Formed in 1978, Classic Punk band Social Distortion reached the height of its fame in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The band has seven studio albums beginning with its iconic Mommy’s Little Monster. Although there has been over a dozen ex-Social D members, the group — known as a touring juggernaut (sometimes at the expense of making new music) — has maintained a lineup that has been fairly consistent for the past decade.
CityBeat caught up with rhythm guitarist Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham in anticipation of Social D's current tour. The group performs at Bogart’s on Saturday (Oct. 13) night and will surely wow fans new and old.
CityBeat: I know Mike (Ness) has said in the past we won’t have to wait seven or eight years for a new Social D record. Are you guys working on new music right now? How is that coming along?
Jonny Wickersham: In a perfect situation we would love to get a record out sooner than we have been putting them out. I don’t know that it looks like it will happen real soon. We have been really busy touring the last couple of years. As far as new material there are always new songs in the works. We will work on them at sound checks and rehearsals. When it comes time to get serious to put a record together, the songs that stick in our minds are the ones that are the best stuff and they typically make the record. We will finish it up. We will see. Conceivably we can get together and start really getting serious in the beginning of next year and have a record to follow shortly after that. It has to feel right. I have always felt it is a good thing not to rush records. I know that people like to see a record come out on a certain schedule with bands, but it is also good to evolve a little bit as people and as a band in between albums.
CB: You spend most of the time as a touring band on the road. Do you ever write down the tour stories or keep mementos from the tour to remember them all?
JW: I have never been a big journal keeper or anything like that. I don’t. Certain stories definitely do stick in your mind but not really.
CB: What current music or music you are listening to right now is currently inspiring you?
JW: You know what a really great record is, the new Hot Water Music Record, have you heard that?
JW: I have been listening to a lot of that in my car.
CB: Good driving music?
JW: Oh yeah. It is such a great album. It really is good. I also like the Drive By Truckers a lot. I don’t listen to a lot of new music to be honest. I listen to a lot of old Blues and stuff and old Rock N Roll.
CB: From your standpoint, what are the characteristics that make a good Social D song?
JW: I would have to say a good riff and a good lyric that is poppin'. You can’t go wrong with a good lyric. You can try to stretch that a bit, not just stay with our formula as a band. We have a different division of sounds with the band. We are not trying to re-invent sound in an extreme manner or anything but it is good to try to mix it up. I am hoping in the future, in the stuff coming up, we can do that and re-visit some of the earlier stuff.
CB: We are heading into a critical election year. Ohio is a crazy place to be during this whole thing. Do you guys have any political views or support for any of the candidates?
JW: Well, I am going to vote for Obama and hope for the best.
CB: What is the worst job you have ever had?
JW: I don’t know. I had a job at the Orange County jail once a long time ago. We had to cut the bunks down from three bunks to two and carry them all out to the loading dock and get them out of the jail. Any job where you are locked up is not a great job. I had so many jobs growing up. I started working in construction fields at a really young age because where I come from that is just what you did when you got to the age of going out to get a job, try to get a construction trade. I have also worked at Carl’s Jr. and Burger King as a teenager and neither one of those jobs lasted more than a couple weeks. I have worked as a stagehand. I have worked in an Art Department building sets for film production. Those are cool jobs. I really liked the Art Department work. Any job that anybody could have at this point is a good job is kind of how I feel. I definitely never want to think I am beyond any kind of work. You never know what is going to happen in life. There are times where being able to get any job is critical for you.
CB: Do you have any scars?
JW: I have a scar on my upper leg. When I was a little kid, me and a couple friends built this bicycle Motocross track on a dirt lot by our house in our neighborhood. We went out and worked really hard with shovels and built this really cool track and the enemy kids down the street, who were our nemesis, came over one day when we weren’t there and totally ruined our track, kicked in all our berms and jumps and trashed it. So we went down the street where they had built this really shitty tree fort that was like three stories tall off the ground into the tree. We went up there and we started hammering at it, we brought sledgehammers over and we started bashing in their tree fort. The stupid thing on our part was that we started on the bottom and climbed up to the next level and up to the next level. We were breaking this tree fort apart and we were way up at the top and the thing collapsed. I fell and my leg got clipped up on a nail. It ripped my leg open so I have a scar. I have a bunch of other scars too.
CB: What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
JW: Well it depends. Turn out the television if I have been watching the television. I don’t always watch TV at night. Sometimes I do. If I am on the bus on the tour, I listen to music on my iPod. The last thing I do is turn that on and I usually fall asleep listening to a record. Then I have to wake up and pull the headphones off and fall back asleep. If I’m reading a book, close the book and turn out the light. It can be one of many different things.
Journey is a legendary Rock act from the ’70s/’80s, but the band is not done yet. The group put out its 15th album, Eclipse, last year, Journey's second effort with current lead singer Arnel Pineda, and is currently out on tour with fellow ’80s hitmakers Pat Benatar and Loverboy. The band's classic music is standing the test of time and crowds still react emotionally to its vast catalog of hits, as well as some of the new music selections.
CityBeat spoke with keyboard player Jonathan Cain, who is now in his fourth decade with the band, and discussed how he was influenced to write one of Journey's biggest hits, as well as how the band stays relevant in today’s ever changing musical landscape.
Journey performs the final concert of Riverbend Music Center's season tomorrow (Friday).
CityBeat: You guys have been touring on Eclipse for the past year. Are you guys working on new material yet?
Jonathan Cain: No, we are just settling into the touring aspect of things right now. We worked pretty hard on the last one and thought it was time to focus in. I recently had a child and (guitarist) Neal (Schon) has been going through all his things with Michaele (Salahi). We have been busy. I just opened a new studio in Nashville called Eviction Sound. We have been focusing on all the stuff we have to do. It’s a balance deal. We’ll start working on new music eventually.
