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.
The Devil Wears Prada is a true "area band makes good" story. The Dayton-born group is steamrolling through the landscape of Metal all over the world. In the band's short history, TDWP has released four albums while keeping up one of the most active tour schedules around. The group's latest album, Dead Throne, from last year reached the top of the US Indie charts and they are showing no signs of slowing down, joining the likes of Slipknot, Slayer, and Motorhead on the latest Mayhem package tour, which comes to Riverbend next Tuesday (July 24).
CityBeat caught up with lead singer Mike Hranica in person prior to the band's show at Bogart's this past winter, and with rhythm guitarist Jeremy DePoyster by phone just this week to preview the group's return to Ohio. They both are very proud of their Midwestern roots, what it has meant to the band’s success and how it has let the members keep their Christian values at the forefront of their music.
CityBeat: I have been listening to your new album this week Dead Throne to get ready for the show. First, I wanted to ask you about one of the songs on it. I guess the song that speaks to me the most was “Mammoth.” Can you tell me the story behind that song and a little bit about it?
Mike Hranica: “Mammoth” was an interesting song. When we went into recording the record, there were only two songs that didn’t have vocals yet. One being “Chicago,” one being “Mammoth” and I wrote them as we were working on the record. When we took “Mammoth” into pre-production, Adam D, who produced the record, totally re-arranged it and it turned out to be one of our favorite songs as well and a favorite of the fans. Lyrically, it was the second to last song I wrote for the record, so I wanted it to be this recap of everything this record deals with, all the issues from idolatry to love loss and all this and tying obviously God into it. That is the idea of the full circle which runs throughout the song and that is the general concept of it.
CB: You mentioned Adam D from Killswitch. What was your favorite part of working with him on the album?
MH: I liked all of it. He is extravagant, personality-wise, and professionally I see him his as very simply a mastermind. I think he absolutely smashes it. I loved what he did with the music, what he did vocally with me, and I loved eating lobster with him every day.
CB: You recorded it somewhere up north right?
MH: Yes, in Western Massachusetts.
CB: You guys grew up here in Dayton. This is a local show for the band. How do you think growing up here in the Midwest influenced the music?
MH: You really see it everywhere, internationally and throughout the states. Music is obviously huge to all cliques, all generations, and all sorts of youths as far as going to school in the groups or the segregations, the cliques of people all have their music. Music is very important to someone young and growing up and I know that really translated to us. I think the Midwest has a big part in it because there is not much else to do. Like anyone else there was BMX and skateboarding and sports and what not, but it seems like a lot of young folks in the Midwest just want to play guitar and go to shows and I know that was the members that make up this band.
Jeremy DePoyster: There are so many bands that are doing similar kinds of things to what we are doing now. When we grew up, especially in Cincinnati, there was an actual Hardcore scene of music and it was bizarre to be playing with them as kids with keyboards and singing and all this stuff. We were this kind of and oddball band and it was exciting because we were just a bunch of kids and into that stuff. It forced us to try and do the best we could and to really have no promise of anything. It was all local. Between Cincinnati and Dayton and Indianapolis and all these places we played growing up, it’s just the Midwest vibe. That’s why I live in Chicago now instead of the West Coast. I like the feeling here. I feel like it is really down to Earth. My wife is from Cincinnati and so we grew up together. It makes you more humble. You don’t have the arrogance that comes with it a lot of times.
CB: So you were in the school band?
MH: Dan and James were. I think those two were the only ones in school bands.
CB: I downloaded “Zombie Slay” last night and played that on the iPad for the first time. I was just curious about you guys getting into gaming and the comic books and how did that all come about and why did you choose to go down that path?
MH: When we did the EP, it was like a weird concept, it is a non-serious concept that we are going to take seriously and with that I think it would be really stupid to not do things in addition to zombie t-shirts and zombie hoodies. We wanted to go outside of that. The comic book was something that came to us right away as well as the game. Unfortunately, it just took a long time to get the game together. It was just stuff we wanted to do.
CB: Do you draw?
MH: Chris draws. The dude that did all the illustrations, actually Kevin Mellon who did the comic book illustrations worked with us on the app as well. We were just curious to get into the app world, the iTunes world, being a bunch of Apple nerds. The game was definitely an awesome first step for us and we are excited to see what else we can do with outside the box marketing products and just giving fans something a little bit different to maintain curiosity and just have a little bit of fun.
CB: What is your favorite game to play, other than Zombie Slay of course?
MH: I have been playing a lot of Zombie Slay. We just did Australia before this tour which is a lot of long flights and I was playing a lot of Zombie Slay. Otherwise, I go in and out. I have an iPad as well and I play games on that. I am not that big of an Angry Birds fan. Everyone is definitely on Angry Birds. I like Veggie Samurai, I play that a lot. Sadly I play a lot of Solitaire on my iPod, like my classic iPod.
CB: What are you guys most looking forward to with the Mayhem Festival?
JD: So many things. We have tried to come a long way as a band. That is always the goal. We have tried to really fine tune the art and harness the sound in the show and all that good stuff. I think that being on the Festival is kind of the next step in the direction of shying away from the Dubstep nonsense, you know, silly autotune wave of things that are happening and get back to Metal which is what we like and what we love and why we write the stuff we do. Slipknot, Slayer, Motorhead and Anthrax are amazing. You can’t beat that stuff. We have wanted to do the tour for a long time but as soon as those names came up, we were like, “Yes. Now. Put us on it.”
CB: You guys have never really compromised your Christian values and you have always had that kind of a theme through your lyrics but you have started touring with more mainstream Metal bands like White Chapel and the bands you just named. There is not always a Christian atmosphere. I cover a lot of Metal music. How do you handle it or does it bother you guys at all?
