Cheetah Chrome isn’t the biggest cat in the cage, but he can damn sure rattle it just as loud as the rest.
From the machine-gun riff of ”Sonic Reducer” through the rest of the Dead Boys’ savage punk rock, Cheetah’s raw guitar power is every bit as vicious as those strummers in the Clash, Ramones, Sex Pistols and Stooges. Sure, those bands amassed more prominent legacies, but you’d be bottled behind CBGB if you didn’t count the Dead Boys’ 1977 debut album, “Young Loud and Snotty,” as an absolute, must-have, punk-rock classic (the title alone spits volumes).
Today, Cheetah lives in Nashville where he probably scares the neighbors while serving as a head honcho at Plowboy Records. Established to preserve the legacy of country western singer Eddy Arnold, the record label also nurtures renegade, outlaw-Americana-cowpunk artists and other musical misfits. No surprise then that Cheetah’s new album, “Solo,” is right at home on Plowboy (and if you like the streetwise, garage-rock of Alejandro Escovedo’s “Real Animal,” you’ll love Cheetah’s “Solo”).
As he readies for multiple SXSW appearances in Austin and a tour with his pals, the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs (no relation), 2Fast2Die caught up with Cheetah for some (very) random Q&A.
As a kid, what album changed your life and inspired you to play music? Well, “Meet the Beatles” was the first to make me want to play. When I did begin to play guitar, I really got into “High Tide and Green Grass” by the Stones and the first Steppenwolf album. The leads on “Born to Be Wild” inspired me to be a lead guitarist.
ANY QUESTIONS?: The Dead Boys’ debut album was a rare case of truth in advertising.
What inspired your stage name, Cheetah Chrome?
Nothing really. It was sort of a joke nickname in school when I ran track for about two weeks; I’d also had a sort of fascination with cheetahs after seeing one at the zoo when I was a kid. When “Search and Destroy” came out, that clinched it! As for Chrome, well Bators insisted I have a last name, because I wanted to go with just “Cheetah,” like Tarzan ‘s monkey. Stiv was big into numerology and I guess just “Cheetah” didn’t bode well or something. So he came up with Chrome, which I hated, but he finally wore me down.
What do you remember most about Stiv? Share your overall memory of him and then share one crazy specific memory
Just his friendship and how we used to hang out together. I have a lot of good onstage memories: the eye contact we used to have, the jokes we used to make to each other away from the mics. But mostly I remember just hanging out and laughing a whole lot. One of my favorites is when he used to do the whole Dick Van Dyke entrance to a hotel, coming in the front door and tripping over all of the lobby furniture, knocking over and catching lamps, ashtrays, plants etc. … and then just straightening himself out and walking calmly to the elevator, leaving nothing out of place. Genius!
STIV FOREVER: Cheetah on stage circa 1977 with iconic Dead Boys singer Stiv Bators. The Dead Boys relocated to New York from Cleveland and became a crowd favorite at CBGB along with the Ramones, the New York Dolls and others. Stiv would later form The Lords of the New Church before dying in 1990 from injuries suffered after being hit by a taxi.
Describe your most chaotic Dead Boys gig
Had to be one of the Halloween gigs at the Ritz. Those were insane. We had two bad-ass roadies, Johnny and Kenny, who spent the entire show out front with us throwing people off the stage. This was the height of the moshing, stage-diving days. I always hated that shit! What a frigging waste of time; pay an outrageous ticket price and then do your best to distract the band so they can’t play – wise move! Of course these were the same people sitting in squats being “straight edge,” not drinking, taking drugs, having sex or eating meat, then complaining how life sucked. Well, duh!
HELL-OOoooo CLEVELAND!: Prior to forming the Dead Boys, Cheetah, second from right, was in the Cleveland band, Rocket From the Tombs. The band is cited as the birthplace of later-day Dead Boys songs like ‘Ain’t it Fun,’ ‘Sonic Reducer’ and ‘Caught With the Meat in Your Mouth,’ among others.
What exactly is a sonic reducer and how many times have you been asked this question?
I have been asked that question 20,000,093 times. This makes 20,000,094. It is a fictional object that you don’t want to be on the receiving end of. Let’s leave it at that. Classified.
Speaking of, there are some punk purists who feel the inclusion of the Dead Boys song “Sonic Reducer” in a TV commercial is blasphemy. Then there are those who feel it’s about damn time the Dead Boys got paid. Your thoughts?
I think it’s a no brainer. It’s for a state-of-the-art speaker system that really does kick some serious ass. It’s named “Sonos,”so I mean, it’s a natural: “Sonic/Sonos.” It shows the band at their best, prominently featured. I see no conflict, although even if it was a Massengill ad I could argue that after 37 years the Dead Boys have enough street cred to tell anybody who doesn’t like what we do to kiss our asses.
BLITZKRIEG BOOK: In 2009-2010, Cheetah wrote a book chronicling the chaos of a life lived dangerously. As you can see from the cover, the book is enthusiastically approved by Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash whose band once recorded the Dead Boys classic, ‘Ain’t it Fun.’
What was your first impression of CBGBs and then your overall memory of it?
That it was smaller than I expected and that there was dog shit on my shoe. Then it just began to feel like home, which is my overall memory of it.
You lent your consulting expertise to the movie “CBGB.” In your honest opinion, is the movie an accurate snapshot of that era or is it enhanced with a lot of Hollywood “creative license”?
It’s a pretty accurate story of Hilly and how the club got started. A lot of the Dead Boys stuff is very accurate, at least in capturing the overall vibe. Other things are not – I never drove back then, and even if I had, none of those guys would have ever gotten into a vehicle I was driving! They were nervous about my walking, let alone my driving! I didn’t have a license until 2001!! A lot of the stuff on other bands is pieced together from things like “Please Kill Me,” and some accuracy got lost in the mix – like the truck crash happened to the Stooges, not to us. I’m told some of them were asked to help with the film and refused, so they had their chance to set the record straight and didn’t take it. I took mine. One major discrepancy was the part when Johnny is in the hospital and someone says something to the effect that “well, if he dies at least we’ll sell some records.” Nobody in the band said that, though it was said; I won’t say by who.
SO GOOD: Cheetah’s ‘Solo’ album features guest musicians from the New York Dolls, The Cult and the Blackhearts.
What’s your fondest memory of Joey Ramone?
Coming back to my place on E .5th St after closing down the Cat Club and drinking beer and playing records till dawn.
What took so long to put out “Solo” and why is now the right time for its release?
Well, I never had the right label to put it out after Smog Veil went on hiatus. Frank Mauceri was the only person I trusted in the music industry in that regard. When Shannon Pollard, Don Cusic and I started Plowboy Records in 2012, and I became an A&R man, I thought to myself, “Hmmmm … Now who was that guy I saw that I thought was pretty good? Oh, it was me!” The timing had something to do with the movie — strike while the iron is hot. Again, a no brainer.
BOYS-N-DOLLS: Cheetah with longtime pal and sometimes band mate, Sylvain Sylvain of New York Dolls fame.