CB: You mentioned some of the personal issues with Neal and Michaele. (Salahi, a former Real Housewives of D.C. star, left her husband for Schon in a very public "love triangle" soap opera.) Has any of that gotten in the way of the band’s activities?
JC: No. Not at all. They are getting through it and still in love. It’s all good.
CB: Any fond Cincinnati memories from the past?
JC: Fond Cincinnati memories? I have had some nice encounters with the fans down at the hotel bar there; closing the bar there would be the response. I do enjoy going to the ball games as well. Cincinnati always has a pretty good baseball team.
CB: I was recently covering the CMT Awards in Nashville and saw the performance with Rascal Flatts. How did that collaboration take place?
JC: The Rascal Flatts thing came about because we have a mutual friend. I play golf with one of the guys who produces the CMT Awards. He asked me one time on the golf course, “Who do you think Journey should do a (CMT's cross-genre showcase) Crossroads with?” And I said, “Honestly I think Rascal Flatts best fits with the sound Journey does,” and he agreed. We talked to their senior management and the rest was history. We will probably do a Crossroads together at some point.
CB: I couldn’t get the song out of my head for four days after that night.
JC: It’s one of those hummers. Every band needs one.
CB: My favorite Journey song ever is “Faithfully.” I know you wrote that song. Can you talk me through that process to put that song together?
JC: Basically, the song was written on the road. I was in Saratoga, NY, in upstate New York. We had just come off the bus and I was feeling a certain way watching the crew take the stuff down every night with the riggers and the roadies. I felt they needed to have a song and same with us. We all miss our family the same way. I don’t care who you are in this business, you still sacrifice something to be out on the road. It’s something I wrote for all of us.
It’s a good ol’ Country song that turned out to be a big ol’ hit. (Original singer) Steve Perry actually wanted that on his solo album and I declined. I said, “Journey or bust.” It was the last song we recorded on the Frontier album back in ’83. We never even rehearsed it. That was live in the studio. That was the third take. Steve put his signature vocal on it.
I was thrilled to have penned that song, then we played it live and the fans came back with “I’m forever yours, faithfully.” They turned it around and it was pretty cool.
CB: I have asked other artists about hits like that and they say, typically, the hits come out quickly. Was that the case with that one?
JC: Yeah, I wrote that in a half an hour on a napkin. It was very quick in the room. I woke up and I had started it. I wish I still had the napkin. I don’t have it. Then there was the keyboard I had on my bed I used to bump around ideas on. It was one of those Casio keyboards you just take in your suitcase. When I got to the gig, I got a real piano backstage at the Saratoga Performance Arts Center and sort of flushed it out.
The first time I did the demo, I was working with Keith Olson back in L.A. and he let me record it just by myself and that was what I played for everybody. He played it for the girls from Heart. He said Nancy (Wilson, guitarist) cried when she heard it. I thought that was a good sign. I guess they liked it.
CB: I saw on your website that you share blogs and journal entries. Have you kept journals all through your touring years?
JC: No, I should. I sort of dropped the ball on that one. I am getting inspired to write a new one. A lot has happened since the last one. I want to update the fans. It just may take on the highlights.
We have just had this movie released Every Man’s Journey. We debuted it at the Tribeca Film Festival and San Francisco Film Festival. It’s a documentary that was made by a Filipino lady that heard about Arnel (also Filipino) joining our band. So she came out on our tour. She spent her last four years following our buses around, coming to rehearsals. So they finally put a movie together. That was really exciting to attend and it really helped him solidify himself as he has evolved as an entertainer and a star. You see it actually happen, I think they are going to release it next Spring. It is really something. It is a neat story. We are proud of him.
CB: I find it very inspiring you welcomed someone new into the band and are so supportive of them moving forward.
JC: It was kind of a no-brainer. The guy can sing better than anyone can sing it. We went, “You know what. Let’s go with this guy.” We loved his heart. We loved the man as a father. The whole package. He makes us better. He is great.
CB: I saw in your journals you were blogging about South America and other places. I wish I had written down all my travel stories over the years. What has been your most memorable travel story recently?
JC: Actually, the European thing with my son was really great. We went to Europe and he went on the road with me and we got to go to some pretty incredible places. We played golf together in Scotland. There was this incredible experience, everything from the Eiffel Tower to the Royal Palace of Stockholm and to see it with your son is pretty darn cool. We went to San Salvatore, about a mile up and you look out from the Swiss Alps and it is breathtaking. I have to say that European trip was at the top of the list.
CB: Any habits you’d like to break?
JC: I probably drink too much wine.
CB: Any regrets over the years?
JC: No. I believe life is perfect. You live to learn from your mistakes and grow. If you regret something then lessons haven’t been learned. Everything you regret is something you haven’t accepted in life. Mistakes are chances to grow, chances to understand a deeper sense of who, what, and how you relate to the universe.
CB: Do you think Rock music is a dying art?
JC: No. I don’t. It is a niche now. We are a niche now. We aren’t as popular as we were but if you come to our show you can see it is alive and well. Just because the media has stiffed us doesn’t mean we aren’t out there in our own way. We are quietly playing for thousands and thousands of people. We have sold 800,000 tickets. It’s crazy. It’s a lot of people. It’s a good show. Pat Benatar is on the bill. We have Loverboy opening up when it is the three of us. We are having fun. We are keeping things alive.
CB: Are you a political band? We are in a critical election time. Are you planning to back any candidates?
JC: No. We stay out of that. If they want us to play and pay us a bunch of money, we will play for them.
CB: Either candidate?
JC: We would. The bottom line is we have a lot of fans on both sides. That’s my feeling. I’m tired of Republicans, I’m tired of Democrats. Let’s just get the people together and get shit done instead of arguing and bickering. This is the worst Washington has ever been. That’s just my take on it. (Journey reportedly was paid a half million dollars to perform during the Republican National Convention this year.)