JD: It doesn’t really bother us. Even one of the guys from Slayer is Catholic. I think it is more of a vibe thing for them more than anything in a lot of those bands. I don’t really feel like it is that big of a deal. Some people sing about politics and some people sing about satanic issues and some people sing about love and all different kinds of things. This is just what we sing about.
I don’t think it really has a whole lot to do with music. I listen to Slayer and I listen to Slipknot and bands whose values have nothing to do with mine but I can still enjoy it and listen to it and have a good time with it. I think that is the vibe we try to bring in. We are pretty respectful dudes.
We generally tour, 99% of the time with secular bands, and we really don’t have a problem with it. I guess we just hope that people will give us a chance which is why it is fun to get out on a tour like this and be able to play in front of people that might have a pre-established opinion on who we are and what we do based on the fact we are a Christian band. They see it and go, “Oh wow. I had no idea it was like that.” It’s kind of cool.
MH: It really is no big deal. We never, ever set out to only tour with Christian bands. We just wanted to, it was always about playing to as many people as possible. The funny thing is, backstage it never really matters what you believe because everyone gets along fine. We get along with For Today really well, both being Christian bands and being people, Christians, normal people. That’s how I think of ourselves, just normal dudes and Christians.
And we both get along with White Chapel just as well, who don’t have the same sort of belief system, but it doesn’t matter at all because we are here to perform what we made and explore the music we have created and that may sound like it degrades your beliefs but it doesn’t. It’s just how it is touring. If anybody really has a big problem with Christians being on the tour, they are the standouts, and not to be too blunt, they are usually pretty ignorant people. We get along with everyone and we have been touring with non-Christian bands since we started and some of our absolute best friends are non-Christian bands.
CB: I was just curious because White Chapel is almost the extreme opposite of what you guys play and lyrically. How did that tour come about or how did you hook up with them?
MH: The first time we toured with White Chapel was early in 2008. I had went and saw them at a show some of my friends were playing and I had been listening to their EP that was out and was “This is the heaviest thing I know of right now.” We are happy to have them on tour early that year and it was smooth sailing. They were “We’re a little bit nervous” and we were “We’re a little bit nervous.” And it was whatever and we just play music together. We just announced a South America tour for next year which White Chapel is on again. When we see them, it is always, “When are we touring together?” It’s awesome to have them back and it is awesome to have all good people on the tour, definitely White Chapel included.
CB: I think there is a misconception about Metal in general. I interview everybody at Rock on the Range and every festival. I have never met anyone that was disrespectful or not nice or who didn’t get along. I think it is a misconception in general.
MH: It really is. There are Metal bands that take the whole evil thing literally, mayhem and these other things. For the most part it is evil music and it needs evil lyrics and that is what they make. They are not killing and raping women in ditches so what does it really matter?
CB: You recently released a video for “Vengeance.” Can you tell me the story behind that song and the video itself?
JD: It’s just a live video from our DVD shoot that we did. We put it out to get the message out of that and spark interest. We put a lot into our live show. Actually we filmed that DVD and that video I think four days before the Cincinnati show. We really just wanted to capture what that tour was in a permanent format so people could see it, not like in a Youtube quality video and stuff. That video is kind of like promoting that and getting it out there. It is one of the more relatable songs that we have off the record.
CB: The DVD you are referring to is Dead and Alive. I know you did a lot of the behind the scenes shooting and editing. Are you a photographer or videographer? Is that kind of a hobby?
JD: It is just something I just started doing as a hobby and a side thing. Then it just gradually turned more and more into something where I was doing every single one of the tours a video for us. Something really important to us is making sure that everything that goes out there with our name on it is coming from us and not from a giant business, corporation behind us but intimately from us. So with the video stuff and most of the photos we put up, we shoot and produce and come out from us.
I feel like the bands that I like and respect the most are the ones that put effort into it instead of writing the songs and handing it in and going, “OK, do what you will with this.” Even with the merchandise designs and the website design, Mike has a massive, large hand in creating. We just want everything that has our name on it to come from us. Being able to do the video stuff ourselves is a really big help in that.
CB: I have seen you guys a couple times play and you have major crowd surfing. The fans really get into your shows. Is there ever any worry about injury or anything crazy happening at the shows?
JD: Yeah, but I guess it just comes with the territory. We grew up going to small shows and hardcore shows in the Dayton and Cincinnati scene which was not a calm, passive scene to grow up in. We are kind of used to it, teeth are all messed up, my face kicked in at a show as a kid and that is what we are used to. There are usually ambulances that come. I think it is pretty easy to be able to tell the areas where you won’t get hurt and the ones where you might get hurt. I think it is a do-it-at-your-own-risk kind of deal. It is part of the style of music and hopefully no one gets too hurt.
CB: What was your highlight of the last tour you were on?
JD: We have done a couple tours. Our fall tour was probably the most exciting one we have done so far. We got to bring massive production out and put on a big show. We just did a small club tour in the U.K. which was real cool and intimate. We did a secondary market tour in the Spring which was really cool because we got to do some “off the beaten path” markets which do a little bit better for us. The people are just more passionate than they are in the big city. We went to South America which was insane as it always is down there. It is a totally different world than it is here. The shows were great. I think it has been an exciting good six months for us.
Really the highlight will be this summer with the Mayhem Fest.
CB: What is the best guitar solo of all time?
JD: Really, I like a lot of the Judas Priest stuff. “Painkiller” solo is pretty up there for me. There is just an emotion that comes from that, that is pretty awesome.
One of Cincy’s more popular Pop Punk bands has decided to call it quits. But first, they're giving fans some new music and one final blow-out show to remember them by.