I met you in 2010 when you and Sylvain Sylvain played at SXSW in Austin under the band name, The Batusis. You may recall your publicist had me pose as your driver so I could get into the gig. So, who’s the better guitarist, you or Syl? Hey, thanks for not putting me on the spot! I really appreciate that! Actually, we’re very different guitarists, which makes it work nicely when we play together, but I do have to give the nod to Syl. He has the best instincts of any musician I’ve ever played with. He can fly by the seat of his pants better than I do. He’s extremely spontaneous. When we were recording the Batusis EP, he brought in “What You Lack In Brains,” very bare bones. He was calling out the changes to us as we were playing it the first time – and that ended up being the track! I don’t think he even had more than a couple of lines of lyrics ready, but he knew where it was going instinctively. I’m more methodical. I like going back after the track is done and working on my leads, trying guitar parts. Syl’s a one-take wonder 90 percent of the time. As personalities, we’re pretty much on the same page. We’ve been hanging out for 30-odd years, so we know each other well. Traveling with Syl is a gas. The Batusis tours were probably the most enjoyable I’ve ever done!
Tell us something we don’t know about Cheetah Chrome: Any hobbies? Hidden talents? Guilty pleasures? Favorite pastimes when you’re not making music?
Hobbies? None really. Hidden talents? I’m not a bad piano player; I also play a lot of open-G tuning stuff on acoustic around the house, and slide. Guilty pleasures? I really like Robbie Williams’s “Escapology” CD. And I love the Bee Gees.
Thanks for taking the time, Cheetah. I’ll see you at SXSW and hopefully this time I won’t have to pose as your driver to get into the gig. Hey, you walk in like ya own the place this time! Thanks for the interview.
* For more info about Plowboy Records’ Saturday March 15th SXSW Showcase featuring Cheetah Chrome and more at Saxon Pub, go here
* To see Cheetah Chrome guest with Dead Boys tribute band Flamethrower Love on a bill that includes the Sons of Hercules and others at SXSW on March 13, go here * To see Cheetah Chrome guest with Dead Boys tribute band Flamethrower Love on a bill that also includes Lower Class Brats, Flash Boys, the Bulemics and more at SXSW on March 14, go here
* To see Cheetah Chrome and Eddie Munoz of the Plimsouls/Skunks guest with the Hormones at SXSW on March 14, go here
* To see Cheetah in all his flaming, red-headed Dead Boys glory, click below and watch out for the spit
As someone who will always applaud Guns N’ Roses for kicking rock-n-roll in the ass, I was more than happy to interview bassist Duff McKagan in 2004 as he toured with Velvet Revolver. I came to admire Duff even more after reading his excellent autobiography, “It’s So Easy” (easily one of my Top 5 MUST-reads). The following originally published in the San Antonio Express-News in October 2004 … and it ain’t for the faint of heart!
By David Glessner
Special to the Express-News
Michael “Duff” McKagan is lucky to have a pulse. As the former bassist for notorious rock hell-raisers Guns ‘N Roses, McKagan’s appetite for destruction microwaved his pancreas into an ugly splatter of drugs and booze.
“You basically ingest everything that’s in front of you on a daily basis and you’ll get there,” he says, phoning from his latest tattoo session. “My pancreas did explode and I had a choice of getting sober or dying, so I made the first choice and started getting into martial arts and getting myself together.”
Regrouping with former G’NR guitarist Slash and drummer Matt Sorum may sound like a round of relapse roulette, but McKagan says the reformed Gunners, along with troubled former Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland and second guitarist Dave Kushner, aim to shoot straight in their new band, Velvet Revolver.
Weiland’s well-documented misadventures with drugs and the law resulted in so many arrests, he actually recorded vocals for Velvet Revolver’s “Contraband” album on work-release from court-ordered rehab.
YOUNG GUN: Duff in the early years of GN’R.
“He was tail-spinning when we settled on him,” McKagan says. “I can understand that the outside layperson would wonder, ‘Why the hell did they get a junkie for a singer?’ But we’ve all been through it. To us he was the guy and he was a perfect fit.”
Velvet Revolver is enjoying a new kind of high lately as the platinum-plus “Contraband” shot to No. 1 on the Billboard album charts earlier this year and continues to be hailed as the best-selling rock release of 2004. Velvet Revolver brings “Contraband” and a few surprises (the band is known to cover G’NR’s “It’s So Easy,” STP’s “Sex Type Thing” and Aerosmith’s “No More, No More”) to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Thursday with opening acts Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin and Earshot.
TOO DUFF TO DIE: As a Seattle punk-rocker, Duff played in the Fastbacks, the Fartz and 10-Minute Warning before shooting to fame with GN’R.
“I think there’s just a thirst out there, like you said, for an honest rock ‘n’ roll band,” McKagan says, downplaying his band’s star power. “You get all these pop-punk or Creed-type of bands and it’s just not really rock ‘n’ roll as I know it. There’s great bands out there like Queens of the Stone Age, the Foo Fighters, and I think there’s going to be more of them, like Jet. It’s not a bad thing to say, ‘We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band.’”
A deft blend of rowdy Guns ‘N Roses swagger and Stone Temple Pilots melody, “Contraband” is a solid album as evidenced by lead radio singles “Slither” and “Fall to Pieces.” The video for the latter shows Weiland writhing on the bathroom floor in a harrowing retelling of his well-documented descent into heroin, jail, rehab and relapse.
MARLBORO MAN: Duff enjoys an afternoon snack.
“If you’ve seen the video for ‘Fall to Pieces,’ the fight scene between Scott and I is just a metaphor for me trying to help him through (addiction),” McKagan says.
Help couldn’t come from a more seasoned veteran. At the peak of their late-’80s and early ’90s fame, the members of Guns ‘N Roses cheated death on an hourly basis. Today, McKagan is a dissertation away from a degree in finance.
“I was way worse than Scott,” McKagan says. “Slash was probably the worst junkie I’ve ever seen. Scott, comparatively, his problem was pretty slight compared to what we dealt with.”
With Weiland teetering between sobriety and legal woes, Velvet Revolver kept the faith and went to work on “Contraband” without any preconceived ideas of the sonic outcome.
“The record really just wrote itself,” McKagan says. “If you look at the credits, we all wrote every song. We don’t have, like, a Lennon/McCartney type of thing. We didn’t try to be a modern-rock band or a retro-rock band — we just are what we are.”
RIPPED: Today Duff gets ripped on martial arts and other healthy pursuits.
Before Weiland and Kushner joined up, Velvet Revolver was a revolving door of candidates, including former Buckcherry members Josh Todd and Keith Nelson.
“Once Slash and Matt and I decided to start playing again, we knew there was a high-water mark that we had to achieve,” McKagan says. “Not that Josh wasn’t capable of a high-water mark, it just wasn’t in the same light as the type of music we play. Josh is a great guy and he’s a really hard worker, and a cool rock ‘n’ roll frontman. It just wasn’t the right thing for us.”
WELL-VERSED: Duff’s autobiography is one of the best rock books you’ll ever read. From humble beginnings to addiction and riches to recovery, college, health and victory, Duff is much smarter than many may know. A lifer and survivor.
Nelson, too, was dismissed, but not before landing a songwriting credit on the “Contraband” track “Dirty Little Thing.”
