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.
At the risk of being killed in my sleep by Sharon Osbourne’s henchmen, I’m re-posting my Black Sabbath concert review from the Aug. 2013 issue of Classic Rock magazine (right). The published text appears below. And hey, at least I’ll die honest.
Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas: July 27, 2013
When Black Sabbath announced their current North American tour was kicking off in Texas, the city of San Antonio had good reason to feel gutted.
Long known as a hotbed for heavy metal, San Antonio (aka “Satantonio”) was scrubbed in favor of Austin for reasons that must be logistical. After all, it’s been more than two decades and many gigs later since the Alamo City lifted its Ozzy Osbourne ban following his infamous puddle of piddle.
Never Say Die: Thirty-five years after their last album with Ozzy, Black Sabbath released ’13′ to worldwide acclaim.
Sabotaged perhaps, but never ones to say die, a good number of San Antonians drove an hour north to Austin where 14,000 strong, including Sharon Osbourne, packed the sold-out Frank Erwin Center to worship a pricey Sabbath (average ticket cost: $115).
Promoting their first new Ozzy-fronted album in 35 years (you’ll find it near the top of the charts titled “13″) and with guitarist Tony Iommi’s health casting clouds on the future, this could very well be the last chance to see the (mostly) original lineup unleash their legendary doom and demons.
As wailing air-raid sirens and spiraling crimson lights cued the Sabs’ arrival, the band – rounded out, of course, by founding bassist Geezer Butler and stand-in drummer Tommy Clufetos — trudged on stage to the ominous sounds of “War Pigs.”
With video screens flashing wartime images of falling bombs and marching soldiers, the song was punctuated with on-command hand-claps and cackling crowd vocals courtesy of the mesmerized black-clad masses. Things were off to a smashing start, but the curse of Oz was around the corner.
Grin Reapers: Ozzy and Tony Iommi share a laugh while unleashing their musical demons. (photo from austin.backpage.com)
Entering “Into the Void” against an impressive backdrop that looked like a prehistoric space cavern, the second song of the set pushed Ozzy’s voice off the rails. Way off! Let’s just say it was flatter than asphalt and no amount of Teleprompter was going to locate the proper keys.
While Ozzy struggled to find his wind, the band thundered on like a storm. Armed with his trusty Gibson SG guitars, Iommi roamed the stage with his usual reserved demeanor, occasionally cracking a devil-may-care smile to confirm his spirits were high. A battle with cancer and age notwithstanding, Iommi is still the ruling architect of industrial-strength heavy metal.
Technical Excellency: On tour promoting ’13,’ Geezer Butler upheld his legacy as one of rock’s greatest bass players.
Similarly, Butler brought his usual energetic attack and trademark fleet-fingered throb to help put the boom in Sabath’s cannon. His distorted intro to “N.I.B.” struck a hair-raising balance between quivering fear and unbridled excitement. Evil never sounded so fun.
The man most under the microscope, however, was Bill Ward’s replacement, Clufetos. Having kept time in Ozzy’s solo band and also with Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper, Clufetos not only got the job done (including a fairly impressive solo), but he looked like a young Ward to boot.
The set list, too, was hard to argue. “Snowblind,” “Black Sabbath,” “Rat Salad,” “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Iron Man” — along with more obscure tracks like “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” and “Dirty Women” — merged nicely with new songs “God is Dead?,” “Age of Reason,” “Methademic” and “End of the Beginning.”
Prized Pick: My front-row souvenir, courtesy of the man who invented heavy metal.
Throughout, three overhead video screens projected mildly disturbing (meaning, wholly appropriate) film footage of religious cult rituals, drug use and naughty ladies. Nobody said this was Sunday school.