The quintet Loudmouth has played well-attended gigs regularly around town for the past half decade or so, eventually becoming headliners of self-booked multi-band shows at places like Madison Theater in Covington. Tonight, the group returns to the club for its farewell show and the release party for its final album, the eight-song Future Boredom.
The band is splitting because guitarist Mike Ulanski took a job teaching English in Abu Dhabi.
I sent Loudmouth a few questions about their experiences as a band in Greater Cincinnati and their individual plans moving ahead. The tight knit group of pals got together and answered them as a band.
CityBeat: You guys have your last album coming out at the farewell show. Tell me a little about Future Boredom. Was it material you were working on before you decided to split or did you know you were splitting and went in the studio to record these final tunes?
Loudmouth: The songs were written or were in the process of being written before Mike announced that he accepted the job offer, but we all knew this was our last record when we went into the studio. The toughest decisions we faced were which songs to record, and how many we could afford to do without sacrificing the quality of each songs production. Tim and Mike were writing lots of songs at the time, but their styles were heading in two different directions, which can be seen on Future Boredom.
The songs weren’t written about the break up, but they were recorded as if they were the last songs we’d ever do, which means we couldn’t afford to leave anything unsaid. Between Eric Tuffensdam’s (Moonlight Studios) expertise and our previous studio work with him, we definitely got what we wanted out of this record, a definitive and uncompromised collection of our best written songs.
CB: You guys had a great run of about four or five years. What are you most proud of from your time playing around the area?
LM: We’ve been fortunate enough to share a stage with just about every one of the bands we grew up idolizing, but opening for NOFX takes the cake on moments that we’ll remember forever. The proud moment there was that the 2000 people crammed into the Madison Theater didn’t boo us off the stage like NOFX crowds are prone to do.
But besides that, we have a lot to be proud of, and more importantly a lot to be thankful for. None of the amazing moments we had as a band would have existed without the help of some amazing people. Frank Heulfeld and Kevin McNamee with the Madison Theater, and before that the Mad Hatter, Rome and the Clifton Heights Music Festival (which we’ve only missed one since the beginning of the festival because we were on tour), Rich and the entire Southgate House staff, Adam and CincyPunk Fest, the staff at the Madison Theater, who among other things, talked the cops out of arresting Tim seconds before we hit the stage, Chris Joselyn and Brian Carothers for all their help booking tours.
Above all else, and we mean this with all sincerity, the thing that makes all of us proud and grateful is the support we’ve gotten from day one. We’ve never, not exaggerating, played a show where people didn’t dance by the end of our set. We came up in an age where kids were too cool to dance at shows, and we’ve watched so many great bands play killer sets to a bunch of stone faced hipsters gently bobbing their heads in jaded approval. Those kids got pushed to the back of the crowd when we played, and we couldn’t be more proud to have that kind of effect on people. All that dancing and moshing and shouting of our lyrics translates that people get it, and what’s more, they actually like it, and nothing is more gratifying then having that kind of connection with your friends and fans.
CB: Anything you would have done differently?
LM: Tour. Tour all the time. We did three tours; the last one to Florida was our most successful, but touring would be the No. 1 priority if we could do anything differently. We probably could have been more business savvy and networked a little more, too.
CB: What's been the low point?
LM: The worst show we ever played happened at the Blue Rock Tavern in Northside. There were a lot of people out that night and we were headlining and everything that could have gone wrong did. The P.A. kept over heating, it was 900 degrees and Mike’s guitar broke four songs in, and there was no replacement. We had to just stop. It was embarrassing and people got pissed.
Moving out of Loudhouse and losing that as a place to party and throw shows was also a bummer. We had to pay for a practice space again, we lost our afterparty, which had become a huge part of our shows, and, of course, we couldn’t invite a bunch of awesome bands to play the basement. The Bike House died shortly after that, and it seemed like Cincinnati’s basement scene sort of dried up all at once. We went from a city who had an entire weekend fest dedicated to basements to having no real basement venues to speak of. That was definitely a bummer.
Shortly after that Sam Duff left the band and the months leading up to and following that time were pretty rough. We practiced in a moldy closet sized room in the back of the Mad Hatter, we weren’t sure who was going to play bass, how we could afford to tour; it was a cold wet winter and things were just all around crappy.
CB: Can we expect future musical projects from the Loudmouth members? Any concrete plans as of yet?
LM: None of us will ever stop playing music, but where, how and with who is bound to change. Tim, Adam Bret and Chris have already talked about their next project and things are in the works.
Mike will be playing acoustic Journey covers at an open mic in Abu Dhabi to pay rent.
CB: What can people expect from the last blow out concert from Loudmouth?
LM: You’ll have to come to find out.
Tonight's 9 p.m., all-ages show features a great support bill: The Frankl Project, Horsecop, Situation Red and The Milky Way Persuasion. Tickets are $5.
Visit www.loudestmouth.com for more on the group and to sample some tunes.
Asking Alexandria has a British Metal sound, is proudly rough around the edges and even prouder of its stereotypical Rock & Roll lifestyle. Nothing shows this more than the short film they just released, Through Sin and Self Destruction. They have two studio albums, most notable being Reckless and Relentless, which blasted into the Top 10 on the Rock charts in the States. In a music industry that can be so straight edge and proper at times, AA is a callback to the dangerous Rock & Roll living of yore.
CityBeat had an entertaining meeting with lead singer Danny Worsnop and discussed the band’s shaky public relations past and what the band’s attitude means to the landscape of Metal and Rock & Roll. Catch Asking Alexandria when the Mayhem Festival comes to Riverbend Music Center on July 24.
CityBeat: I took the time yesterday and watched your new short film Through Sin and Self Destruction. What made you decide to do a short film like that when most people aren’t even doing videos anymore?
Danny Worsnop: I think it was a chance to tell a story; (there had been) kind of rumors about it for a long time but it had never reached the surface. It is a very loose, over-dramatized version of what was going on in my life at that point.
