Music, My Stories

David Lee Roth

The headline reads, “My Whole Career Is Based Upon Disturbances And Uproar”.

Below is an interview conducted by Steffan Chirazi that appeared in the February 1991 issue of Hot Metal, which was an Australian monthly magazine on all things metal. All the text in italics is the interview. The text that isn’t in italics is my addition.

“I take everything I do very seriously – it’s other people’s perceptions of me I don’t take seriously!”

In 2016 and with social media so prevalent in our lives, other people’s perception of us is important. We all want to be liked. But the rock stars of the past, like David Lee Roth, he didn’t care in the opinion of others. But then again, fans of music didn’t really have a voice to express their opinion. Regardless, the presence of social media and cameras in phones has changed the way rock stars behave. Suddenly perception of others is important.

David Lee Roth is nobody’s fool. The man is in total control, a fact that is reflected in Roth’s most interesting and diverse album yet, “A Little Ain’t Enough”. It roars with a title track that needs to be blasted loud, a stomper that shows just where those old Van Halen roots actually lie, yet crawls with a bluesy feel so low and steaming that you’d almost think the man has no manners. It’s also diverse; Roth’s the focus now and he simply assembles musicians when and how he needs them. This time that happened to be in a cheap motel in Vancouver.

David Lee Roth is a character. According to the New Oxford American English Dictionary, character means “strength and originality in a person’s nature”.

And David Lee Roth is unique.

The “A Little Ain’t Enough” album is good. This is David Lee Roth telling the world who he is in 1991. He is checking his bases to see if his brand of over the top, feel good, tongue in cheek vibe is relevant. It’s typical of other rock albums from the era. Two to three singles and filler for the rest. It went Gold right off the bat and then it stalled. Because of MTV.

MTV was a powerful entity. If a song got rotation on the video channel, sales went into platinum figures. If MTV refused to play it, the album would sell based on the previous albums goodwill and then it would disappear.

To prove my point on how powerful MTV was for an artist back then, just check out David Lee Roth’s Spotify stats in 2016. You have “Just A Gigolo”, “Just Like Paradise”, “Yankee Rose” and “California Girls” in the top 4 of his most streamed songs. MTV staples, every single one of them. So almost 30 years later, the influence and power of music television is still large in our lives.

“The hotel choice was a way of getting as close to the blues as possible – to see what effect it had, to try and live it and breath it. What happened was that we walked into basement of a 4-star hotel and one of our eminent rock bands was up there finishing a record, and they were all wafting around the gym in their matching terry-cloth robes and mixed drinks, complaining of tendonitis – you know, “Where’s my masseuse?”. Well, jeez, maybe you should switch glass to the other hand, OK? It was a case of no, this is not how our album should sound.”

You could just imagine that David Lee Roth would be a difficult subject to interview because he speaks in riddles and double speak.

I get the part where they holed themselves up in a hotel to see what output their living circumstances create. The whole part of the “eminent rock band” is all over the shop. It just doesn’t make sense. As I was reading it, I thought he would mention what songs came out of these living circumstances. However, he went on a rant about a pampered rock band.

Why not bring Bob Rock to some sh!ttty dump in Manhattan for an even fuller effect?

“We’ll I think Bob wouldn’t fit in there (he laughs before briefly explaining the compromise factor, Rock liking Vancouver better than anywhere to work)… And this move to the lower band hotel is not as out of the ordinary for me as it might sound. We don’t broadcast all over the world where we stay when we’re on the road for obvious reasons, but 7 out of 10 times you’re gonna do a lot better to stay in the a 55-end of a city. At that kind of hotel you’re not gonna have any problems with the noise and unusual characters turning up at odd times of the night. My whole career is based upon disturbances and uproar, they don’t start at 10 after 9 and stop at exactly 11 on cue. The environment helped us to get back to what I know and love best – blues based rock n roll”

This is Bob Rock before Metallica and after Motley Crue.

For the producer, his career trajectory was on the up.

For the artist, it was the beginning of a downward spiral.