Predictably, Ozzy’s blown voice was the show’s weakest link. He did manage to muster some power here and there (notably during “Children of the Grave”), but it was nowhere near his once-feral yowl. By the time “Paranoid” drove the crowd insane, it was evident the not-so-powerful Oz might need help from behind the curtain if he plans to hold up through the end of the tour. – David Glessner
GUARDIANS OF METAL: Nearly 40 years since forming, Saxon continues to deliver vintage British metal. Latest album ‘Sacrifice’ is a must-have for fans of ‘Power & the Glory,’ ‘Crusader’ and other classic Saxon titles. Today’s lineup features founding members Biff Byford, center, and guitarist Paul Quinn, far right, along with. from left to right, bassist Nibbs Carter, drummer Nigel Glockler and guitarist Doug Scarratt.
ALL KILLER, NO FILLER: At a lean 10 songs, ‘Sacrifice’ leaves no room for indulgent noodling, making it an immediate 2Fast2Die favorite and possible Album of the Year.
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal is more than three decades old, and while the concerts can still stir excitement, the recent recorded output of the genre’s forerunners — Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and especially Def Leppard — has lost some of its urgency and fire. God bless Motorhead for staying the course.
Saxon, too, can take a bow for keeping deadly aim. While the band will always be best remembered for its classic 1980s discography, Saxon can rightfully hold up its recent albums with an “I dare you” defiance to doubt their tenacity. In fact, it could easily be argued that some of Saxon’s latter-day output is heavier than its past.
And now there’s the band’s 20th album, “Sacrifice.” Since its release earlier this year, “Sacrifice,” has been in heavy rotation at 2Fast2Die thanks to its perfect blend of Saxon’s former glory and modern-day power. With the legendary band recently announcing a North American tour that stops at Backstage Live in San Antonio on Sept. 27, I caught up with Saxon’s ever-gracious lead singer, Biff Byford, to discuss the making of this fantastic album.
MOTORCYCLE MAN Peter ‘Biff’ Byford started Saxon as Son of a Bitch in 1976 before changing the band’s name to something more printable
You self-produced “Sacrifice” with mixing assistance from Andy Sneap who has some pretty impressive heavy metal credentials, including Accept, Kreator, Opeth and Megadeth, among others. Was there a particular album to his credit that you wanted to use as a template for the sound of “Sacrifice”?
I know his work with Killswitch Engage. I wanted to make a heavier album, so he was the guy to go to, really. He had some free time, ‘cause I think Killswitch was delayed for a couple of weeks. I wanted the guitars to sound like Gibsons and Marshalls. He’s into the band anyway, and into all that British heavy metal. I wanted to go back to that time a little bit on a couple of the songs and see if we could write something in that spirit – sort of early thrash-metal days. We wanted it to be more real (sounding) and not depend too much on the digital and Pro Tools stuff. We sort of wrote the songs in the rehearsal studio so they’re all written very live.
Besides being a quality album, I also appreciate that “Sacrifice” was kept to an efficient 10 songs
We go for more quality than quantity. I feel you’re better off with nine or 10 great songs rather than nine great songs and 10 rubbish songs.
CAN YA HAIR ME NOW?: Never one to cut his hair or grow a grungey goatee, Biff Byford remains the classic heavy metal frontman.
Let’s talk songs. I like your lyrical angle on 9/11 in the song “Walking the Steel.” You don’t often hear stories about the reconstruction effort given all the tragedy involved on that date.
The first time I went (to Ground Zero) there was nothing there. I went back in 2011 and the Towers were halfway up already. It was at night when I went there and these two big towers are disappearing up into the mist with all the lights blazing. I looked into it and the guys that build these things — when they’re up there — they call it walking the steel. I thought that was such a cool title so I ended up writing a song about it.
I also like the frustrated humor in the song “Standing in a Queue.”
You either get that song or you don’t, really. It’s a very sort of English thing, really. We’re famous queuers, but I’m sure people over there (in the states) can get it, too. We’re all in queues in traffic, waiting at the airport, waiting at the supermarket. I just thought I’d write a simple song and try to get across the frustration of waiting in a queue.
I understand the title track was inspired by a visit to Mexico. Had you been there before?
I’d been to Mexico before, but I never visited any of the ruins there. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me. The human sacrifice stuff they were telling me about … They were telling me about the heart (still) beating and all this stuff. I thought it was a good metal sort of subject (laughs). That song came really quickly. It was the first song we wrote. It’s a heavy track. It gets your blood flowing.