(See the NSFW trailer below.)
CB: Does the film really portray the typical kind of lifestyle that you guys lead?
DW: It is exaggerated but it is my lifestyle.
CB: I talk to a lot of bands and it is being compared to Guns N Roses and the Appetite for Destruction days and I don’t talk to many bands that are able to sustain that.
DW: Most bands these day aren’t even really bands. They are just people who kind of play music. There aren’t many real bands anymore so there really isn’t opportunity for that lifestyle to sustain. I am by no means condoning the lifestyle but it has always kind of been there in Rock & Roll.
CB: Do you guys see a big difference when you tour in Europe versus touring in the U.S.?
DW: Not really. At first there was a crowd size difference but we are known to the world now. It is pretty much the same no matter where we go, besides the currency. Currency is different. And age of sexual consent.
CB: Can you tell me the process for you guys as a band to put the songs together or write the songs?
DW: The songs are based on whatever I am going through at the time. The albums are very honest and very personal. Everything that we have been doing is a story of my life.
CB: Where do you see yourself and the band in 10 years?
DW: Hopefully, in a much bigger house than I live in now driving a much nicer car with a lot of money. And hopefully still playing music in 10 years.
CB: Who are your current influences in music?
DW: The same they always have been. Motley Crue, Aerosmith, Journey, Def Leppard and AC/DC, just Rock & Roll. I would rather much listen to those bands than Metal. I am not a Metal singer. I don’t listen to Metal music. In my eyes, we are a Metal band with a Rock & Roll singer.
CB: You guys have a highly anticipated new album coming out this year. How is that coming along?
DW: It is coming along really well. It is different than the previous records. It is far more mature. I have written some real songs. Hopefully that comes through.
CB: Is it still looking like a September timeframe (for release)?
DW: It is looking to be the end of November or beginning of December right now.
CB: What has been your greatest Rock star moment so far?
DW: That is a tough one. It depends which way you want to go with it. Do you want something completely inappropriate?
CB: You could go with either or both.
DW: We opened for Guns N Roses and we felt like true Rock stars. That was definitely infamous. In terms of behavior, however it may be frowned upon, I guess the most shamed Rock star moment was the whole Seattle incident.
CB: You guys were out with Guns this year. What was the highlight of that for you guys?
DW: Just the experience of doing it. It’s such a great honor to do something like that. It was mind-blowing at times.
CB: Did you get to spend time with Axl at all or the band themselves?
DW: No, I didn’t really hang around much at that show. I left pretty soon after we played.
CB: I always ask this question of bands because I have had some pretty crazy stories over the years. Have you ever had any crazy boyfriend or husband stories?
DW: I have never had a boyfriend or a husband. I’m sorry I’m going to let you down with that one.
CB: No, with the girls coming after you guys?
DW: We have had many of the guys come up to us and ask us to sleep with their girlfriends or wives. I did once have sex with a chick and later found out she was engaged to one of my good friends.
CB: That’s never good.
CB: Did you tell him?
DW: No and he still doesn’t know. We aren’t friends anymore so it would be impossible for me to tell him. It was a friend at the time.
CB: Do you guys have any pre-show rituals. Do you come together and do anything special?
DW: No. It was always something that was natural to me just like I’m going anywhere else except there are thousands of people watching it.
CB: What can the fans look forward to at Mayhem?
DW: It is going to be a real fun tour. I am going to be wearing leather. They can look forward to that. I may take my shirt off during the show.
CB: It’s going to be pretty hot for leather.
DW: Yeah, that’s why I may take it off.
CB: It’s pretty hot. I don’t know if you’ll get the leather off.
DW: I know I’m hot. Stop telling me. Stop flirting with me.
CB: You guys have been out on the road. What is the best and worst part of being on the road?
DW: The worst part is being away and not getting to see loved ones. The best part is probably just the shear freedom from the human race. Normal rules don’t apply. It is a completely different world when you are on the road. As myself, I am a completely different person on the road than any other time in my life. I am an insane creature.
CB: Do you believe the cliché that there is no bad press?
DW: I know there is bad press. I just don’t necessarily dislike it, which is a good thing because I have had a hell of a lot of it.
CB: Some people it really bothers and gets under their skin and some people it doesn’t.
DW: I think sometimes I prefer bad press.
DW: Everyone is trying so hard to just be so nice now. I don’t want that. I want to be known as me and I am not a good person but I am OK with that. I have come to terms with it. It’s not that I am a bad person, it is just that I speak my mind and I don’t sugar coat stuff.
CB: I interviewed Alice Cooper a few weeks ago, a legend, and he seemed upset with current bands because nobody wanted to be Rock stars anymore, basically.
DW: Last time I saw him he was on stage at the Golden God Awards ceremony thanking me and for keeping Rock & Roll alive.
I started out the second day of the Forecastle festival in Louisville by getting caught in the rain and being picked up like a hitchhiker by the Everest band van on the way to setup for their set on the main Mast Stage of the festival. The band agreed to let me hang for “A Day in the Life” photo series as they prepped to play the 10th Anniversary of Forecastle. They were laid back as the rain moved in and gear was unplugged and wrapped in saran wrap.
Everest has been on the road promoting their third album Ownerless. On Ownerless, you can hear a refined sound in which the band speaks about powerful issues as they took their time to record and find their true voice, writing from the heart and soul. The band consists of members Russell Pollard (vocals/guitar/drums), Joel Graves (guitar/keys/vocals), Jason Soda (guitar/keys/vocals), Eli Thomson (bass/vocals) and new addition Kyle Crane (drums).
Everest are rising stars in the alternative music scene and have toured with My Morning Jacket and they will be heading back on the road with Neil Young this fall.