CB: We are looking forward to you in Cincinnati. What can the fans look forward to that night?
JC: It is a cool mix of all of our stuff. Some new, some old. Great video, great lights. We have a new sound guy. Our P.A. sounds like a big, giant jukebox. I don’t think we are too loud. I think we sound cool. I think we look pretty cool. They are going to see a great show. It is going to be a good first class Rock show with a lot of hits.
Il Volo — the popular Italian Opera trio from Sicily — features three teens with tenor voices so strong, they got America’s attention after one of the best guest performances in the history of American Idol, singing "O Sole Mio" last year. They formed in 2009 and were received very well in their native country, performing with some of the biggest international superstars in their short history. The group consists of Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto and Gianluca Ginoble. They are now set for their second U.S. tour which comes through Cincinnati tomorrow (Friday) night.
Il Volo is produced by long time industry veteran Tony Renis, who discovered the boys two years ago along with Grammy-winning producer Humberto Gatica (Michael Bublé, Josh Groban and Celine Dion).
CityBeat caught up with Gianluca Ginoble this week by phone to discuss his love of touring and how much he enjoys getting to do what he loves every day. He is just learning English but was able to provide a little insight into to the band’s grueling tour schedule. Check out Il Volo at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion on Friday.
CityBeat: I know you were introduced to opera from family members growing up in Italy. How important is family tradition to you?
Gianluca Ginoble: My family is the most important thing because my Grandpa is my inspiration. It was him that introduced me to this kind of music. But I love others as well, like Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. I love Opera, but I also I love other kinds of music too. To me family is the most important thing.
CB: You guys are going to start a long tour being away from home. Is it hard being on the road being away from friends and family or what is the hardest part for you?
GG: When I am home, I can’t wait to do another tour because this is now my life. For me, it is like funny work because this is my passion. I am doing what I love to do, but when I am on tour I can’t wait to come back to my house and my home because I miss the family, my Grandpa. My Grandma died six months ago and for me it was an amazing pain. He was very important for me.
CB: I am sorry to hear that. Are there any places on the tour in the United States that you are specifically looking forward to playing, the location or the venue?
GG: Yes, yes, yes. My favorite city is Los Angeles. New York as well, but Los Angeles is the city of the dreams and the star, the Walk of Fame, the Oscars. For me it is the best city.
CB: What has been your rehearsal process for the tour? What has that been like for you?
GG: We have prepared with eight or nine hour rehearsals daily.
CB: Every day?
GG: Yes, because this is our first concert and we are preparing. When we have the soundcheck before the concert it is just 20 minutes or 30 minute,s so we have major rehearsals to get ready.
CB: How do you take care of your voices?
GG: Yes always, our voices are the most important thing.
CB: Do you ever see the band crossing over to pop music or do you think you will stay with Opera?
GG: I don’t know. We are open to many things. We did an American tour and it was wonderful, amazing because there were teenagers everywhere and in the U.S., in Miami, Los Angeles, New York and this is beautiful because it was our goal and this is a dream come true.
CB: Where do you see yourself or the band in 10 more years?
GG: I don’t know. I hope all this can continue in this way but life is unpredictable.
CB: What is your favorite song to sing and perform?
GG: "Smile," a Charlie Chaplin song.
CB: What can the fans look forward to in Cincinnati at the show?
GG: It is going to be a very beautiful show with more surprises. We have changed some things and I think it is going to be amazing. We have three new songs, which are a surprise.
CB: How do stay connected to your fans with Facebook or Twitter?
GG: Always, always. I update my fans, our fans. I am always doing “Greetings from …" I upload the pictures.
CB: What are you looking forward to the most on the tour?
GG: The most beautiful thing is to meet the fans. When I look at the people and they are happy and when they listen to our singing and we can make them happy, it is just beautiful.
Five Finger Death Punch is one of the most popular Metal bands in the world. The band has a catchy, melodic sound that resonates with its crowds and the band's songs have become arena anthems across the country. Five Finger continues to tour on its third studio album American Capitalist. Currently, the group is out headlining the Trespass America Festival with the bands Trivium, Pop Evil and Killswitch Engage.
CityBeat was able to spend some time with the band’s lead guitarist Jason Hook to discuss, among other things, the band’s feverish tour schedule and the effect it has on the band members' relationships, as well as what makes the music so addictive. The Trespass America Festival comes to the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Trespass Festival so far?
Jason Hook: Well, the first show was awesome. We opened the show on Friday the 13th just outside of Denver. The place was almost sold out, packed. We had all of our friends, family, record label, managers and agents with us. It was a massive party (and) it was day one. It was awesome, really awesome.
CB: Who leaves the biggest mess backstage at Trespass?
JH: The biggest mess? As far as what, a hot mess or just messy?
CB: It could be either.
JH: I’ll give both to Ivan (Moody, Five Finger's frontman).
CB: OK, I wouldn’t picture that.
JH: Well you don’t know him as well as I do.
CB: Is it true that he still throws up before he performs?
JH: I haven’t seen that lately but it might be because I tend to steer clear of him a little bit more than usual because of that. But he does do that. That is not an urban legend.
CB: You consistently are having these hits with huge sports and military following. What is really the formula for creating a modern day Rock anthem?
JH: I think that you have to keep things simple. People like a really consistent beat, something that has a good thump to it. Obviously, an easy to follow storyline or a relatable storyline and as many hooks as you can get into each section of the song for example the intro, the verse, the pre-chorus, the chorus, the bridge, the solo — all those are sections — and if they get too long or drawn out or too complicated or the resolution set too high for the listener, they just miss out and it will go over their head. A big part of having an anthem is having something that is simple enough that many people can grab it easily like “Rock & Roll all night and party every day.”