“Well, with Slash, you gotta have a guitar player that’s completely different than Slash,” McKagan says. “Keith was really close to Slash as far as a Les Paul (guitar) through a Marshall (amplifier) and straight up major chords. It was kind of redundant. Keith’s a great guitar player and a great guy, too. Again, it just wasn’t the right thing.”
As for the precarious future of Velvet Revolver, McKagan remains optimistic. Weiland’s rebounding health should keep him on the sobriety wagon and out of the paddy wagon, he says.
“He’s put that behind him,” McKagan says. “He’s got his life back.”
More Trash Alley than Sunset Strip, the self-titled, five-song EP from Kickin Valentina sounds like the grittier bands from the late ’80s and early ’90s making a pilgrimage to Nazareth. Think Circus of Power, The Four Horsemen and Sea Hags. In other words, bands that smell more like gasoline than hairspray.
Hailing from Atlanta and featuring former Rockets to Ruin bassist Chris Taylor, “Kickin Valentina” kicks things off (appropriately enough) with “Get Ready,” a song so whoa-whoa contagious you may not wanna bring it home (check the double-kick fills by drummer Jimmy Berdine).
Speaking of contagious, “Dirty Girl” grinds along on a riff that could’ve been borrowed from Johnny Crash or Dirty Looks. Hard to go wrong with that.
Vocalist Joe Edwards is the band’s diamond in the dirt. Boasting a gruff command of power and rasp, his voice falls somewhere between a heavy metal Bob Seger and a perfectly liquored Dan McCafferty. He shines all over “Kickin Valentina,” but nowhere more so than on the growler ballad, “Alone.” The guy’s got the gift of grit.
“Anita” finds Valentina’s swagger and sway giving way to some boom-boom stomp. Peppered with bits of megaphone vocals, the song has a bit of a modern-rock slant not unlike Rob Zombie. Compared to the rest of the tracks, “Anita” is the EP’s speedbump.
Finishing strong, “Eat and Run” starts with out-of-synch vocals that slowly pick up steam to merge nicely with the hard-charging music. The vocals again steal the spotlight, but the chunked-up power chords and a tasty solo from guitarist Heber Pampillion help make the song an EP highlight.
“Kickin Valentina” suffers a bit from spotty, no-budget production that often renders the guitars a bit buzzy and thin. That’s hardly a surprise (or fault) coming from a rabid, new band that’s still clawing through the dive-bar circuit. Better to get it out raw than not at all, eh?
Overall, “Kickin Valentina” is a rowdy hello from a band that shows great promise as upcoming, heavyweight motor-sleaze rockers.
* Overall Grade: B * Favorite Tracks: “Alone,” “Eat and Run” * For Fans of: Unshowered rock-n-roll, battered denim jackets, cheap beer
When it comes to lipstick-junkie, sleaze-rock singers, Taime Downe is my absolute favorite. As the voice of Faster Pussycat, his cigarette-choked vocals are so wretchedly debauched that a visit to the clinic sounds like do-or-die advice when you crawl back to life the next morning.
Considering I once had a semi-legendary apartment called “Smash Alley” in San Antonio, it was a pleasure to finally babble with Taime after his hometown Seattle Seahawks beat the New York Giants earlier this week.
2FAST2DIE: So tell me bro, what album changed your life and corrupted you forever?
TAIME DOWNE: I’d have to go with the Rolling Stones’ “Between the Buttons.” I first heard it when I was 4-years-old because my parents were way into music. I had a record player and I wore that thing out. I used to go to my Dad’s band rehearsals so I was surrounded by music from a young age. I remember hearing “Led Zeppelin II” a couple years later and thinking it was my Dad’s band because they would cover that in rehearsal. I was really young when music took hold. I got started on drums, but didn’t want to be trapped at the back of the stage so then I switched to guitar because my Dad was a guitar player. And then I got into KISS’ “Love Gun” and “Rock and Roll Over” and AC/DC. That’s the stuff that put the debauchery into my shit. But I’d have to say the Stones started it all, because I was force-fed so much good shit at an early age because of my parents.
2FAST2DIE Says: My first guess would have been Aerosmith’s “Rocks,” but you can’t go wrong with the Stones. Thanks for being in touch Taime, and thanks also to our mutual friend Billy Rowe for getting us connected. For Faster Pussycat ticket info in San Antonio on Friday, Dec. 20, go here. For ticket info in Austin on Sunday Dec. 22, go here.
Jimmy Ashhurst was once held at gunpoint alongside his friend Stiv Bators. He’s also jammed with Johnny Thunders, Mick Ronson, Ronnie Wood and Smack. Yeah, he’s already cooler than you.
Add his cult-classic album with Izzy Stradlin plus worldwide fame with Buckcherry, and it’s safe to say Jimmy’s earned some serious cred while cruising on the wild side (except, of course, those years he was strung out … and, um, in prison). As if things were starting to get boring, Jimmy was recently fired from Buckcherry right in the middle of this interview. Damn! How’s that for a wrench in the nuts?
Actually, the news had little bearing on my original interview request. Given his colorful career, the idea all along was to focus on Jimmy the well-traveled, rock-n-roll lifer rather than Jimmy the bass player for Buckcherry. Obviously, there’s some overlap, but not enough to derail our interview.
Cherry on Top: Jimmy’s swan song with Buckcherry is one of the band’s best albums.
With his humor still sharply intact, Jimmy continued powering through our email exchange despite his future uncertainty.His career highlight up to this point? Playing Madison Square Garden with Buckcherry as the opening act for KISS (which was due to be knocked down to #2 this year when Buckcherry landed him on stage in his native Italy for the first time in 20 years … Ouch!). His must-have traveling items? Great headphones and a sharp knife. The one song that defines him? Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story.”
I’ll miss finding Jimmy during his smoke breaks outside Buckcherry’s tour bus, but as a fan of his and his now-former band (whose “Confessions” album earlier this year rivals their very best), I wish both parties nothing but continued success and look forward to future hellos.
Prolific Punk: Joe Strummer of the Clash
What album changed your life as a kid and who was your musical hero back then? When I discovered the first wave of British punk bands, I pretty much got sucked in. I lived in Italy and we didn’t get a whole lot of television. We had two channels, so 99 percent of my entertainment came from reading books. I read a book a day from the age of 9 to about 17 … anything I could get my hands on. Some in English, others in Italian … adventure, sci-fi, fantasy, non fiction … everything. The only music I heard was via the radio. We’d get Armed Forces Network radio and every Saturday there was the American Top 40. It was a pretty abysmal time for popular music in the U.S. I mean, somebody called the Captain and Tennille singing about muscrats, or horses without names … uh, nope! One day I read a news item in the Stars and Stripes newspaper about something exciting happening in London. I’d discovered The Clash, The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers and the rest of the phenomenon that was being called punk rock.
What about punk rock appealed to you?
These guys were writing songs that fed my imagination in the same way reading books did. Their music and lyrics took me away on little journeys of the mind. I could envision what they were singing about and it resonated within me somehow. I later discovered that Joe Strummer was from a similar background as I had. His dad was a diplomat and he was born in Turkey. My dad was an Army Colonel and I was born in Italy, so I kinda related to the guy. The way Joe wrote lyrics, his songs would take you places — all of those bands’ songs would — even if I didn’t know where Hammersmith was or anything about Ulster. These songs were like listening to a World Atlas or watching a great documentary or news story. Foreign intrigue and kick-ass bass parts. I was sold. It’s gotta get my mind going. Tell me a story about a faraway place. Imagination is a powerful thing.