It turned out to not be such a typical “day in the life” as the show was held back because of lightning in the area but the band unloaded and prepared to play even as heavy rain descended on the festival. The festival opened an hour late due to rain delays but they did make time for all the planned acts to perform (albeit with shorter set lists).
Everest played loud and rocked the crowd as it gathered to hear this band singing my favorite track on the new album as the opening song “Rapture.” Founding member Pollard’s raspy vocals were captivating and I instantly became a fan of this band as they sang older tunes and new record songs like “Into the Grey.” The Watson Twins joined the band for a few songs on backing vocals to round out their set.
Overall it was a great day to play music in Louisville as fans gathered to celebrate 10 years of the fest, which self-defines itself as being all about "music, art and activism." The Preservation Hall Jazz Band took the main stage by storm and had fans dancing in the grass; special guests onstage including Jim James and Andrew Bird playing classic tunes with the legendary jazz musicians from New Orleans. James' band (and hometown heroes) My Morning Jacket played over two hours to close out the night while Girl Talk played on the second stage and had a festival rave in full action on the banks of the Ohio river.
Everclear has joined forces with other acts that may be best described as ’90s Rock and Pop groups for the Summerland Tour 2012 to get rid of the stereotype and prove their music still resonates today. Everclear saw its biggest fame with the release of the 1995 album Sparkle and Fade and the chart topper “Santa Monica.” The band has continued representing its West Coast roots and just released its eighth album, Invisible Stars.
CityBeat spoke with Everclear frontman Art Alexakis and discussed the Summerland tour. We also made Alexakis face a lighthearted game of quick-fire questioning which led to some very comical and real responses. Everclear will be performing at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend tomorrow (Wednesday) alongside Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground and Lit.
CityBeat: You guys have been out on tour for a few weeks since June. What is the craziest band on the tour?
Art Alexakis: The craziest band on the tour? Crazy in which way? My band has probably got more time with therapists. Does that count? I don’t know. I’ve got to tell you, every band is crazy in their own way. The Sugar Ray guys are just knuckleheads because they are playing ’80s music and ’90s Punk and singing it at the top of their lungs before every show. Lit are the party dogs. The Gin Blossoms are just old school pros and sweet guys and we are just a bunch of knuckleheads. I don’t know. It depends on what time and what day you are looking.
CB: I have been listening to your new album, Invisible Stars. My favorite song on the album was “Santa Ana Wind” and I wanted to see if you could tell me the story behind that song.
AA: It’s funny because that is one of the co-writes on the record. I had wanted to write a song about moving back to L.A. and I don’t force things. If it doesn’t come, I don’t force it, because it always sounds disingenuous when you do. A friend of mine, David Walsh who is in a band with my old bass player, came by my studio just to hang out a little bit. I remember him sitting there and he picks up the guitar and goes, “I got this music that I just can’t figure out a melody or words to it” and he just started playing it and I just started singing the melody. Within two hours, we had a song.
I took it home that night and finished it, finished all the words and got all the nuances and then we went in and recorded it a week later. It is my emotional favorite song on the record, it is definitely my favorite, even though I love all the songs. I am really proud of this record, but I am glad you like that song. That song means a lot to me. It’s weird because when I turned that song in, no one was talking about it as a single. I was kind of disappointed, but since the record came out, it has been the No. 1 song people write me about on Twitter and … Facebook. That is the No. 1 song, I think, that and “Jackie Robinson” is probably neck and neck. I am glad it resonated with you. I like that a lot.
CB: You guys have had produced major hits. I grew up with your music and love you guys. When you are writing, do you know when you have a hit?
AA: That is a real good question. I think a lot of people would be hesitant to answer that. I know when a song writes itself. I don’t know if you are familiar with my song “I’ll Buy You a New Life,” but that song basically wrote itself in like two hours and “Santa Monica” kind of wrote itself like that, and “Santa Ana Wind” kind of wrote itself like that, and “Jackie Robinson.” I had the idea for it in the music but I didn’t write the lyrics until later, but when I wrote them they came out in like about an hour.
Songwriting is the creative thinking. The craft part is easy for me but the creative parts, you can’t control it.
CB: There are definitely political tones on the new album, and I know you can be political at times. We are heading into a big election. Are you planning to do any campaign work or work with any candidates?
AA: No one has asked me. I am a tried and true Democrat and a huge fan of Barack Obama, was in 2008 and still am. I think he has done a great job. He is trying to climb a mud hill uphill, straight uphill, and he is doing it. It’s a hard job. I sure as hell wouldn’t want that job. I’ll campaign if people ask. It’s not like I go out of my way. I am political because I believe everybody should be political. It is our role. It is one of our key responsibilities; it is like falling in love or working or eating. Voting is so important. I feel like it is our right and our obligation as an American. I have always felt that.
CB: You guys are going out with all of these iconic ’90s bands and touring. What do you feel is the state of Rock music today?
AA: I don’t know. That’s a big, kind of $10 dollar question I don’t have the answer to. From my perspective, one of the reasons I wanted to start this tour, the reason I called Mark (McGrath of Sugar Ray) to get involved and be my partner and do this thing with me was I felt there was a need for this. I was talking to a lot of people who felt very disenfranchised by contemporary Rock and Pop and felt a huge connection with the ’90s era more than from a nostalgic point of view. This type of guitar Rock resonates with them and resonates with me as well. I think those are the people that are picking up on our record. We aren’t on a major (label). We don’t have major promotion. It seems like they are picking up every week which is bizarre because they usually go down at first. It just shows me, especially the way word of mouth on this tour has been, that my hunches were right. This isn’t nostalgia. This is a valid connection with people and music. People still feel excited about it and have a great time, and I think that is what it is all about.