CB: Does the band ever write songs for a specific audience?
JH: Not really. Most of us in the band have a background where we grew up listening to heavy bands but bands that were also on the radio. That reflects in the music we make. None of it is really contrived. We just do what we like. Fortunate for us, it catches with a lot more people. Once you try to do something that is not honest, it is really hard to repeat it. You are always chasing or guessing what to do. It is better to know what you like to do and just do it.
You always have the crazy crowd surfing at the shows, the biggest Rock on the Range crowd surfing in history. Do you ever worry about fan safety?
JH: All the time. All the time. It freaks us out. I see people getting beat up pretty good out there, especially the people in the very front row because people crowd surf up from behind them, they can’t see that these 220 pound guys are being launched forward and the people in the front row are the last people that these heavy people land on their heads on the way into the pit. You get a lot of people getting smashed, and they have no idea it is happening until it happens.
I keep saying, “Is there something we should do to discourage this? Should we say that we want people to be careful and keep your eyes open?” I do see a lot of people getting hammered, and it freaks me out. We are always thinking about it.
CB: How do you stay friends living in such close quarters and being on the road almost all year?
JH: How do we stay friends? We stay away from each other. The only way to control how we all get along is to make sure there is a good amount of separation. You need a little bit of on and a little off.
For example, we get hotel rooms. The band gets hotel rooms. We get them every other day. The hotel rooms are essential and it doesn’t matter what it costs to have everybody be able go and have their own private space to go make phone calls, answer e-mails, relax, watch the TV program they want to watch, whatever. The off is just as important as the on because if you get too much together time all the time, then you are likely to have the engine run a little hot, you know what I am saying?
CB: Who in the band is more likely to get into a fight backstage and who is more likely to get laid?
JH: I don’t really want to focus on the fighting, but as far as the sex part of it, I would say, all the girls like Ivan. The rest of us are just sort of swinging the bat. They all seem to want to get to Ivan. So I would say answer "A"—my final answer — Ivan.
The thing is, to chase girls around, which is also to chase the party or stay up, all these people show up and they want to hang out with the band. This is their big night out. The problem is, if we participated in everybody’s big night out, then we end up having 42 or 55 nights in a row, and it is physically too hard. Imagine having 45 New Years Eves in a row. What kind of shape would you be in after that?
CB: Yeah, bands now are a lot more, I don’t want to say mellow, but you can’t sustain (that type of partying) for long periods of time if this is what you are going to do.
JH: God knows we have tried it. We don’t want to hurt the band. We don’t want to hurt the tour. We have a responsibility to not only talk to people during the day but to play in front of these large audiences, and I don’t want to go up there hung over and feel like crap and be fuzzy and making mistakes. It’s very hard. It’s OK when you are a club band — nobody cares; “Get me another beer.” Everyone is drunk anyway, but now we are talking about playing in front of 15,000 people at 9 o’clock at night and it is a business now. It is for real.
The Doobie Brothers have been entertaining audiences across the world for more than 40 years. In 2010 the band released World Gone Crazy, their first album in a decade. They continue to be an inspiration with their recordings and their rigorous tour schedule.
CityBeat caught up with guitarist and vocalist Tom Johnston by phone this week. Johnston discussed the changes the band has seen through 40 years of Rock n Roll and what guides the creative process of the band. They will be performing at Riverbend at the PNC Pavilion this Sunday alongside Chicago.
CityBeat: You guys have been touring on the road for over 30 years. Do you ever get tired of just being on the road?
Tom Johnston: You get tired of travelling. You don’t ever get tired of playing. The playing part is what makes you come out here in the first place. I think Keith put it the best, Keith Knudsen, “You get paid for all the time it takes to get to the town and then you play for nothing.”
CB: You have seen music change over the years in recordings from albums to 8-Tracks to tapes to CDs to MP3s and iPods. Do you think it sounds better or worse today, the classic analog vs. digital question?
TJ: If you have hearing like mine, it really doesn’t make any difference. There is basically the school of thought that digital recordings aren’t as warm as analog. I can’t really tell you the difference when I am listening to it. Maybe if I did a mix there would maybe be a difference in analog that I could tell the difference. They have really come a long way with digital recording. They have ways of mixing digital recordings now so it sounds more like analog. Some people still buy albums if you can get them. People are still putting albums out. In fact, this last album we put out, World Gone Crazy, there was over 14,000 actual albums put out with the CDs, and by that I mean actual vinyl records for the people that want to hear it in analog.
CB: How many guitars do you have and what is your favorite to play?
TJ: Oh boy. I’ve got a lot of guitars. Basically, everything I use on the road is PRS and that is what I play live. I use two basic guitars live that I trade off and I have a Martin acoustic that I play as well live. It is pretty much all about Paul Reed Smith right now. At home I have a Stratocaster and I have some older guitars I have had for a long time, an old Les Paul, an old 335, a couple Strats and a Telecaster. But live and when I am out on the road, it is strictly Paul Reed Smith.
CB: When you began and wrote the early hits and songs for the band like “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, what were your early inspirations?
TJ: My inspirations at the time of writing a song like that had pretty much been put in place from playing since I was 12 on the guitar and picking up singing when I was 15. Most of my early stuff came from Blues and R&B and Rock & Roll by the guy I consider the King of Rock & Roll, that was Little Richard and people like Jerry Lee Lewis. Later on, that changed, I got into Hendrix and Cream and quite a few other people I am not going to be able to think of right now. David Mason albums, old Fleetwood Mac albums, you know from the ’70s, just a lot of stuff going on then. As far as players, Albert, Freddie and B.B. King were huge in my guitar playing. I call them the Three Kings, that’s basically how a lot of people refer to them. There are a lot of singers that influenced me. James Brown was definitely one of them.