DLR had no idea of what would transpire in the years ahead and the backlash that would come to hard rock bands and over the top performers like him. Real artists are made when things just don’t go to plan and roadblocks suddenly present themselves. A lot of artists today are tackling adversity by complaining about the internet and how it led to massive copyright infringements. Character is built by adversity. It teaches you there’s more than one way to achieve what you want. But the main goal has always been to get into the game and stay there.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll is based on irreverence, it’s designed to break the rules and come up with something new. Rock ‘n’ Roll is about disregard for convention, it’s about taking the best elements of those things and confusing the issues entirely with a while vision of the future, of confusing business with pleasure to the maximum”

Irreverence means a lack of respect for people or things that are generally taken seriously. Like the techies since Napster.

Heavy metal, hard rock, heavy rock, glam rock, call it whatever you want, was doing exactly that. However, once it became a commercially viable product, rock and roll ceased to be about irreverence and it became all about conformity.

Which you’ve managed to do pretty well over the years, as opposed to some boring, miserable fat old bastards…

“Walking it like you talk it is simple, but it aint easy! There’s a risk involved if you’re truly gonna do what’s in your head, heart or pants, wherever the motivation’s coming from – and I’m not saying in that order either. But there will be a risk – what if the fans don’t like it, what if the manager doesn’t think this is right – and so on. Walking that line and taking that risk is frightening to a lot of artists.”

You see DLR assumed he would be a star forever. However, the shelf life of rock and roll heroes was always short. It was only during the 80’s and courtesy of MTV that artists started to have a very long shelf life. ALAE is a ballsy album to do, however if you look at any album that DLR has been involved in, there always was an element of the unexpected. But he did take risks and he did try different things out and that makes him special in my eyes.

There again, when you travel through the Amazon, climb huge mountains and go hammerhead shark watching in the South Pacific, risks in music must seem easy.

“Absolutely, I like to practice the challenge, the management of a challenge, the great unpredictable finish, constantly re-assessing from moment to moment. If I’ve become jaded at all, it’s because I’m an adrenalin junkie and that’s my drug. You get better and better under pressure, you get more creative under stress. I love working with other people under pressure; no matter how well you know the music or the guys in the rhythm section, when tape’s rollin’ that’s pressure.”

“That challenge in a studio is different to the challenge in the Amazon or on a mountainside, but it’s the same drive. It’s like a muscle, and you’re either working it or jerkin it. You develop inside yourself. Your creativity’s the same thing, your ability on stage is the same thing. I never perceived it as ‘put on your costume and perform’.”

Has he ever felt vulnerable?

“When I did “Just A Gigolo” and “California Girls” coming off the heels of the grand Van Halen fiesta – I said “fiesta” not “fiasco” because it was a grand celebration – the crowning glory rock ‘n’ roll as the press depicted it at the time. To go from there into a left hand turn – to wind up at big band brass, Beach Boy, New York City in the same fiscal year – would be considered suicidal by most people behind the desk.”

So let’s put into context where David Lee Roth was at in 1991. We need to go back to 1985, when he left Van Halen after its biggest album to release an EP of cover songs. MTV loved the clips and he became a star by using his own name instead of the Van Halen name.

Then came “Eat Em and Smile” in 1986 and no one expected that album to stick but it did. Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan are all over the album and they more or less cemented themselves as band leaders in their own right. “Skyscraper” came and it capitalised on the MTV shift to melodic pop rock in the style of Bon Jovi. This time, keyboardist Brett Tuggle is all over the album. After the “Skyscraper” world tour, Steve Vai left to do his solo album and then he got an offer he couldn’t refuse from the Whitesnake camp. Billy Sheehan already left after “Eat Em And Smile” and went on to form Mr Big. David kept Gregg Bissonette on drums, Matt Bissonette on bass, Brett Tuggle remained on keys and added guitarists Jason Becker and Steve Hunter to write and record this album.

As a guitarist, I couldn’t wait to hear what Becker would do with David Lee Roth. However, when he came into the band, most of the songs were written. However, two songs from Becker made it to the final album cut, the “Hot For Teacher” on steroids song “It’s Showtime!” and the blues on shred steroids “Drop in the Bucket”. Of course fate would intervene and while Becker played on the album and co-write a few songs, he never toured behind it because of his ALS diagnosis.

When did Dave Lee Roth realise that snorting his sinuses to shit wouldn’t help his character or longevity? When did he learn about the bigger picture?

“I would say… last Sunday morning! Hahaha. He laughs heartily.