MIDAS TOUCH: Biff’s turn at production duties yielded a monster album in the form of ‘Sacrifice.’
“Stand Up and Fight” is another in a long line of Saxon anthems dedicated to the rock-n-roll spirit and lifestyle, yes?
It’s a great guitar riff with me singing on top of it. It’s quite a simple song. Yeah, I like that song. It’s a call to arms again. It’s a song to a new band or people learning to play or trying to get forward. They’re always asking us what the secret is and that’s it: Stand up and fight for all you believe in.
Going back to “Dallas 1PM,” and “The Eagle Has Landed,” for example, Saxon has written some great songs with historical themes. What qualities must an historical event have to inspire you lyrically?
A good story, really, like “Made in Belfast” or “Guardians of the Tomb” (from “Sacrifice”). A good story that’s imaginable. I watched this film “The Gray,” which inspired me to write the song “Night of the Wolves.”
That song reminds me of “Nightmare” from “Power and the Glory.” Maybe it’s the chorus?
A little bit, I suppose. It’s a bit heavier than “Nightmare” I think. It’s like this mad, 12-bar metal riff that Doug wrote.
HUNGRY YEARS: A vintage photo of Biff Byford circa the early 1980s
“Sacrifice” includes a bonus disc of reworked Saxon tunes like “Frozen Rainbow,” “Just Let Me Rock” and others. I like the second-disc approach of offering extra material without compromising the integrity of the proper album.
I think it works. One of the songs is “Crusader,” which is a massive song with an orchestra. It’s an epic now. It’s a lot more majestic now. The acoustic tracks are just real simple: me and two guys playing acoustic guitars, really. There’s no bass guitar or drumbeat or tambourine or anything on those songs so it’s cool.
As always, thanks for your time, Biff. Anything else?
Definitely say hello to all our fans over there in Texas
Will do. See you soon +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ For my review of “Sacrifice,” go here. To read my in-depth 2011 career retrospective interview with Biff, go here. For my own personal Spinal Tap moment with Saxon, go here. For more official Saxon info go here. For Backstage Live ticket info, go here. For the ass-kicking video for “Sacrifice,” click below.
YOUNG GUNS: The classic early lineup of Dangerous Toys was, left to right, singer Jason McMaster, guitarist Danny Aaron, bassist Mike Watson, guitarist Scott Dalhover and drummer Mark Geary. A later version of the band had future country and western star Kevin Fowler replacing Aaron on guitar. Fowler, in turn, was replaced by Paul Lidel of Dirty Looks. Today, McMaster fronts multiple bands including Broken Teeth, Evil United and Ignitor. He also has a star on the South Texas Music Walk of Fame in his native Corpus Christi, TX.
KILLER CLOWN: The 1989 debut album not only introduced the band, but also the Toys’ clown mascot, Bill Z. Bub, as drawn by artist Tommy Pons.
Once upon a time, circa 2007, I was asked to contribute to an issue of Classic Rock magazine dedicated to Guns N’ Roses. Besides the main features on GN’R, the mag also wanted to highlight some of their lesser-known peers. Being from Texas, I offered up Junkyard and Dangerous Toys as worthy contenders to the GN’R theme. Due to space constraints, the articles never published. Until now.
DANGEROUS TOYS HAD A RED-HEADED SCREAMER WITH TATTOOS TO SPARE, BUT THE OUTLAW TEXAS ROCKERS WEREN’T AIMING TO BE THE NEW GN’R
BY DAVID GLESSNER
In his wickedly clever autobiography, “White Line Fever,” Motorhead speed demon Lemmy Kilmister fairly recalls Texas tour mates Dangerous Toys as being “the apple of Sony’s eye” during the aborted 1991 Operation Rock-n-Roll Tour, which also featured Alice Cooper, Judas Priest and Metal Church.
TEAS’N': McMaster’s early look included a wee bit of hairspray. (photo by Gregg Maston).