Sign of the Times: Old-school flyer announcing southern California punk bands
Describe the California music scene when you arrived from Italy
My family moved to the suburbs in the early ’80s. In those days there was the Hollywood scene, but there was also a cool thing happening in Orange County and Long Beach that people don’t talk about as much. Bands like T.S.O.L, The Vandals, Social Distortion, Adolescents, D.O.A, Agent Orange, etc. These bands were playing house parties whenever someone’s parents went on vacation. House parties! They’d play until the cops came and started beating everyone about the head and face … usually about 20 minutes into the show. That’s why their songs were so short and fast. They were trying to play as many songs as they could before everyone got their skulls cracked open.
Led Zep: Badge of the enemy.
Was the social scene pretty divided between the punk-rock kids and the stoner-metal dudes as was typical at that time?
There were underground punk rock kids and there were ‘regular’ stoner looking long hair dudes who had Led Zeppelin belt buckles and roach clips with feathers on ‘em and KLOS stickers on their mini trucks or VW bugs that said “Journey” or “Van Halen.” There were way more of them than there were of us, and those guys kept wanting to chase us around alla time or yell dumb shit outta their cars at us because we looked different than they did. There was also a place called The Cuckoo’s Nest in Costa Mesa that shared a parking lot with this country bar. Dunno who put that together, but it was a recipe for disaster. I saw plenty of bad fights there, and even watched a kid get killed one night when they beat him down and snapped his neck on the curb outside the place.
It’s pretty well-documented that the punk scene could get pretty violent within its own ranks
I was never into the violence that took over the punk scene when it hit Southern California. The hardcore stuff like Black Flag, Circle Jerks … it kept getting harder and faster and never really resonated with me. The punk rock music I’d fallen in love with was, to me, just well-written songs with hooks, grooves and melodies … just like any other rock-n-roll song I’ve liked then or ever since.
Broken Hopes?: Jimmy at left with future and current Lenny Kravitz guitarist Craig Ross in front. Notice Craig’s name is misspelled for maximum rock-n-roll impact.
How did your early band The Broken Homes come together?
Guitarist Craig Ross, who’d been working with a singer from Pittsburgh named Michael Doman, asked me to join up. At the time I think I was in 4 or 5 bands at the same time, and playing as much as I possibly could. These guys told me they had a manager and a gig at the Roxy on a Friday night. I’d wanted to play the legendary Roxy super bad for a long time, so I jumped at the chance. We played on a Friday night and the following Monday morning we were in the offices of MCA Records signing a recording contract. Of all the bands we knew or would go see play in LA at the time, ZERO of them had a major label record deal. No local band since Van Halen had been signed to a major. This was before the post-Guns N’ Roses signing frenzy and was pretty much unheard of in 1984.
And then came the hard lessons of the music biz?
We were kids. I had no idea about the business side of anything, let alone a band, but they told me they’d be giving us a bunch of money to make a record and then we’d be going on tour!! Hooray! Nobody said anything about the fact that we’d eventually be paying them back, but we wouldn’t have cared anyway. We had no overheads and as long as we had cash for drinks, gas and tacos… Plus. back then, all of us scuzzbag musician types lived off of strippers anyway, so we were stoked. We made three albums, went on tour with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, INXS, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Georgia Satellites, Jason and the Scorchers, The Replacements and tons more. And then? Guns N’ Roses happened. We immediately went from being the Great Hope to being the Great Nope overnight.
Cocked & Loaded: An early shot of Guns N’ Roses before they took the world hostage
I’m guessing you were friendly with the GN’R guys from having crossed paths in the scene?
We played a ton of local shows together, even a couple of house parties. It started out with them opening up for us, but that very quickly reversed. It was one of those events in history that none of us realized was as important as it turned out to be. I remember those guys grabbing me at a club because they knew I had a good stereo in my car and they wanted to listen to their first record they’d just come outta the studio with. I had no idea that I’d be hearing those fucking songs for the entirety of my life. I just thought about that today as the hotel lobby band was butchering “Sweet Child O’ Mine” while I was on my way to my room. Christ! Here we are 30 fucking years later and it’s that Same. Fucking. Song.
And then came the copycat signing frenzy?
The labels in Los Angeles discovered the formula of the moment and it was GN’R. They started signing anybody and everybody with a Jack Daniels bottle in their band photo. But GN’R had the right roots and were the real deal from the start. I knew some of the guys came from a punk-rock background and even the heavier, metal stuff they liked were the COOL metal bands that I liked, too, like Rose Tattoo and Mötorhead, with a lot of old Aerosmith thrown in.
Old Hanoi: Tougher than it looks
Plus, they were into a band called Hanoi Rocks. Hanoi had the perfect mix of everything we loved, plus the style and fashion. They could look and dress like chicks, but without being girlie in any way. This is harder than it sounds. You didn’t know whether you wanted to fight the singer or fuck him. BUT, just like anything else…the imitators missed the ball completely and the Sunset Strip turned into five miles of poodle haircuts, spandex, tiny pointy shoes, and songs about cherry pies. We had a lot of fun making fun of those guys, but it would’ve been a lot funnier if it hadn’t meant the end of our careers.
So, effectively, the explosive success of GN’R signaled the end of Broken Homes
We had short hair and wore creepers and played in open G tunings. Nobody wanted to talk to us anymore. After three albums with MCA they’d figured out that nobody wanted to hear 1-4-5 songs influenced by Chuck Berry, The Clash and Little Richard, and we’d figured out we’d have had to sell something like 10 million records to just break even. Never gonna happen. The very last thing I remember was one night we were playing at a club called Scream and I looked down to see Lenny Kravitz standing right at the front in the crowd. I thought ‘Coooool! Lenny Kravitz came to check us out!’ As it turned out, Lenny Kravitz showed up to steal our guitar player! Craig has been with him ever since.
New Rose: Izzy and Jimmy in 1992.
How did you hook up with Izzy Stradlin after he left Guns N’Roses?
I was watching MTV in my living room when Kurt Loder came through with an MTV News Update announcing “Izzy Stradlin has quit Guns N’ Roses!” I’m thinking, “Wow, ballsy move, but I wonder what he’s gonna do next?” Then my phone rings and it’s Izzy calling from his home in Lafayette. He asks me what I’m doing musically and then tells me he’s gonna be at my house in two days. He showed up with a road tan from his goggles and bugs in his teeth having ridden his bike from Lafayette to my place in Hollywood. We started the band that would become the JuJu Hounds after we got Rick and Chalo on board.
Izzy is so mysterious, yet loved by so many for his songwriting and sense of “cool.” Tell us something about his personality. Is he funny? Any interesting hobbies? Strange eating habits? Anything? I haven’t seen him or spoken with him in almost 20 years. Yes, he is a very funny, funny man.
Good JuJu: The first and still the best “solo” album to ever come out of the G N’ R camp. Jimmy did honors on bass.