“Life is balance. I talk about all of these things that I do and I certainly do them all. But I’m not expert at any of it, and the rock ‘n’ roll term is adventurer while the medical term is fun hog! I qualify for the high-accelerated class.”

“I love the back room at the Rainbow. What you have to remember is, you won’t have anything to talk about at the Rainbow Bar and Grill if that’s all you do, go there. I have friends who do nothing but adventure travelling all the time, from Australia to Korea to Singapore… and that gets awful thin too. So there has to be that balance there, a bit of both.”

Now is as good a time as any to scotch/confirm Rothian rumours over the last year about Van Halen. Will there be a re-union? Would Roth do it?

“Perhaps down the line. I don’t think you can hold a grudge and be truly happy, and I’m absolutely delighted with who I am right now. I’m sitting in the catbird seat and I’m surrounded by brilliant people in every category and department. The future’s so bright it needs shades, and I’ve got the world tour firing up. Any divorce is gonna have sharp edges. I haven’t talked to the guys in the band for 5 or 6 years, but down the line anything’s possible.”

But the future wasn’t as bright as DLR thought. The world tour didn’t set any box office records on fire, like the “Skyscraper” tour. As much as DLR doesn’t want to admit it, but Steve Vai was a big drawcard for him, and on the first album, so was Billy Sheehan. Then he had the Van Halen reunion discussions, new songs for the various Greatest Hit packages, the MTV appearance fiasco and what not.

When talking about his own music these days, specifically “A Little Ain’t Enough”, Dave’s as colourful as ever.

“My roots have always been blues-rock, something that chugs along – y’get on a train that’s going 60 miles an hour and let’s do it over the ultimate riff. Remember the first time you heard side two of Led Zeppelin II? OK, that’s the set-up, we’ll land and take-off from there. As for those harmonies, I went to schools that were all black in high school, black and Hispanic. The only thing I heard at the high school dances was old Motown. Henceforth, all those harmonies. When the choruses came up, they light up all the whoo-hoos. These were trademarks of Van Halen music, and they’re things I contributed.”

“My driving wheel is the killer riff with natural harmonies, not 18 stacked up wide. Minimal overdubbing and going with solos off the floor and off the floor vocals as often as we can, sound spilling over the edges. There is a time to hone it but usually not. I want it intact, as it is.”

These days, Roth employs various musicians and writers, choosing to no longer had “a band” as such and just got it alone with various players. What brought Dave to this decision?

“As music director here I have a definite vision of what it’s meant to sound like or be like at any given time. That’s going to take different musicians, different styles of music. The difference in style between “Just A Gigolo” and “A Little Aint Enough” is a long throw, and if you’re writing songs with the same people who you go on tour with over and over again, it starts to become the same sounding. You can only be a virgin once, when you group up with a band and you learn about life and music at about the same time, well then out of that will come all the inspiration you need.”

David Lee Roth leads a rich life; what’s left for the man to experience?

“I dunno. I haven’t felt absolute committed love yet and I wonder what the might feel like. But I’ve been married to the audience for so goddamn long and what a fickle bitch she is, too!”

The fact is that David Lee Roth hasn’t felt the normal domestic everyday-life situations that most people take for granted.

“Sometimes I think I’m getting close, but then I kinda just realize I’m far away. One of the reasons I broke up my girlfriend was because I said, “Honey, kissing you is my second favourite thing in the world” and she asked me what the first was and I said, “Cashing a cheque!”.

That “cashing a cheque” ideal became the problem for hard rock. It stopped being about writing songs and started to be about writing songs that MTV would play and hopefully would cross over and sell. Record labels started to employ scorched earth marketing tactics.

He laughs a hearty one, doused with truth.

“The guy who said ‘Money can’t buy happiness’ didn’t know where to go shopping!”

Which somehow brings us around to the typical end of interview questions”

Wot will da stage show be like Dave?

“Y’know, I told the band when we first came together for our first rehearsal not so long ago, ‘If you can’t do it under one light bulb in a pair of borrowed jeans with a rented guitar, y’can’t do it at all!’”

David Lee Roth and co. will be appearing at a venue near you under their Philips 100 watt later this year…

“Oh well, maybe somewhere between 1 and 1100!”