“The singer had red hair and sang with a falsetto just like Axl Rose,” writes Lem, “so you figure out (Sony’s) motives.”
The singer in question is Jason McMaster and he’s far too wise to argue with God.
“Anyone with red hair who had tattoos and sang with a screech was gonna get called an Axl clone,” says the Toys singer and lifelong Lemmy fanatic. “Hell, I was trying to be Steven Tyler (laughs). One time, I was approached by two women who asked me for my autograph because they thought I was Axl. I politely declined and told them they should go home and study their Axl photos to see if our tattoos matched.”
Of course the tattoos didn’t match, but one could hardly blame the ill-informed for mistaking McMaster for Rose during the Toys’ early days.
“When the Toys first got started, we did some cover tunes that were hot at the time,” McMaster says. “We covered GN’R, Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns and some others. I wore the big, sprayed hair and did a few Axl moves, but it was just a gag for fun. Once we got our record deal, I tossed the hairspray because we needed to find our own identity.”
HELLACIOUS: The Toys’ second album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker who previously worked with Queen, Cheap Trick, the Cars and Journey.
Following a successful showcase at the SXSW music festival in the band’s hometown of Austin, Texas, Dangerous Toys signed to Sony Records and recorded a 1989 self-titled debut album produced by Max “Blizzard of Ozz” Norman. The follow-up record, “Hellacious Acres,” was produced by Roy Thomas Baker of Queen, Cheap Trick, Journey and Cars fame. The albums yielded a collective of moderate radio and MTV singles, including “Scared,” “Teas’N Pleas’N,” “Sport’N A Woody,” “Queen of the Nile,” “Gimme No Lip” and “Line ’Em Up.”
“Musically, I don’t think the Toys had much of a Guns influence,” McMaster says. “We were more like a machine-gun Foghat-meets-ZZ Top with some Aerosmith and a bit of heavy metal added as spice. Guns definitely had more of Aerosmith’s grind and slither, plus a lot more punk rock.”
LINE ‘EM UP: This classic photo graces the back cover of Dangerous Toys’ 1989 debut album. Singer McMaster, second from left, had just left the underground thrash-metal band, Watchtower, which is cited by Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Pantera as being, well, totally bad-ass!
Lyrical themes differed as well, McMaster says. While Guns were more about rage, drugs, street survival and mayhem, the freewheeling Dangerous Toys were more lyrically slanted toward bad girls and good times.
“Lyrically, the Toys were a mixed batch of rock and metal,” McMaster says. “’Sport’N A Woody’ is about my dick having a mind of its own, but ‘Bones in the Gutter’ is about a murder. So, yeah, the Toys were more about parties, but we also had room for the occasional psychopath.”
While the Toys won their share of fans touring with fellow Texans and former schoolmates, Junkyard, as well as Faster Pussycat, The Almighty, L.A. Guns and The Cult, Sony pulled the plug and decided to play dirty when grunge oozed out of Seattle.
WHAT A PISSER!: The Toys’ third album, ‘Pissed,’had no major-label push, but it stands as 2Fast2Die’s favorite. Song-for-song, it’s every bit as killer as vintage Skid Row, Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses. Find it!
Not ready to pack themselves in, the Toys befriended smaller labels that released the excellent third album, “Pissed,” and the moodier, industrial-tinged Prince piss-take, “The R*Tist 4*merly Known as Dangerous Toys.”
“We were lucky to have a decent run and a few decent songs on our records,” McMaster says.
And while the Sony recording sessions and slick video shoots did indeed land the Toys in Los Angeles for a time, the Texans felt out of sorts on the neon-lit Sunset Strip.
ALICE IN TOYLAND: Dangerous Toys with their hero, Alice Cooper. Early Toys gigs used to encore with Cooper’s ‘Cold Ethyl.’ He also served as the inspiration for the Dangerous Toys hit, ‘Scared.’
“Dangerous Toys never really had a Hollywood connection,” McMaster says. “We were there and we definitely went looking for bands we loved like Salty Dog, Love/Hate, Rhino Bucket and Bang Tango, but we found them through music, not some glitzy scene.”