He was always just one of those guys, even before he was in GN’R. You know, they come along every once in a while. They have an innate sort of charisma, whether they want it or not.
OK, going back to the funny …. share a funny Izzy story
On gig day somewhere in Australia we were being escorted across a parking lot by local security when this fan, who’d magically been every place we’d been throughout the trip, starts screaming for the thousandth time “IZZY!! IZZY!! PUNCH ME IN THE FACE!!!” Izzy finally turns to the nearest security dude and goes “Could you please punch that kid in the face he’s been asking for it all week.”
Did he do it?
Nah, we were all laughing too hard
I once read somewhere that you were a little bitter about the breakup of the Ju Ju Hounds.
For me, the years after realizing that the band was over were the hardest of my life. But the only person responsible for that is me by having allowed addiction to take me over completely. It was his band and he had every right to do or not do whatever he wanted with it. I just wish that whatever it was could’ve been worked out by talking to his friends and band members about it, and I wish that, if nothing else, we could’ve remained great friends.
Lit Up: Jimmy waits for a light from Izzy as the other Hounds look on.
So what ultimately caused the break-up? There was a ton of pressure on the guy at the time, and even though the crowds in Europe, Japan, Mexico, Australia really seemed to appreciate what we were doing, the crowds and press in the US couldn’t seem to shake the G N’ R comparisons. I felt that must’ve weared on him quite a bit, ya know? The little bit we toured here was pretty brutal and attendance was never enough to be breaking even, let alone for it to be lucrative. He was spending a ton of his own money to make it happen. That gets expensive, and when it starts to feel under appreciated or appreciated for the wrong reasons, it starts to not make a whole lotta sense. Im glad to see that he still enjoys making and recording new music -just without all the drama and hustle-bustle of the whole deal … and right now, boy can I can relate! Anyway, the JuJu Hounds ended because Izzy didn’t wanna do it anymore. I’ll never know what he was feeling that would’ve led him to that decision because i’m not him. Any regrettable behavior on my part happened as a result of the end of that band, not while I was in it.
It was my favorite band and still is, and I was crushed that it was over. It took a long time to for me to even come to terms with it being finished. As a result, I made a series of terrible decisions regarding drugs/crowd in the years that followed that culminated in me being sent to prison.
Share as much as you’d like about your prison stint and heroin addiction. Were there any life-changing lessons or words of wisdom? You don’t wanna go there. Surprisingly though, I did discover that there’s a certain sense of honor amongst thieves. It’s such a dangerous, loud and crowded environment that the convict laws that have been in place for decades make a whole lot of sense. You don’t steal and you don’t disrespect people. If you do, they kill you. Pretty clear and pretty serious. The free world could use a little more of that in my opinion. It changes you. I’m not the same person who went in and I’ll never be that person again. Losing one’s freedom is something more people should experience once in their lives. Maybe they’d appreciate it a bit more.
Odd Man Out: Jimmy wearing shades with his former Buckcherry mates.
How did you go about joining the revamped version of Buckcherry?
I was still on parole and living in Cerritos taking care of my Mom when I finally picked up a bass again after about a seven-year “break.” I’d been playing in some country bars with my pal Mike Stinson and really enjoying just playing bass on Mike’s fantastic songs. One night, he’d invited me to some country shin-dig in the Valley, and it happened that Rick Richards was coming to town and I was meant to pick him up at the airport. We both showed up at the bar when (Buckcherry guitarist) Keith Nelson came in and started talking with Rick, who then introduced us. We kept in close touch afterwards and Keith would ask me to come up and play on a lot of stuff he was working on at this little rehearsal studio over the coming year or so. We became pals and he was real close with me through my Mom’s passing and he helped me and my Dad out a lot. Eventually, I guess, he started talking with (singer) Josh again after a time and one day he called and asked if I’d be interested in being in the band. We all met at a coffee shop, and basically it was, “If you wanna be in the band, show up tomorrow at 1:30 with $100 for rehearsal rental.” It was hard to scrape that hundred bucks together, I can tell ya that!
Smoke Break: Jimmy enjoys a backstage snack.
I personally think the rhythm section on “Confessions” makes the whole album “swing.” How did you approach the songs? Anything new or different or was it all a happy accident? Cool thanks! As bass player my job is to play stuff where everyone else doesn’t. Once we get a song written and arranged right, my part in the recording is pretty straightforward rock-n roll-bass stuff. Y’know … little bit behind the beat at times, stand up straight in the choruses … Having a great drummer to work with helps a lot. Sometimes these days you have to watch out for over zealous engineers who wanna snap every note you play to a grid and make it in perfect time. If you want it in perfect time, get a machine to do it. Human beings respond subconsciously to certain rhythms. That’s why you can’t sit still when a Motown song comes on. That’s a secret none of these computer music kids have figured out yet ;).
Glam ‘Lam’: Ronson with David Bowie
Ok, this is completely off subject, but humor me anyway … How do you and Stevie fight off the nic fits while traveling on what I would imagine is a smoke-free Buckcherry tour bus? We smoke on the bus. There’s a spot up front where the smoke gets sucked right outta the window. It’s the planes that are trickier, but now we have electronic smokes and vaporizers. It makes for a much friendlier Jimmy after the 23 hours to Tokyo.
Tell us a funny story about Rick Richards, Ian McClagan or anyone else you’ve hung out with Oh, man, C’mon! Ok, it was Mick Ronson. We were doing a crossword puzzle and the clue was a three-letter word for a type of sheep. Mick said “lam” and it was fucking hilarious. Cracks me up to this day.
Born to Lose. Johnny Thunders was a New York Doll
Gimme something on Johnny Thunders
I never played with Johnny in any official situation, I just filled in here and there during the period when he had some Rastas as his band (forgive me for not knowing their names). They weren’t too pleased with his payment schedule so the bass player would refuse to show up. I was in the support band for most of his SoCal dates and knew him a bit through Stiv and my old friend Timo, so at a soundcheck he said “Ya know my sawwngs? It don’t matta dis one’s starts in…” and off it went. Coincidentally, just a couple of months ago, I played the same place, The Coachouse in San Juan Capistrano, and it was exactly the same once I got inside. Hadn’t changed at all. It still has all the 8x10s on the walls of all the people who’ve played there, and still has the shelf around the top where the toy car that Johnny jumped into and sang from for most of the show was. As I was playing there with Buckcherry some 25+ years later I kept looking up at that same little car and trying to figure out how the hell Johnny ever got up there, let alone down! Hahaa … and it occurred to me that I never got paid either
Of all the bands you’ve toured with over the years, who partied the hardest? Well, at which time period? Back then everybody partied and now nobody does. You can’t. Since nobody buys records anymore, bands need to stay on the road constantly and YOU WILL DIE if you party non-stop. No joke. There was a time when it was pretty nuts. The Replacements stand out … Jerry Lee Lewis throwing knives into the wall while drunk on champagne DEFINITELY stands out … On the road with Stevie Ray Vaughan when he was wheeled off to the hospital with bleeding ulcers from drinking cocaine … Ohh wait, you wanna know who “parties”?
Wake Me When It’s Over: How does Stiv Bators dodge a bullet? He zonks out like a Dead Boy.