The lightning ball of fizzle-crackle life they call David Lee Roth is back to remind you that he never actually left…

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Question Everything – Inspiration From Killswitch Engage and Jesse Leach

After overdosing on the new Protest the Hero album “Volition” for some reason the last song “Skies” got me thinking about Killswitch Engage. So out come the headphones and on goes the new album “Disarm the Descent.” I haven’t listened to it since about July. Our favourites don’t last long in the times of today. With so much new music coming out, we move on very quickly. As Jesse Leach pointed out recently in an interview with Lithium Magazine, the title is a creative way of saying redemption or rising again.

“You’re in a state of your life where you’re approaching rock bottom and you find a way to pick yourself up again before you hit the floor.”

I came to Killswitch Engage late. I didn’t listen to their first three albums. The only song I heard was “My Last Serenade” back in 2004 and that was via a bass player friend. However at that time, nothing really connected with me and that was it. There was no urge to commit to the band for me.

Fast forward a few years and the “Guitar World” issue arrived in the mailbox. I don’t recall which month; however it was a magazine from 2007. At that time the magazine still came with a DVD of bonus content. One of the bonuses was a lesson from the Killswitch guitarists on how to play “My Curse” and after watching it, I was hooked.

So I asked my bass player friend to burn me all of their albums, which he did. At the time, I had no idea that vocalists changed, which after hearing “Alive or Just Breathing” in 2007, I realised that the tones of the vocalists didn’t match up. So what do we do when we need information? We Google. We click on Wikipedia. In addition, “My Last Serenade” suddenly mattered. The song sucker punched me and I was hooked. The timing was right in 2007, for Killswitch Engage to enter my life on a full time basis.

By the time, their 2009 self-titled album came out; I was purchasing it without even listening to a single note. As a bonus their back catalogue was on special at the time, so I picked them up as well and added the official releases to my collection. That is why I always say that no metrics can ever measure the reach or pull of a band at the time of a release.

Of course, sales data can show what is in demand at a certain point in time; however the reach and the popularity of a certain band or a certain album cannot be properly measured until years later. Remember that history is written by the winners. In music, the winners are the artists or bands that outlast the competition.

Going back to the different singers, since Jesse’s split with the band, he kept busy with other projects, like the stoner-rock outfit “Seemless” and the metalcore/hard-core influenced “The Empire Shall Fall”. During this period, he also appeared with Killswitch Engage, performing the track “My Last Serenade” alongside Howard Jones at the Roadrunner United concert in 2005.

Then in 2011, I was blown away by “Times of Grace”. Everything about that album connected with me on so many different levels. I saw “Times Of Grace” open up for “Machine Head” at the Uni Roundhouse in Sydney in February 2012. Adam Dutkiewicz had his leg in some form of a support cast and he still went ballistic on stage, commenting frequently that “Aussie girls are hot.”

In relation to “Times Of Grace”, I could hear the regret in some of the songs. When Jesse jumped ship from Killswitch he was fighting a pretty serious depression. He had just gotten married and he couldn’t deal with being on the road all the time and away from his new family.

Songs like, “Fall From Grace (my best song on the album)”, “The Forgotten One”, “Hymn Of A Broken Man”, “In The Arms Of Mercy” and “Where The Spirit Leads Me” capture the more personal side of Jesse Leach. I remember reading in an interview in the “Revolver” April/May issue with Jesse mentioning that at the time of leaving Killswitch he was “broken and unconfident”.

So when Killswitch Engage announced that Jesse Leach is the vocalist again, I was more than pleased. His redemption was complete. When Jesse left Killswitch Engage the album he worked on “Alive Or Just Breathing” was just another album in a burgeoning metalcore scene that helped to kick start the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement.

Today, “Alive or Just Breathing” is seen as a classic. I always state that music is all about creating great music now so that it is recognised later for its greatness. As an artist grows their body of work takes on a new life of its own. It takes a while for something to be assimilated. Artists or bands have to hang in there long enough until they get their turn, getting better while they wait and releasing quality music.

“In Due Time” was the lead-off single.

“All that we suffer through leads to determination
The trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on 

Something within us burns, desire feeds the will to live
A reason to believe I will see redemption”

As the chorus lyrics go, in due time, the shadows will gave way to the light. You just need to be patient and resilient. The words could even reference Jesse’s redemption to Killswitch and the knowledge that he had to go through all these trials so that he could come back a better person.