CB: Have you had a single issue or incident that has ever changed the way you approach music?
TJ: If I ever did, I am not really sure when it was. I know the first time I ever watched, one of the few times I actually got to watch, James Brown live was 1962 in Fresno and that was pretty much a life altering event, musically. I had never seen anything like that. It just blew me out of the water. I couldn’t believe someone could work that hard that consistently and put on just an incredible show. That was a big event in my life.
CB: Over the years, you have had some health ailments with your voice and other things. How do you stay healthy on the road now?
TJ: I take care of myself. Back in the old days it was the Rock & Roll lifestyle, that wasn’t really healthy. But the biggest sideline I ever had was stomach ulcers which I developed in high school but it fully bloomed when I was out on the road in 1975 when I actually had to leave the tour. That is really the only health issue I ever had, but it was a bad one.
CB: Do you consider yourself or does the band consider themselves spiritual in any way and did it ever play a factor in your music or writing?
TJ: To be honest with you, no — at least not in the secular way of any specific religion. It’s not that we are not a religious band, it is just everybody has their beliefs about the world and mankind and how we got here I suppose but it is certainly nothing we would talk about.
CB: After all these years, I assumed you guys would talk about everything.
TJ: We talk about a lot of stuff but that isn’t one that pops up. Actually it popped up this morning. I was just giving my views on Buddhism and thinking it was a little more realistic since it is based on mankind’s shallow man as opposed to strictly about a specific deity and things having to be done a certain way. But those are just opinions and I don’t really follow it that closely; I don’t think anybody in the band does, to be honest with you.
CB: Do you guys take on different leadership roles within the band?
TJ: Yeah, to a point. It is basically when we are recording. When we are playing, it kind of happens naturally. Recording it is pretty much whoever writes the tune will be leading if you will, but other people come up with ideas for the tune so it is pretty much always a group effort.
CB: Are there any current Rock bands or new Rock bands on the scene right now you would like to collaborate with or work with?
TJ: I think John Mayer is an incredible guitar player. I really enjoy his work. Another one is Bruno Mars — I think he is extremely prolific as a song writer and pretty amazing. There is a band called Mannish Boy, which is a Blues group. I really like those guys. They are new. Most people aren’t going to know them. They aren’t Pop or anything like that. They are simply a Blues band but they are really, really good. There are more, I just can’t think of them right now. There are more people I think are really good out there that would be fun to get in the studio with. It would be fun to work with Christina Aguilera or Cee Lo Green. It would be fun to work with anyone from Maroon 5. We recently worked with Luke Bryan for that TV show on CMT called Crossroads and we had a ball doing that.
CB: I love Luke Bryan and his music. He has kind of blown up recently.
TJ: He is a good guy. He is a really good guy. We had a lot of fun doing that show. Everybody was just having a lot of fun.
CB: Do you have any creative outlets or hobbies outside of playing music?
TJ: It’s outside of the band in a sense but I write music for a hobby. I love writing. I do it all the time. I have a little studio at home. A lot of the stuff I write would never be used by this band. I am starting to branch out and write with other people now too, which is something I haven’t done as much. I have always kind of just written my own songs. I have started taking the steps to go out and write with some other writers who are very prolific and very much involved with the Pop scene or the Country scene or whatever else. I just really started doing that before we came out on this tour. When we finish this tour this year, I will go back to doing that some more. It was fun. It was a new place to go. It is exciting to get in and work with someone else because they help you find a lot of stuff you don’t know you have and I think you do the same for that person. You come up with songs that you would never come up with if you were just sitting there by yourself.
CB: Do you use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to stay connected to your fans?
TJ: There is Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff on our website. I don’t do any of that stuff. For whatever reason it hasn’t called me. I don’t have any need to be in touch with people or stay in the limelight or find out what is going on. I am kind of a private guy and I would like to keep it that way rather than blast it all over the universe. I don’t belong to Facebook. I know tons of people who do it and that’s great. From a business point of view, it is a really smart way to go. From a website point of view, it is a really good tool for getting your music out there, events out there, where you are going to be, maybe even staying in touch with other musicians, things like that but mostly I do that on the phone. Twitter, I have never even used Twitter. I know people do it all the time but I have never gotten involved with it.
CB: I still use a telephone because I prefer to talk to people.
TJ: It is alive and well in the younger generation. That’s how they communicate.
CB: My last question is do you have any fond Cincinnati memories over the years?
TJ: Yeah, playing at Riverfront Stadium, playing at where we are going to be playing this Sunday which is right on the river, Riverbend. We have played there lots of times. I was just talking to a gentleman a little bit ago about playing in Blue Ash the last time and a tornado came through and shut the show down and we never got a chance to go out and finish it. We have been playing Cincinnati since we started so we are talking 40 years of playing Cincinnati.
CB: We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
TJ: Thank you very much. We are looking forward to being there and it will be a gas as always. This show with Chicago has pretty much been sold out everywhere we have gone. The crowds have been great and it is a good combination. The two bands, we get together at the end and do an encore of everybody in both bands playing at the same time and it is pretty powerful.
Slipknot is the heaviest of Heavy Metal. They are strong artists because they are the epitome of a group. Their masks and costumes on stage present a uniformity that makes them who they are. They refer to themselves as “The Nine” even though they are now eight after the passing of their bassist, Paul Gray. The wildly popular band are wrapping up touring on their fifth album All Hope is Gone which has gone platinum, a great success in today’s age of music, with Mayhem Fest along with other great Metal acts like Motorhead and Anthrax.
CityBeat: You guys are crazy on stage. Have any band members ever been hurt?
Shawn Crahan: Every day.
CB: Really? Like Ibuprofen or doctor?
