but it will be a fun tour of some sort nonetheless. We’ve got a few friends of ours in other bands that we are talking to about going out together so we ‘ll make a fun package out of it. You know, as for me, I love what I do. I love playing with the guys I’m playing with and being artistic. I have more passion than anyone can imagine. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.