“A Tribute To The Fallen” has that hook that resonates. In my view this song should have led the album.

“With a new dawn we rise in renewed strength
Knowing we’ve just begun to fight this war within”

Think about all the crap that is going on in our democratic nations. Governments are spying on their own people. The Corporations and their lobby groups drive legislation. Government granted monopolies like the copyright industry are doing their best to kill innovation and when that fails, insert the corporations and their lobby groups. Transparency is promised however it doesn’t exist. Every communication is suddenly classified. Enables of pirated goods get more jail time than actual criminal offenders.

“New Awakening” has the legend behind it about how Jesse blew his voice while he was recording it in the studio. After the Doctor told him about the strain on the vocal chords, Jesse saw it as a badge of honour.

“There is more to life than this
We are more than just this flesh
We are alive and our time has come
For a new awakening”

It’s the Killswitch revolution. Killswitch wants you. Where do i sign? I’m all in.

“You Don’t Bleed For Me” connects with me because it more or less sums up our politicians and how even though they are voted in by the people, they do not work for the people. Of course there are the rare ones who do their best to speak for the people but in the end money wins the game.

“Fly your flag of righteousness
When underneath it is deviousness, it is greed and lies
Don’t pretend to know me you martyr of disgrace
With your plastic smile
I don’t believe a word you say
You don’t speak for me
You don’t bleed, you don’t bleed
You don’t bleed for me”

The closer “Time Will Not Remain”.

“None of us should be thought of as anything less than a potential to change the world”

What a lyric and what a statement. That is the reason why Jesse Leach’s return means so much to Killswitch Engage and to metal fans in general. He never stopped being who he was. He was not corrupted by the modern era. He questions social norms and ideals. He questions the crap our politicians and news outlets throw at us. He questions everything. The great vocalists always have something to say.

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Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories

Cold Case – Connecting The Dots With Motley Crue And It’s Vocalist Problem.

“MOTLEY STILL SINGERLESS” is the headline from a news break item that did the rounds in an issue of Hot Metal from June 1992.

For everyone that had a vested interest in hard rock music knows, Motley Crue and Vince Neil parted ways in February 1992. The actual argument took place on February 11, 1992, with Motley Crue issuing the official statement on Neil’s departure on February 14, 1992.

Now from all evidence, it looks like the band started working with John Corabi immediately, from as earliest as February 17, 1992, however it wasn’t until September 27, 1992, that John Corabi officially signed a contract to be Motley Crue’s new lead vocalist. The below is from the June 1992, Hot Metal magazine and it is an update from Walt Woodward III (RIP);

In a conversation with Walt Woodward III, drummer with much touted and Hot Metal-approved The Scream, we just had to ask what exactly was going on with the band’s singer John Corabi? It seemed to those on the outside that just as The Scream was about to explode Down Under, John Corabi was gonna bail for Da Crue.

Well, as of April 15th no confirmation had been made. Says the very friendly Walt, “We’ve just finished recording a song with John. It’s for [MTV comedian] Paulie Shaw’s new movie Encino Man. Sure, Motley Crue are really interested in John. He’s been writing with them, and whether the songs end up on our album or the Crue’s is yet to be seen.”

Walt went on to explain that he was a big fan of dedication. Y’see, since becoming The Scream, John Corabi, Walt, Bruce Bouillet and John Alderette”…had really grown together, become good friends. I would hope that dedication would win through.”

If John was to bail from The Scream though, things would definitely go on. Says Walt, “We’ve all talked about it and if John did leave I can honestly say that there’s a couple of cool cats out there who’ve rung us up and will definitely blow some people away.”

The above is interesting for two reasons. As far as the guys in “The Scream” where concerned, the songs that John Corabi was working on, could have ended up on a Motley Crue album or a new Scream album. That would mean that even though John Corabi was working with Motley Crue, he was still technically or legally in The Scream.

This also goes against Nikki Sixx’s viewpoint on the matter that John Corabi was the only guy on the scene. The comments from Walt Woodward, gives some street cred to Sebastian Bach’s claim that he did in fact audition, as it was almost seven months from when Vince Neil left to when Motley Crue officially announced John Corabi as the replacement. The other vocalists that also auditioned are Stevie Rachelle from the band Tuff, Marq Torien from the band Bullet Boys and Stephen Shareaux from the band Kik Tracee.