I heard you were once held at gunpoint while hanging out with Dead Boys singer Stiv Bators Stiv and I had been hanging out for a while in LA and in London over a period of several months at this point. Lots of pre-crystal meth (when it was just called ‘speed’) had been invading our systems for the time, and it wasn’t unusual to have gone days and days without sleep. One night in Hollywood, my band The Broken Homes had a super important show booked at the Roxy with The Georgia Satellites and Stiv had wanted to come along, which meant I was to drive since he did not. I went to what was then the Holiday Inn on Franklin to grab him thinking, mistakenly, that this would be a quick in-and-out affair. When Stiv started rifling through absolutely everything in the room over and over, I realized it would take a while. An hour later I was officially seriously late, so I was finally able to coax Stiv out of the room and we were on our way. Not 50 feet down the hall we passed two cholo-dressed, white prison-lookin dudes when we heard a loud thump and turned to see Stiv’s girlfriend,Caroline, on her knees with one of these guys holding a huge chrome pistol to her head. They told us to empty our pockets, relieved us of our cash (I had $3) and then forced us to open the room and marched us back inside. One guy held Stiv and I face down on the floor with a knee in each back and nervously switching from Stiv’s head back to mine with the gun tight against our skulls while they argued about what to do with us as his partner rifled the room for about 400 French Francs they had never seen before. The guy on top of us wanted to shoot us real bad, while the other one started talking about stealing my car keys. I remember all I could think about was how there was a club full of people, some of them in my band, who were gonna hate me if I didn’t make the gig. And if these assholes did take my car, there’d be no way to make it in time. I’m not sure how long we were stuck in this position, but at one point the guy got off us while the other announced, “Don’t fuckin’ move or breathe for 10 minutes! We got a guy at the end of the hall watching you and if you try anything, we’ll come back and shoot ya.” Yeah, right, ok. One minute passed … two minutes … dead silence. Stiv and I are side-by-side, face-down on carpet … three minutes … I say, “Stiv, I think they’ve gone.” Nothing. “Stiv! Stiv!! Stiv!!!” Zzzz … snore … zzz … Stiv had fallen asleep.
People/bands Jimmy has worked with: The Damned – B-side of Would You single: Phantasmagoria MCA The Broken Homes – 3 albums for MCA Burning Tree – live Mick Ronson/Ian Hunter Stiv Bators – LA LA – Bomp Records Fill in shows with Smack (Finland) Fill in shows with Johnny Thunders (USA) Ian McLagan’s Bump Band Izzy Stradlin & the JuJu Hounds Ronnie Wood Joe Cocker sessions Black Crowes (mandolin on Amorica) Big Toe (jam band with Chris Robinson) Foamfoot (jam band with Chris Robinson) Joe Strummer (film sessions) Buckcherry
To read Jimmy’s official/unofficial Buckcherry departure notice, go here. To see and hear Jimmy “Shuffle It All” with Izzy Stradlin, Rick Richards and Charlie Quintana, click below
Shuffling Along: Well-traveled and sure to turn up again soon, Jimmy Ashhurst is moving on. Meanwhile, his doorman is breathing a sigh of relief.
Posted Oct. 15, 2013 on Jimmy’s Facebook page:
Ok that’s it … Now even my doorman’s checking on me to make sure I’m not dead sooo…, here goes.
Over a month ago now the band collectively decided that they would prefer to proceed without me. I haven’t made any sort of announcement prior to today since I believed and still believe that this news should have come from the band itself.
However, since they’re already on their 3rd or 4th show without me and still haven’t let anyone know (maybe they’re having trouble finding wifi or somethin …that shit’s expensive yo); since it was not my decision to leave the band; since I’m uncomfortable not answering the many kind but speculative messages I’ve been receiving; and finally since I believe that there are folks out there who’ve been loyal and supportive of us over the years and as such have a right to know; – Im forced post this myself in order to finally put this to rest and move forward with whatever shows up next for me.
If you’re looking for a reason you’ll need to ask them, since the one they gave me of my being ‘unhappy’ and of them ‘doing-me-a -favor-to-release-me-from-this-torment’ isn’t really resounding with the ‘Ring of Truth’…. (If everyone who had a job were sacked for being unhappy who’d clean the tollets for fuck’s sake, only happy people? … dunno…but I digress…)
While it is true I’d become unhappy about certain aspects of touring and of the state of Rock and Roll in general that I believed were of vital importance to our collective well-being, I still believe that those issues could have easily been resolved as a group. Sadly others did not agree and as a result- result.
I dunno. Im gonna go with “Im a Democrat and they’re Republicans” if anyone demands an answer or whatever…
As far as what I’m gonna do next…
Welllll hahaaaa…ZERO for the moment, but after a bit of refresh/recharge I doubt that I’ll be able to resist the temptation of the Devil’s music for very long.
First and foremost, however, I very much wanna take a moment to enjoy the life that my work with the band has provided me with, while it lasts, and I thank the band, all of em, for giving me this opportunity to do so.
I wish nothing but continued success for the guys, and I hope the new guy works out great
(I dunno who it is so please don’t ask. I do hope he’s super cute though).
In closing, to all fans of the band: Arrivederci, Nos vemos, Au revoir, いってきます, Até mais, and See ya later…
Toys Will Be Toys: Clowning around from left to right are Mark Geary, Danny Aaron, Scott Dalhover, Jason McMaster and Mike Watson. Aaron would later be replaced by Dirty Looks guitarist Paul Lidel who remains in the band today.
The Toys Are Back in Town: Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Red Eyed Fly in Austin. All ages. $18 advance. $20 at the door
On the eve of Dangerous Toys’ annual hometown reunion concert this Saturday — and in the spirit of the holidays — I thought it would be fun to ask the guys to share their most rockin’ childhood Christmas gifts. You know, the gifts that brought them eternal corruption. In other words, their most dangerous toys.
Jason McMaster, lead vocals Queen’s “News of the World” album changed a lot of things for me. I was into Elton John prior to Queen, so great songwriting and all styles of music on one record was what I was used to. This was all before I bowed down to KISS. I thought the guys in Queen were magicians and superheroes. “How do they do that?” I asked myself. Never realizing til later that it was all about writing great songs.
Paul Lidel, lead guitar
For me it was an album called “Heavy Metal.” It was a compilation album that introduced me to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and others that remain favorites to this day. Absolutely life changing. I was 9-years-old and decided to become a professional musician.
Mike Watson, bass guitar When I was 8-years-old, I got a plastic “Partridge Family” guitar. It was awesome! It looked like a sunburst Strat and it had a big ass picture of David Cassidy on the pick guard. It wasn’t a real guitar. It was plastic and had plastic strings. I don’t even think there were six! I didn’t learn any songs, but I would play along with the show when it came on, which was every weekday. I have no idea what happened to it. I think I got more interested in “Planet of the Apes” and “Star Trek” pretty soon afterwards. I really wish I still had it though.
Scott Dalhover, lead guitar
My most rock-n-roll childhood Christmas gift would have to be the year my Mom got me “Van Halen” and “Van Halen II” plus AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It.” I played them in non-stop rotation for weeks.