SC: Right now I have been sucking anywhere from 10 to 40 cc’s of blood out of my knee every five days.
CB: Have you calmed down because of it?
SC: No, I had surgery from a jackass move in a tour in Australia about five months ago. I jumped off my lift, smashed my knee pretty good, my meniscus and everything. So I had to have surgery. I had surgery just up to the exact date when the first Mayhem show was starting. I had no time to really rehabilitate. I didn’t even do physical therapy. It’s not an excuse; I just didn’t get it done. So the first day I paid the price. It’s all good because I have kept all the blood. I have it all. I have all the syringes and everything. So I make art. I’ll have a nice art piece of my pain. But everybody goes through something every day. Sid’s dealing with some sort of hernia and some sort of shoulder stuff that he has to get an MRI for right now.
CB: I see your photo on your pass with your leg brace.
SC: Actually that is the day I had surgery. I hate to admit it but I’m on a lot of morphine in that photo. I walked out to the car and took a picture. As you see I have a cigar and a GG Allin shirt on. I took him with me to the surgery. I turned around and was out. I had to get a picture. I don’t know, somebody found it and made it my pass.
CB: You guys have different uniforms every tour. What is the process to go about designing them or picking them?
SC: I am kind of the visionary, so to speak. That doesn’t mean visionary of the overall whole thing. I take a lot of responsibility in evolving everything. Right now, since our bass player passed away, we are reminiscing a life spent. We toured last summer, and we re-made our very first coveralls and brought out our first masks in remembrance to remember where we came from and celebrate his life. The current ones are a mixture of our first album and our second album. His number was number two and he had a really big part in that record as he did all records. We thought we’d give the American kids something special. Usually right now if Paul wouldn’t have passed, we would almost be getting done with our fifth record album cycle, getting ready to go home from it. This kind of stuff is all kind of inspired by him a little bit because we don’t have a new album and we just are kind of sharing in this thought process with our fans together. We don’t see him on stage; they don’t see him on stage. We go through it together.
We are getting ready to end that thought process of sharing that loss together. It doesn’t mean there is an ending to something and a new beginning. There will never be a new beginning. There will always only be nine. But we have toured Europe, we have toured South America, Australia, and now America with this thought process of sharing this loss together. We will end that, that sporadic touring of understanding that he is no longer with us. Then we will take some time off, write a record, record a record, pre-prep tour, go out on tour, drop a record and then support that record. But there will always be nine. I don’t know if there will ever be another person on stage. There probably could be a bass player behind us. I don’t know and I don’t have to think about it because it’s a long way off.
CB: How did you get the numbers?
SC: The numbers kind of just fell into place. It’s kind of a weird thing. Back when we started we were going to wear a mask and I started wearing coveralls so we all started wearing coveralls, then there were so many of us, we put our bar code on the back. Then we wanted numbers — I wanted numbers. It was kind of ironic, because everyone fell into a number. I wasn’t going to tolerate any other number than six. Like if someone was going to fight me for it, I was going to fight to the death for it, but nobody wanted it. Joey wanted to be number one, Paul wanted to be number two, the original guitar player, and the other drummer three. Mick, he is like “I have to have seven. Fuck everyone. It’s my lucky number.” Corey was like, “I want eight, infinity.” When Sid joined the band, “I am not a number. I am zero. I am filth.” It was kind of magical, honestly. The masks were more of a representation of what you wanted to present as yourself. It was one’s finding one’s self, but the numbers were almost assigned to us subconsciously. It was really a kind of cool thing. I remember I usually try to go last, I am the oldest but an only child, so I like fight to the death for what I want. Because of that, I try to put myself last because it is healthy for me and I let people do what they have to do, and I usually get what I want by doing that. It is kind of like when we are recording a record, if we are all living together, I let everyone find their room and I take what’s left, and I that ends up being the place I belong, not because I have admitted to myself that I should be there but I end up there going, “I love this. This is where I should be.” It is kind of knowing your brothers and knowing everything, but it is healthy for me to practice that.
CB: Do you get hot in the masks on days like today?
SC: No one but the nine will understand that sort of submission. The only way I can explain it is when it is all done and you take it off and look at the mirror and you look at yourself you know that as you walked into the church of the Knot, onto the altar of the Knot, giving the sermon of the Knot to the congregation of the Knot, and when you are done and the doors are shut and you came back and you take off the attire, you look at yourself and you know that you gave 190 percent of your life lived today and there is nothing more than that. Even if I don’t have time to call my wife, even if I don’t have time to be creative on my computer, or I am lazy, or I am not getting anything done. One thing I know is I give 190 percent on stage and when I take it off and look at myself and know that I am alive and that I did it and I pulled through that, it is not even a good feeling, for me it is like salvation. I only do this because I am looking for peace. With peace comes war, and I am at war with myself. I have been since I was born. I love music, and I can’t imagine life without music. My wife is always there for me. My kids are there for me, but they are their own people. The one thing that has always been there for me is music. Before I met my wife there was music. If my wife were to pass or something there would be music to help me through that. That’s not going to happen but I am saying music has always been my life. I owe everything to it.
CB: In the beginning, you guys wanted to remain anonymous by using the masks. You have liked being anonymous through the years, but now people know who you are. Do you still feel like it is necessary?