CB: I just got a new table game and I have “Lightning Round”-sort of type of questions for you.
AA: You just what type of game?
CB: It’s a table game. You pick it up and ask questions. You should get one for the bus. Have you ever ran away from home?
AA: Have I ever ran away from home? OK. Yes. You should do your homework, missy.
CB: I know. I did. That is why it is kind of funny that I drew that one first.
AA: That is why you were laughing when you asked the question, you already knew the answer too.
CB: Sort of. What habit would you like to break?
AA: I can’t say what just came to mind.
CB: Yes you can. We print anything. That’s the point of this. Don’t think.
AA: The habit I want to break is my aversion to world peace. That didn’t work, did it? The habit I’d like to break is hitting on my drummer. I think it bothers him, makes him feel uncomfortable.
CB: I thought you were going to say getting married or something along those lines.
AA: I see where you are going. Maybe it is getting married to women half my age.
CB: That may be a good habit to break.
AA: I see. Just live with the band.
CB: Have you ever been fired?
AA: Yes. I have been fired, several times.
CB: What adjectives do you hope describe you at 75?
AA: Alive. Is that an adjective? That’s not really an adjective, is it? Virile. Exciting. It’s a working dream. It’s not that far away. 75 is probably a long way off for you; it is not that far off for me.
CB: I’m not that young. I’m 36.
AA: You’re not that young? You’re older than my wife but you are younger than my ex-wife.
CB: What is your best excuse when pulled over for speeding?
AA: To be honest with you, I never make an excuse. I always come clean and I always get off. “I have no excuse officer. I was speeding. I was just excited to go where I want to go. I broke the law. I’m sorry. Give me the ticket.” I never get a ticket. The truth is good but being in a multi-platinum band probably helps too.
CB: I’ll try it but I don’t think it will work as well for me.
AA: When girls say that, they try to cry. My ex-wife, beautiful, she was beautiful, she was an actress and she would try to cry and get away out of tickets and she always got the ticket.
CB: I don’t cry. I just try to make up an excuse and that doesn’t work either. I am the worst driver.
AA: I believe you.
CB: What is the most unusual gift you ever received?
AA: My wife now, when we were dating, gave me the gift of a party on my birthday that was like a role playing game, you ever done that?
CB: I have done murder mysteries.
AA: This was a murder mystery, but this was cool because I was a Columbian drug lord and she was a Columbian drug lord and we became partners in killing and murdering and it was awesome. It’s a game. It’s awesome.
CB: I love it. Obviously, I am playing the table game with you right now. I like games.
AA: I think you are making this up off the top of your head.
CB: I am not. It is called Table Topics: Questions to Start Great Conversations. Any crazy Cincinnati stories from the past?
AA: Oh yeah, but I am not telling them to you.
AA: I have some really good Cincinnati stories. Just because.
I will tell you one. I was in my room and I was at some posh hotel and I was fooling around with some people and I hit the door and … I got that, what’s that called … Staph Infection.
Last night at Riverbend, I finished off some personal business for my 12-year-old self. I finally got to see Lita Ford sing “Kiss Me Deadly” live on stage, hear Poison play “Nothing But a Good Time” and catch Def Leppard perform “Pour Some Sugar on Me," live and in person, all on one hot evening by the river.
My parents believed that I was not old enough back in 1987 to make all of these dreams come true, but now my older self is able to make these types of things happen.
Def Leppard has been entertaining international audiences with their strong British sound for the better part of 30 years. They have provided American audiences with Rock anthems that have fired up arenas, like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Animal.” Over the years they have put out 12 albums, including their latest offering from last year Mirrorball: Live and More. The band is among the upper echelon of Rock acts that found success, continuity and growing support through the eras of fans.
CityBeat caught up with guitarist Phil Collen to discuss the band’s continued success before the Riverbend show last night. We discussed why the band is still able to keep it up after so long and what inspires him personally in his musical voyage.
CityBeat: What do you think the secret to the band’s longevity is? I just read this morning that Van Halen just cancelled the rest of their tour. Why have you guys been able to stay together for so long?
Phil Collen: I think our motivation is very different from Van Halen’s. They broke up a while ago. They actually didn’t get off. We’ve actually experienced super-super highs, diamond albums, multi-platinum sell-out tours and all that with really bad lows, like Steve dying and Rick losing his arm.
I think we have been together more consistently than most families. We leave home for 18 months. I have been in the band for 30 years. It’s just that (it) really makes a difference if you can relate to each other on very much a personal level. You have almost a private little clique, an elite club only you can relate to.
I tell you, we have always been good. We have never gone away. We have never split up. We have never done reunions and I think that is the trick. If you have to do a reunion, I always ask “Why did you split up in the first place?” I think we still have got more to prove. We still have songs to write, great albums to make. It’s a whole new day, a whole new digital age, everything is changing, whole new sets of fans. It never really stops. There is always ambition there, and there is always plenty of stuff to do. If you really want to share your work, that’s one of the first things you do in the first place. You get to express your art, it’s an artistic release and the other thing is you actually share it with other people. We are still doing that.
CB: I know you guys have been talking about writing and wanting to release new music. What is the band's writing process?
PC: It is more difficult than it used to be. I think we have gone through every different variation. We have gone through a time when one person writes the song, one person comes up with an idea and someone finishes it off or someone has an idea or we just play on each other’s songs. That’s what Queen ended up doing.
We have done every different variation of that. The best stuff I think we have done was when Mutt Lange was involved and just the way he approached it. He had a lot more experience than us and just brought a whole bunch of things to the table. Again, it is very different, there are a couple things I am putting together that are almost finished and then I usually play them for someone else in the band and put together an idea for them and we just take it from there. That’s really how it works. It’s not rocket science and every song starts in a different way.