Mark Geary, drums
When I was in 5th grade all I wanted was a drum set. My father didn’t want to get me one at the time. So Christmas came and I got up and went downstairs not knowing what I would get. I saw my first drum kit under the Christmas tree and was thrilled. My mother didn’t tell my father and bought it on her own without anyone knowing. I couldn’t believe it. I saw the Beatles movies and wanted to be Ringo back then. I wore that kit out and kept playing my whole life so I guess that’s the best present I ever received.
For more information about Dangerous Toys at the Red Eyed Fly in Austin this Saturday, go here.
For a tease of Dangerous Toys, click below.
Ready for Takeoff: Jetboy circa 1988 was, left to right, Billy Rowe, Fernie Rod, Mickey Finn, Ron Tostenson and Sami Yaffa. The cruel twists of fate and the music business doomed this lineup’s promising first two albums.
Shakedown: The title track of Jetboy’s 1988 debut earned airplay on radio and MTV, but soon dropped off the radar.
Millions of worthy rock bands have flown beneath the radar, but few have weathered the public tailspin of glam contenders, Jetboy.
In 2008, as the heavy metal documentary ”Anvil! The Story of Anvil” garnered that band a sympathetic reprieve from decades of obscurity, I asked Classic Rock magazine to let me tell the world about an equally overlooked underdog — albeit one that was more prone to hairspray and eyeliner than bullet belts and Metallica patches. What follows is one of rock’s most coulda/woulda/shoulda-been hard-luck stories. Read up … and then go rediscover Jetboy!
WORDS: DAVID GLESSNER
Arriving in LA from San Francisco in 1986, Jetboy nicked their name from a New York Dolls song and helped spark the dude-looks-like-a-lady, raunch’n'roll explosion that would define Hollywood’s decade of hair metal decadence. With fate at the controls, however, Jetboy never got their wings.
“Around 1984 or 1985 there were three bands getting the most attention for being the new generation of glam rock,” says Jetboy guitarist Billy Rowe. “Those bands were Poison, Guns N’ Roses and Jetboy. When the three of us started packing the clubs and labels came sniffing around, new bands like Faster Pussycat, L A. Guns, the Sea Hags and Vain started popping up.”
Hair Raiser: A common style among safety-pinned punks, Mickey Finn’s mohawk was a ballsy choice for a glam-metal singer in 1985.(photo by Philip Andrews)
Armed with the arena-sized riffs of Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, Kiss and AC/DC, Jetboy sounded familiar, but their style was too much, too soon.
“I think we were ahead of the times and a bit outside the industry mold,” says atomic punk singer Mickey Finn. “I remember our manager telling us we could be huge, like Van Halen. I thought she was fucking crazy. I was wearing my girlfriend’s torn lingerie and shopping at women’s shoe stores with a huge Mohawk on top of my head!”
Another dubious distinction was far less trivial than a shock-rock haircut. As Jetboy’s peers and copycats spun Tinseltown gold and platinum with such era-defining albums as “Appetite For Destruction,” “Look What The Cat Dragged In” and “Cocked And Loaded,” Jetboy were mired in record-company politics and haunted by the death of bassist Todd Crew. Fired from Jetboy prior to signing with Elektra Records, Crew’s erratic excess was more than a liability to the band, it was also a threat to himself.
Motley Crew: Wild child Todd Crew met a tragic fate at an early age after partying with Slash.
“I loved Todd,” says Finn. “He brought me into Jetboy. We’d get high together, but I felt like always knew when to stop. Call it common sense or call it fear, but he didn’t have it. None of the other guys in Jetboy did the kind of shit we did. Me and Todd used to whack coke, dope, you name it. Throw it on the table and it was on!”
While licking his wounds working as a roadie for Guns N’ Roses, Crew was partying in New York City one night with Slash and porn star Lois Ayers. At some point afterward, Crew overdosed and died at the tender age 21. GN’R would famously salute the fallen Jetboy by regularly dedicating their cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” to him.
“As cliched as it may be, drugs and alcohol are part of rock’n'roll. But there comes a time when you have to deal with business,” Finn says. “I’ve been a user and abuser of many things, but when opportunity came knocking, it ain’t like we had to start wearing suits and be straight-edge, we just had to be able to perform and show up for meetings once in a while.
Rockin’ Rowe: Billy Rowe dressed to kill circa 1985 (photo by Philip Anderson)
“I don’t know if we did the right thing or not,” Finn continues. “We had managers and A&R guys screaming shit in our ears. We tried talking to Todd’s parents. They put him in rehab, but he bailed. Man, I don’t feel right talking about this shit. If anybody thinks they can judge us or what happened, well, fuck you! Don’t judge something you don’t know. The bottom line is, my friend is dead and he ain’t coming back.”
A passing bright spot before the darkness and mourning came via starry-eyed Kiss frontman Paul Stanley.
“I remember it well, because I’m a huge Kiss fan,” Rowe recalls. “Paul met with Poison, and I guess he saw this new rock scene blowing up and wanted to get into producing. We were rehearsing in Hollywood and Paul came down to check us out. He walked in wearing jeans, a tweed sport coat and penny loafers. His first words were: ‘Cool guitar.’ He was talking about my first hollow-body Gibson ES-175.”
Personality Crisis: Jetboy’s original lineup, left to right circa 1986, Billy Rowe, Ron Tostenson, Fernie Rod, Todd Crew and Mickey Finn.
Jetboy ultimately settled on producer Tom Allom (Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Kix, Krokus) for their debut album, “Feel the Shake.” As it happened, the band was doomed to bad business before the ink dried at Elektra Records in 1986. Signing with the label that launched Motley Crue looked like a ticket to arena rock, but everything crumbled into rubble and dust when “Feel The Shake” was delayed, shelved, dropped and otherwise fumbled in just about every way possible.
“Jetboy and GN’R were the two bands that were supposed to follow Poison,” Rowe says. “We had a big buzz, but we lost all our momentum when we were dropped. Then we lost another year waiting to secure a new deal.”
Struggling with the loss of Crew, the glitter in the gutter was Hanoi Rocks bassist Sami Yaffa, whom Jetboy landed as their new member.
Sam I Am: Sami Yaffa was a major score for Jetboy. Today he is reunited with Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe.
“Landing Sam was a definite score,” Rowe says. “He’s a helluva talented guy. He heard our demo through his former managers and asked for a plane ticket to LA. We were a gang again and it felt good after what we had gone through with Todd. After Sam joined the band, Michael Monroe came to visit and we had a pool party at our apartment. Michael climbed on the roof and leaped into the pool. All I could think was: ‘Shit! We’re all gonna see Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks kill himself jumping into a pool!”
Damned: Jetboy’s second album.
If “Feel The Shake” hardly caused a ripple, let alone a splash, the hugely delayed MCA Records follow-up, “Damned Nation,” was positively face-down dead in the water when it arrived in 1990.
“I believe ‘Damned Nation’ stands up to an album like ‘Appetite (for Destruction),’” Rowe says. “‘Appetite’ is a fucking great album for sure, and I’m not at all saying ‘Damned Nation’ is better than ‘Appetite,’ but I really believe that if it got pushed like other albums at that time it would have been massive.”