SC: It was kind of a trick because so many people in the beginning wanted us to fail because we are so great. We have been blowing up since day one because a good idea is a good idea and a good song is a good song and a good band is a good band with a performance. So, part of the vision was everyone wanted to know who was behind the mask and that was probably the least most important thing ever. Why ask that? Why not ask how that came about or why this came about or what is behind this? Not what is behind the mask? It is music people are into and music the kids are buying. Rarely do they even get to spend a night with us. It is usually in the car or in their headphones. So why ask that question? So slowly, it wasn’t until the third record, I did a documentary called Voliminal: Inside the Nine where when I showed behind the scenes footage, I blurred out people’s faces, but when I did interviews, I would do nothing but faces. By our third record, people didn’t care what we looked like anymore. They liked us better with the mask on. I always knew that would happen. There was never a conscious decision of trying to be out of the limelight without knowing who I am. Let’s talk about the music, let’s talk about the lyrics, let’s talk about the why’s not who is behind the mask, because I don’t wear a mask. I don’t wear a mask at all.
CB: Do you guys write together?
SC: We write together. There are core writers.
CB: There are a lot of you.
SC: That again is a special way. There are core writers. There are people that plant the seeds, and there are people that water it and we all watch it grow and we all groom it and help it become what it can be. That is something that can rise to the light of day. So we all write, I am not a percussionist so to say but more of a paganistic, ritualistic. It is more, I won’t say anger as much as it is ritual to put behind it. I want to drive what is being written and I only want to drive what needs to be driven. I don’t necessarily have to put my mark or my scent on every single little thing and be over everything. I just want to drive what needs to be driven and it works best that day. I don’t have to be involved from day one. I have always loved the music we write. There is no reason to mess with the will, the roles.
CB: Any regrets?
SC: No, no regrets. To have regret would mean to have to do it differently and if I did it differently then I wouldn’t be here today. There is no reason to think about regrets. Yesterday is lost potential. It is only a memory for tomorrow. Good or bad, it is what it is. There is no changing it. There is no touching it or molding it. There is no reason to look upon it — it is a memory. It can be a good memory, it can be a bad memory, but you shouldn’t spend too much time. You just learn and you move on. I don’t have any regrets. I wouldn’t change anything. I would do it all over again just the way we did it. You come into a venue like this and you are like, “This is what I am dealing with today.” Tomorrow you will be in a completely different situation, and that is what you are dealing with. That is half of what you learn of the greatness of what you are doing because of art. You can’t always expect to have what you want. The point is, we are in Cincinnati. We are here to play for the people. It doesn’t really matter what color the door of the bathroom is or where the showers are or what the circumstances are. We are just here to play. We’ll get on the bus and do it again.
CB: The band members have a lot of side projects going on. Is that cool with everybody in the band?
SC: Yeah. It probably was weird in the beginning because we are so focused on the Knot but I think it was accepted quickly because everybody in the band is so creative on all different levels. It could even be the level of staying home and doing nothing and allowing everybody to do what they need to do creatively to get it out allows everybody to be better for this. It took a little time to understand that, but why wouldn’t it? We are all working for this. If I explained to everybody what it took to get here, I don’t think they would really understand how much work we really put into making it happen. The work was unbelievable. I could tell stories people wouldn’t understand the things we had to implement to make this work. The side projects are good. I wouldn’t even call them side projects. I take Stone Sour very seriously. It is their own band on its own merit. It has its own fan base and they do very well. I would never call it a side project. It would be kind of insulting to Corey and Jim and the other guys in the band because they have worked so hard to make it what it is which is a band. My stuff is more of a side project because I jam because I have to. Since we have started, I have had three bands. None of which have done shit which I don’t care because I just love to play and haven’t repeated myself. I did a Pop record. I did a kind of Hard Rock record. I did a Psychosis Rap record. Ever since Paul passed, I am just kind of focusing on my art a bit, kind of burnt out on music. Side projects are elements of letting people be themselves where they can’t necessarily bring that entity into this thing called Slipknot. It’s healthy.
Motörhead are Metal gods. They’ve been rocking arenas and stadiums for 37 years and are currently out on the Mayhem Tour with Anthrax and other major acts of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. They’ve released 21 albums and have played in front of millions across the world with the loyal support of their super-fans, the Motörheadbangers.
CityBeat spoke with guitar player Phil Campbell to preview their set today Riverbend. They spoke about how life in the band continues to thrive on the road after so many years and his impressive collection of guitars. Mayhem Fest will rock Cincinnati Tuesday and will also feature Anthrax, Slayer, Slipknot and The Devil Wears Prada.
CityBeat: What has been the craziest story from Mayhem so far for you guys?
Phil Campbell: We had a good party the other night. It was a costume party. All our band and crew went dressed pretty strange. There were quite a few strange costumes there. I think Lemmy and his assistant went as the Blues Brothers. I dressed as a clown. Mickey dressed as a frog. One of our crew dressed as Larry King. That was pretty good. It was a good party anyway. We are just too busy to get wild at the moment.
CB: You guys are famous for your pranks on the road. Have you played any pranks on any of the other bands yet?
PC: No not yet. We leave that for the end.
CB: What is the best and worst part of being out on the road now? You guys have been touring for 30 years.
PC: You are home for three weeks and then you are ready to come on the road for two months. You are dying get back home. We are not really complainers. One of the worst parts obviously is not having your family there, home comforts and your dogs and things like that. The food can be tough because you really don’t have much choice. That’s not particularly good. The best part is you don’t have to get up early in the morning anymore. We sleep in until really late so that’s very cool.
CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?
PC: My favorite guitar? I just bought a 1957 Les Paul a couple weeks ago so that is probably my favorite now.
CB: I know you have over 260. Do you rotate them in during the shows or do you pretty much stick with the same ones for the live performances?
PC: No I have about 12 on the road at any given time, so sometimes I rotate a couple. Some of the real amazing ones I don’t really want to take on the road. They are safer in different storage locations, but I have plenty to choose from.
CB: Any regrets through the years?
PC: No, not really, none. It has been pretty good. It has been a privilege to be able to play music for people who enjoy our music. No, no major regrets, no.
CB: Supergroups are very popular right now with bands like Chickenfoot and musicians doing side projects. If you could put together a dream supergroup who would you want to play with from any band?