I think the most inspiring song is when you have a title and that’s all you got and the rest kind of writes itself around it. I have another band Man Raze and same deal with that. We actually wrote a couple songs for a movie that was The Showdown, which was about superbikes racing. Once I had the whole story I came up with the idea, “Take on the World” — it was racing and stuff, and the song wrote itself.
So it is very inspiring to start with a title or at least an idea and then you just color in by numbers almost. It can come from a million different places and that is one of the wonderful things about being an artist really.
CB: Do you have any regrets over the years?
PC: There are loads of things that we’d do differently obviously. That is the whole plan. You experience stuff and you don’t make the same mistakes again, hopefully, whether it’s driving, old relationships or whatever. You are always on this learning curve which is a different level than the past.
Yeah, you know, not really — (I don't have any) regrets, not even slightly. I love where I am right now and that is the happiest person in the world. I am having a great time. It’s really cool. None at all really.
CB: What is your craziest fan story over the years?
PC: There have been a bunch of crazy fan stories. I have always found the weirdest ones are when people get my face tattooed on their body. I remember the first time this happened years ago, this Italian girl said, “I’m going to get you tattooed on me.” I said, “No, no, no, no, have you told your parents?” And she said, “No, but they’ll be OK.” She got this tattoo done and over the years we have now seen this millions of times, you know, people show their tattoos of our likeness or face on their arm or back or wherever it is. I always try to discourage it because it is a tattoo. I have one tattoo and it is my wife’s name and she has my name tattooed on her and that’s it. I was 52 when I got that.
CB: When you've written songs in the past over the years, did you guys know when you had a hit on your hands?
PC: Some of them, but other songs you think you have a hit and they disappear. You can never really tell. It depends on the environment of the moment. Back then it would be radio. Right now, everything is about celebrity and fame and TV. It is a different one to judge. It is about getting out there. If you get something in a movie, it has more of a chance than something played on the radio. It has changed a lot. The more the music business has turned more into an industry than art, it becomes more difficult to predict (which songs will catch on).
CB: What is the best guitar solo of all time?
PC: I couldn’t put it down for one. There are a few — and it is obviously my opinion — that (have) really inspired me. A few by David Bowie. There are a few Hendrix ones — “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. There is a great guitar solo on a song “Midnight at the Oasis” by Maria Muldaur, a song from the ’70s (that) took me ages to figure out, then I realized there were more than one guitar doing it. There are millions of them that really inspire. I could go on all day but (there's) not one in any particular — all of those.
CB: Any current music you are listening to that you find inspiring?
PC: Yeah, my favorite artist is Skrillex. I am really into dance and Techno music, love it, Dubstep especially. I just think what Skrillex is doing sounds like Heavy Metal without guitars and Hip Hop without words. That’s what I get out of it. It is just very different. It is very pure. I love it.
(I listen to) just different things; I listen to everything. I listen to Jazz or Blues, Hip Hop, Metal, Rock, whatever Pop song, right across the board. It’s all amazing and stuff to draw on really.
Classic Rock band Styx originated in the 1970’s and enjoyed hits like “Lady” and “Come Sail Away." Today, while they may not have the exact pieces of the original band from the late ’70s intact, Styx travels the globe annually to give a show similar that of its early days, though these days the group is fronted by J.Y. Young.
CityBeat recently spoke with Styx keyboard player and vocalist Lawrence Gowan about his musical influences and what led him to the band 14 years ago. Styx performs at Riverbend Music Center tomorrow (Tuesday) night with fellow classic rockers REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent.
CityBeat: First off, have you had any memorable Cincinnati experiences on the tour over the past few years?
Lawrence Gowan: They are all incredibly memorable. The audience there has always been fantastic for us. One of the experiences I remember was the first time we played Cincinnati and I saw that classic fountain downtown. The last couple of times, we stayed on both sides of the river finally now so I have gotten to know a little bit more of the town just by walking around. The audience reaction in Cincinnati is always tremendous for Styx. We are really geared up and really looking forward to the 26th of June.
CB: You were one of the later members to join the band in the ’90s. Were you a Styx fan growing up playing music?
LG: I loved Classic Rock. I loved Progressive Rock particularly and Styx was the only really successful band outside of Britain to make a great mark in that style of music, so yeah I loved the whole genre of music they were playing and I loved the band. Funny enough, I had a long solo career with a number of albums in Canada that were never released in the States but I was always very aware of Styx. I did a couple of shows with them in 1997. There was something in the air that kind of felt like we were going to connect again in the future and I am entering my 14th year with the band now.
CB: When you joined the band, was there any initiation or hazing they put you through?
LG: Yes of course there was. You actually had to cross the river Styx which I don’t recommend for everyone.
CB: You are a classically trained pianist.
LG: Yes I am.
CB: How do you think that better prepared you to be in a Rock band?
LG: I always find that Classical music inspires or makes its way into a lot of the melodic content of some of the best Rock music. The moment I heard “Eleanor Rigby”, with the Classical string quartet playing through that song, I realized the profound connection between both styles.
Both styles are not very afraid to be very grandiose when they need to be and cover a great emotional spectrum. It’s funny, I remember reading (that) Elton John and Rick Wakeman particularly had gone to the Royal Academy in London, and in Toronto they have the Royal Conservatory which is the same pattern, the same message of teaching so I wanted to go through that. I really love it and I still do. Before we go on stage every single night I am backstage playing some Classical piece just to get my chops together and get my head ready for the show.
CB: You had mentioned and you were a pretty large solo artist before you joined the band. What was the biggest transition from being on your own and being in other bands to being in a band like Styx?
LG: Learning to play with others. It’s a completely different dynamic when you are a solo artist and you have got the band behind you. You have a string of hit songs that you are responsible to play every single night and it all kind of falls on your shoulders.