Ready for Relaunch: Jetboy’s short-lived 2008 lineup was, clockwise from upper right, Mickey Finn, Fernie Rod, Jeff Moscone, Billy Rowe and Michael Butler. Finn’s new band, Cold Blue Rebels is currently on tour with Wednesday 13. Rowe, meanwhile, does custom guitar work for clients including Cheap Trick and Buckcherry.
There also was the matter of the looks that killed.
“I do feel like we were doing things musically, visually and fashionably that people weren’t ready for,” Finn says. “I remember when our video for ‘Evil’ hit MTV and we were specifically told that I was too scary and the video was too dark ’cause it had a spider crawling on a girl’s face. A few years later, Marilyn Manson was on TV 20 times a day!”
Recently revamped with original guitarist Fernie Rod, new drummer Jeff Moscone and bassist Michael Butler (formerly of American Heartbreak and Exodus), Jetboy are now back on the road.
“We’ve done some recent reunion shows and gotten amazing responses,” Rowe says. “We’ve also been writing and recording new material. We plan to have quite a future with the new version of Jetboy. And it feels fucking great!” * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * For more 2Fast2Die with Jetboy guitarist Billy Rowe, go here. Also look for Jetboy on Facebook.
It’s a Long Way to the Top: Dave Evans, left, with an early version of AC/DC. Six years later, the Young brothers would release ‘Back in Black’ and watch it become one of the best-selling albums of all time.
Every Picture Tells a Story: A Rod Stewart-looking Dave Evans shaking it up with AC/DC.
In 2008, Classic Rock magazine asked me to track down and interview AC/DC’s original lead singer. Impossible, right? He’s been dead since 1980! Wrong! Read on …
Words: David Glessner
In the beginning, back before Bon Scott arrived, Dave Evans had a go at the rock’n'roll show… and all that jive.
“We built up a great following in Sydney, Australia and had a hit record with our very first release,” says the original AC/DC frontman, referencing an early version of Can I Sit Next to You Girl/Rocking in the Parlour.
Early Press: Dave Evans sang lead vocals on an early AC/DC single that would later reappear with Bon Scott’s voice on the 1975 ‘High Voltage’ album.
“I also recorded Soul Stripper and Rock’N'Roll Singer as well. We performed a lot of Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry tunes, which is where the Angus Young duck-walk came from.”
Though he lasted only a scant year from 1973-74 and would ultimately surrender his vocals to Scott by the time AC/DC debuted with the 1975 High Voltage album, Evans claims part of AC/DC’s history.
Oddly, the native Welshman first met guitar brothers Malcolm and Angus Young by way of a Sydney band called the Velvet Underground (obviously not Lou Reed’s same-named New York band) in which Malcolm and Evans passed through at different times.
Back in Black and White: An early AC/DC promo shot
“I answered an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald looking for a heavy rock singer into Free, the Rolling Stones, etc.” Evans says. “When I rang the number, Malcolm Young was on the end of the phone. I drove over and met Malcolm, Larry Van Kriedt on bass and Colin Burgess on drums. We jammed and it sounded great.”
Meanwhile, Malcolm’s younger brother Angus was leaving his band, Kantuckee.
“Malcolm asked us if Angus could audition and we agreed,” Evans says. “Angus came to the next rehearsal and we welcomed him into the yet-to-be-named band.”
Settling on the name AC/DC, the band cultivated an early glam image.
AC/DC circa ’74: These boots were made for rockin’.
“We were a typical jeans and T-shirt band until Malcolm informed us that Angus was going to list his age down from 19 to 16 and dress in a school boy outfit in order to attract the kids,” Evans says.
“Malcolm was going to wear a satin jumpsuit, the drummer, Noel Taylor, decided to look like a joker from a pack of cards and our bass player, Neil Smith, decided to look like a tough New York motorcycle cop. I had the Rod Stewart jacket, high boots and scarves.
“Australians actually thought we were a British band,” Evans continues. “Eventually, the decision was made that only Angus would keep the glam look with the schoolboy outfit and the rest of us would go back to a tougher look.”
Gaining visibility through early Australian tours soon widened AC/DC’s circle of friends and fans.
Problem Child: Ronald Belford ‘Bon’ Scott took AC/DC to the brink of worldwide acclaim before suddenly dying after another hard night of boozing. His lyrics and swagger are some of rock’s greatest.
“We met Bon when we were performing in Adelaide as our single was top of the charts there,” Evans recalls.
“Bon had known the ‘60s band, The Easybeats when he was in a band called The Valentines. George Young from the Easybeats was the older brother of Angus and Malcolm. Bon wanted to hang around with us and would sometimes help our roadies, but he was never employed by us in any way as a driver, roadie or drummer as has been falsely reported. He loved the band and we all liked Bon.”
Not surprisingly, the elder, more experienced Scott (who had also enjoyed the spotlight in a band called Fraternity) looked like a suitable replacement when things got erratic with Evans.
“By the time of my split, I had seen three drummers, three bass players and three managers come and go,” Evans says.
“We were young and hotheaded and I was not mature enough to handle the instant stardom or to appreciate the greater contributions of the Young brothers. I got caught up in the excesses. At one point, we had all been out drinking and I had a physical confrontation with our manager over the band not being paid. After that, I could see the writing on the wall.”
Bad-Boy Brothers: Angus and Malcolm trading riffs instead of punches.
The occasional clash with Angus was, likewise, not out of the question.
“He has an explosive temper,” Evans admits. “I was backstage one time having a disagreement with Angus when he just came at me with both fists flying. He is only a bit over 5 foot tall, but that didn’t deter him. I put one of my hands on top of his head to keep him from reaching me. I guess it would have looked pretty comical for anyone watching.
C’mon Feel the Noize: Dave Evans fronting his post-AC/DC band, Rabbit.
“Another time, we picked up Malcolm and Angus to go to a gig when they started arguing with each other,” Evans recalls. “Angus just flew into Malcolm and the two of them were throwing punches right, left and center. By the way, you are the first interviewer to ever get these stories on Angus, because you asked the right question.”
The punch-ups were not nearly as devastating as Evans’ ultimate dismissal and Scott’s subsequent sudden death in 1980. Was Evans invited to rejoin AC/DC after Scott’s passing?
“No,” he says. “My time with AC/DC had come and gone. I continued my recording career in Australia with Rabbit and Dave Evans & Thunder Down Under.”
Waitin’ ‘Round to be a Millionaire: A young Brian Johnson, upper left, with his band Geordie. He would soon join AC/DC and record the immortal ‘Back in Black.’
With Brian Johnson named Scott’s replacement, AC/DC continues to enjoy astronomical success.
Fast Forward: A more recent shot of Dave.
“I hear a bit of criticism about Brian from fans,” Evans says. “But hey, Bon was a difficult act to follow. Brian has done a wonderful job. He has an easily identifiable rock voice, which is now the sound of AC/DC. No one can knock that. The fans keep buying AC/DC albums and there are a lot of wannabe Brians out there.”
Dave Evans currently resides in Dallas, Texas and has two albums, Sinner and Judgement Day, under the name Dave Evans & The Badasses. For more current info, find Dave Evans on Facebook.