PC: Elton John, Adam Jones from Tool, David Bato on the drums and Victor Wooten on bass.
CB: That’s pretty good. I know your children are also in bands. Have you thought about recording with them anytime in the future?
PC: Yeah, they are doing really good. I have some children in a band called Straight Lines. They have their second album out and they are doing lots of shows. They have great reviews in all the magazines and everything. Hopefully they will be doing the Warped Tour next summer. Another is in a band called Inside the Trees but they changed their name to The People’s Poet and they are recording their new album now, as we speak. It’s a quite different kind of music. They have their own sound as well. They are all doing really well.
CB: Do you ever play with them?
PC: I used to when they were younger but they won’t let me play anymore. I’m not good enough.
CB: They tell me you are a Lord. How did that process come about to become Lord Axesmith?
PC: I applied. The title goes back 500 years, Lord of Axesmith. It’s on my credit cards now and everything. I am an honorary member of the Knight’s Templar of Brittannia. It is a bit of fun when the crew has to call me “My Lord.”
CB: I was going to ask you what the best part is of being a Lord but that’s probably it, people have to address you as Lord.
PC: When we are at restaurants and they ask for the name of the party, if you say Lord Axesmith then you know they will give you a good table. Even before I became Lord Axesmith, I was told it did the trick.
CB: What can the fans look forward to from the Motörhead show in Cincinnati on Tuesday?
PC: Just another killer Motörhead show. It is only going to be about 50 minutes long because we have to have all the other bands on. So it will be loud and nobody will be disappointed.
Anthrax has shaped the heavy metal movement in America. The band recently released its 10th studio album, Worship Music, which brings back the band’s early sound with the re-emergence of lead vocalist Joey Belladonna. I love heavy metal guitars, so it was a privilege to speak to one of the all time metal guitar greats, Scott Ian, to preview their performance at Mayhem Fest Tuesday at Riverbend Music Center.
CityBeat caught up with Ian to discuss the highlights of Mayhem so far and how being a father has changed his perspective on life and music.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Mayhem Fest so far for you?
Scott Ian: For me personally it is just the overall vibe. This is the first time we have done a U.S. festival traveling tour in the summer. We kind of knew what to expect since we are friends with Slayer, Slipknot and Motorhead, but it has been so much fun to hang with our friends. The crew and everyone who works with Mayhem have been great and it really is a big family vibe out here. It is a really great place to show up for work.
CB: What has it been like having Joey back the past few tours with the band?
SI: It’s been like two and a half years already. Hopefully that answers the question. It is obviously been going great. We couldn’t be happier with the record we made. We couldn’t be happier with the way shows have been going. I think this is by far the best version of Anthrax that we have ever had.
CB: You became a father last year for the first time. Has this changed your perspective on writing music or life in general?
SI: I haven’t really written yet since he was born because we have been in touring mode. One way that my perspective overall has changed is now having this person in my life that I love beyond anything I can comprehend. It makes me hate the human race even more because of all the pressure that comes with raising a child and wanting to protect him. People ask what do you have to be angry about and there is plenty to be pissed off about now. Look at what happened in Colorado last night with the guy shooting people in a movie theater. It sickens me to the pit of my stomach for a million reasons. What if that was my child in the movie theater?
CB: It is terrible and it is beyond my comprehension how that can happen.
SI: Up until he was born, I had my wife and close family but they are adults and are responsible for themselves. Now we have this person that is 100 percent helpless and relies on us to take care of him, so there is this protective instinct that showed up as soon as he was born. I think that will have a big impact on my writing in the future when the time comes.
CB: Do they come visit you on the road?
SI: Yes they are here right now and have been with me for 10 days.
CB: What is the longest you have gone without playing guitar?
SI: Probably way back in 1977 when I broke my wrist at a skateboard park and I couldn’t play guitar for two months because I had a cast on. I was so bummed that I couldn’t play guitar that I pretty much gave up any type of fancy skateboarding on ramps or pools. The guitar was definitely more of a priority.
CB: What is the biggest difference for you touring versus in the 1980s?
SI: Sometimes we sit around and talk about how did we ever get anything done before we had cell phones and laptops? In the ’80s no one even knew what a cell phone was. I remember the first time a tour manager had that big briefcase thing with a phone in it and it was something like $18 a minute to use it. The idea that we were able to do stuff back then and everything got done is amazing. I try to think about how it got done and I have no idea how we made it through one day let alone a whole tour without the technology.
CB: What habit would you like to break?
SI: I don’t know. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink excessively. My wife is saying talking with my mouth full so I guess I will go with that as a born and bred New Yorker.
CB: What adjectives do you hope describe you at 75?
SI: I hope when I am 75 no one has anything to say about me. I hope the only thing they say is “What ever happened to that guy?” because I am so far off the grid by that point.
CB: I doubt that will happen.
SI: No, we will probably still be playing music and people will say “I can’t believe he is still banging his head.”
CB: What has been your craziest fan story over the past few years?
SI: The craziest audiences in the world are in South America in Chile with the craziest fans overall. We do a signing every day at the Rockstar Energy Drink tent and we get to meet a lot of fans every day on this tour. Anyone who would get anything Anthrax related tattooed on their body is amazing to me. I can’t really call it too crazy because I have Gene Simmons and Angus from AC/DC tattooed on me. I understand that point of view of being such a fan that you would be willing to make that commitment but being the guy in Anthrax and seeing an Anthrax-related tattoo makes you feel great because I know the commitment and I know how much Anthrax must mean to them.
CB: What is the best guitar solo of all time?
SI: Eddie Van Halen “Eruption.”
Anthrax performs July 24 at Mayhem Fest at Riverbend Music Center. More information: rockstarmayhemfest.com.