Now if Sebastian Bach did audition in 1992, it would have had to have been between February 1992 and September 1992. Due to the fact that John Corabi had to wait until September to be officially recognised as the lead singer, it points to one thing; some reservations existed within the Motley Crue circle of managers, record label reps and road crew if John Corabi was the right man.

During the period December, 1991 and June 22, 1992, Skid Row was touring the U.S. Plenty of free days in between to tee up an audition.

From July 8, 1992 to August 11, 1992, Skid Row did a South American tour and wrapped up the month of August with an appearance at Castle Donnington in the U.K. Again, plenty of time to fit in an audition after the tour ended.

Skid Row didn’t hit the road again until October 1992 for a small Japanese tour and then they wrapped up the “Slave To The Grind” cycle, by supporting Guns N Roses on their “Use Your Illusion” Australian tour from January 30, 1993 to February 6, 1993. Of course by the time this cycle completed, Sebastian Bach had committed to Skid Row.

It is not uncommon for different theories to emerge when band members are replaced. Even Dream Theater got caught up in it, when the stories came out that Marco Minnemann got the Dream Theater drummer spot when Mike Portnoy left. That is why on the videos of the drummer audition that came out, you don’t see footage of Dream Theater telling Minnemann that he didn’t get the gig, however there was footage of when they told all the other drummers that auditioned they didn’t get the gig.

By connecting the dots, Marco Minnemann got the gig and then turned it down when he was told he needed to relocate to the other side of America.

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Music

Bullet For My Valentine – The Hi Fi – Sydney 27 February 2013

Basically if any member leaves Bullet For My Valentine I will no longer be interested.

Stories abound that the band had issues with each other during the tour of the Fever album and that they where close to breaking up.  Lets hope that they realise that they are a sum of their parts.  Does anyone remember Axewound?

The guitarist Michael Paget is a shredder in the classic Randy Rhoads sense, he was spot on all night, and a pleasure to watch.  The drummer Michael Thomas was a machine.  The whole night he was nailing his parts effortlessly.  Singer / Guitarist Matt Tuck was also in the pocket with his vocals and riffage.  

But the star of the show was the bass player Jason James.  He was the crowd instructor.  He got everyone jumping, he got the mosh pit going crazy, he got all the fists in the air going, plus he killed it in delivering high quality backing vocals and taking the lead on the screamo parts. 

If there was an issue with the show it was the small venue vs the high volumes clash and no Your Betrayel.  Ohh the betrayel…

Their latest album Temper Temper has moved 56,900 units in two weeks in the US and a quick look at The Pirate Bay shows at least 1500 seeders for this album with about 100 leechers.

This is the new world.  When the labels used to control the distribution, albums used to do a two year run via scheduled release windows.  These days with the internet, the album run is over within two to four weeks.

I still don’t know why bands spend three months or more in a studio recording a full album for it to disappear within a month.

Don’t get me wrong, good albums will stay the course like American Capitalist from Five Finger Death Punch has sold 500,000 plus units in the US and it was released in 2011.

Danish band Volbeat’s Beyond Hell/Above Heaven has just cracked the 200,00 mark in US sales, three years after it was released.  This one has been a slow riser, without all the mainstream marketing.  The fans have been spreading the word.  The fans are in control now.  The labels hate it, but if the bands are switched on, they can monetise this to the max.  Anyway i digress.  Back to the live show.

1000 plus people crammed into THE HI FI venue at Sydney’s Moore Park.  They where treated to a good show.  For $63 a ticket it was worth it.  I have no interest in Miss May I and The Cancer Bats.  They opened with Breaking Point and all i can say is they had the audience singing the song with them.  That is one thing that caught my attention, especially on the new album, the songs written are designed so that they work with the show.  All the songs worked and the energy levels where always up.  Highlights for me where Breaking Point, Pleasure and Pain, The Last Fight with it’s ballad like intro,  Scream Aim Fire, Waking the Demon and Alone.  This was a gig for the hardcore fans and BFMV didn’t disappoint.

 

 

 

 

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