With Styx, I love this as well because it is a break from that entirely because I am on stage with five other frontmen who are all very capable of commanding the stage on their own. We trade off on who is up front in every single song, and even within a song there may be several sections where section after section the strongest dynamic on stage is being traded off. I love that and it is a completely different thing. I love just being the keyboard player at some points in the band. It’s great.
CB: Have you ever been starstruck?
LG: In my life? Well, let me see now — yeah, I guess a couple of times sure. When I made my second solo album, I got a chance to record at Ringo Starr’s home near London, England, in Ascot, England. It was the house where John Lennon had recorded “Imagine” and when I went to the door the first day with the producer — it was a home studio there he was letting us use — (and) he actually answered the door. I remember finding it difficult to bring words to my mouth which usually isn’t that hard of a thing for me to do. That was quite an experience. I remember it took me a few minutes to realize I wasn’t in a scene from A Hard Day’s Night but actually talking to a guy in his house.
CB: There is a lot of debate now about Rock music in general and how it has changed so much. Other forms of music are coming to the forefront. Do you think Rock & Roll music is a dying art?
LG: That is a tough one, isn’t it? I have heard that kicked around most of my life. I think we can agree now that Rock music was the big musical statement for the last half of the 20th century, the electrification of music and the fact that Rock makes such a gigantic sound and changed what people embraced as popular music. I don’t think it is going to ever go away now because we have history on our side. There has been 50 years of it or more so I think it is a style of music that is going to continue to evolve and to dig into different areas.
I think you can trace a lot of the newer things you are talking about, trace it back to that gigantic statement that Rock was in the last half of the 20th century and I think it will be embraced and loved my millions for years to come because just like people still love Jazz or they love Country or they love Classical music or Ragtime; it is a style of music and a way of performing that I can’t see it entirely slipping off the planet any time soon.
CB: Do you keep journals or any kind of history of the tours over the years, memorable things for you?
LG: The best history I kept for a number a years was every night at the end of shows I took a Polaroid picture on stage or took three or four of them and tossed some of them out to the audience but I’d keep one for myself. My wardrobe case is stuffed with all these Polaroid pictures because we have played over 1500 shows together since I joined the band. That is a fantastic journal. You know what they say about pictures and words. They do tell a huge story over the course of time. It is funny, last night in Kansas City at the end of the show when I am reaching down and shaking people’s hands and somebody threw a picture up at me of the first year I was in the band and we had a great laugh backstage after because we realized there are old pictures of us now together. It was back when we did a little acoustic set in the middle of the show. My best documentation of the shows is that collection of Polaroids.
CB: I am a music photographer so I have got years of histories of bands and it is, I think, the best way to tell a story.
LG: It kind of is. I like putting my thoughts on paper very much but that usually morphs into becoming a song. I find that just what pictures evoke and the flood of memories you can get from them it can be astounding every time you look at them particularly when you are in a heightened state like being on stage in front of 10,000 people, the feeling of that moment is well captured.
CB: Any regrets over the years?
LG: I think like any human being there are things you are going to regret I suppose but it is a useless endeavor because they all kind of amount to where you are today and I like where I am today so I really can’t waste much time on that. I am sure one day on my death bed I will think, “You know, maybe I could have been a hockey player.”
CB: You guys are playing over a 100 shows a year, huge amounts of time on the road. Are there any plans to slow down?
LG: Not really. There is such an insatiable demand for Styx to play around the world and I have got my solo shows back up and doing a number of those in Canada every year. I think I enjoy it now more than I ever did and I am in a band of like-minded people. We have no plans to do that. We plan to keep pushing as hard as we can for as long as we can. Really, the only real question for us is how we find time to make another full album and we are kind of coming up with novel ways of being able to come up with that at present.
CB: I know Ted Nugent is on tour with you guys this time and he has been very vocal all the time about political views and gotten in trouble the last few months. Do you have any election picks for us this year?
LG: As the only Canadian that is involved in this whole thing, I think that is the easy way to duck out of the U.S. political debate and the hot question. I have a feeling that it is between Obama and Romney. That is my big prediction.
CB: What can the fans expect from the show next week?
LG: We are going to ram as many Styx classic hits at them as we can in the hour and 20 minutes we are playing. We will also throw in one or two of the album cuts from The Grand Illusion. We noticed there are songs on that record that were never singles that have become great favorites of a lot of the audience so we like to include one of the more unusual pieces in the show as well.
CB: What do you do on your down time on the road?
LG: Well I usually, myself, I like to do something to keep myself in shape so I am always doing a bit of yoga. Although I am the keyboard player, I am a huge guitar lover so I am usually practicing my chops in the hotel room. We also do all the social media things like Facebook and our website. They need to be looked at every few days just to see where things are and I love to go for walks around cities. That is one of the things I enjoy about Cincinnati. As I said, the last couple of times, walking across that bridge across the river is one of my favorite pastimes in that city. I am a walker.
CB: It is amazing how much time you spend on Facebook and the internet that is lost doing those things.
LG: It is a nice way, it is an easy way, depending on how you treat it, to feel like you can engage with people you really don’t have the opportunity to with the shows because we are too busy getting ourselves back to the tour bus afterwards. We can shake a few hands. It is a way to kind of feel a connection to people on a human level where we happen to be in a career that it is hard to do that just because of the demands of the day.
CB: Are any current bands influencing you now or what are you listening to?
LG: There are so many things I have listened to lately, I heard a fantastic band from England recently called Everything Everything. Todd, our drummer turned me onto them. I like Keane. I like them being keyboard players. I like My Chemical Romance, I kind of dig that band a bit. There is a Metal band I really like called Children of Bodom. That is the kind of stuff I have listened to lately.