What seemed painfully obvious to Dangerous Toys was ultimately lost on many who never saw past McMaster’s red hair, tattoos and the band’s mix of leather and jewelry.
“I don’t think half the Sony staff knew we were from Texas,” McMaster says. “Obviously some of them did and always asked about the Texas mystique. We had Texas tattoos, Texas-flag leather pants and big, Texas flags in the backdrop of our videos, and people still thought we were from the Sunset Strip. We thought it was cool to be from Texas. And hey, I don’t see a lot of California tattoos (laughs).”
ALL SCRUFF, NO FLUFF: With their greasy hair and torn denim jackets, Junkyard stood in stark contrast to the oh-so-pretty Hollywood glam scene of the mid- to late-1980s. After relocating from Texas, guitarist Chris Gates and singer David Roach formed Junkyard and landed a record deal with Geffen making them label mates with Guns N’ Roses.
BLOOZE: Junkyard’s 1989 debut album contained the band’s signature singles ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Simple Man’
Once upon a time, circa 2007, I was asked to contribute to an issue of Classic Rock magazine dedicated to Guns N’ Roses. Besides the main features on GN’R, the mag also wanted to highlight some of their lesser-known peers. Being from Texas, I offered up Junkyard and Dangerous Toys as worthy contenders to the GN’R theme. Due to space constraints, the articles never published. Until now.
THEY SHARED A RECORD LABEL WITH G N’R AND HAD A FAN IN AXL ROSE … WELCOME TO THE JUNKYARD
By DAVID GLESSNER
Before Guns N’ Roses were the fiercest beasts in the jungle, a fluffier breed of rock-n-roll animal ruled the Los Angeles landscape.
“When I moved to L.A. in 1986, all the Hollywood bands looked and sounded like Warrant,” says Junkyard guitarist Chris Gates. “At the time, all the labels were looking for the next Whitesnake, not the next GN’R.”
TWO FROM TEXAS: Gates and Roach raising a ruckus
Not caring a Ratt’s ass about power ballads or stuffing their trousers, Junkyard played a tougher-than-denim blend of black-eyed blooze that snarled like Rose Tattoo getting wasted on Skynyrd’s moonshine. If Hollywood was a helium balloon filled with glammy guitar wankers and shirtless pretty boys, Junkyard was the dirty needle aiming to take it down.
“When ‘Appetite’ came out, it stiffed for about eight months,” Gates says of the GN’R milestone. “As soon as ‘Sweet Child’ hit big, a bunch of L.A. bands completely changed what they were doing. Hell, some of them started coming to our gigs trying to figure out what ‘street rock’ was all about.”
The nuts and bolts of Junkyard’s ‘street rock’ came together in Austin, Texas where Gates met singer David Roach. The pair moved to Los Angeles and literally bumped into former Minor Threat guitarist Brian Baker (who has since converted to Bad Religion). The classic lineup also included bassist Clay Anthony and drummer Pat Muzingo. As the name suggests, Junkyard was quick to find friends in low places.
NOT POISON: The classic Junkyard lineup was, left to right, drummer Pat Muzingo, guitarist Chris Gates, singer Dave Roach, bassist Clay Anthony and guitarist Brian Baker.
“I met Duff McKagan at the Whisky shortly after I moved to L.A.,” Gates recalls. “A friend of mine from a band called the Joneses introduced us and we started talking about punk rock. We talked about my old band the Big Boys and Duff’s old band, The Fartz. I met Slash that same night when we nearly had to fight two sailors whose girlfriends disappeared backstage.”
DEUCE: Junkyard’s second album was overshadowed by Nirvana and the grunge movement, but nonetheless made its mark with the song ‘All The Time in the World.’
As record labels tired of the Sunset Strip’s same old song and dance, a new pack of wolves brought the scent of fresh blood. The feeding frenzy was in full swing at a club called the Scream when Junkyard opened for a hot fuss called Jane’s Addiction in 1987.
“Every label in town was trying to sign them,” Gates says of Jane’s. “Geffen and Elektra both approached us at that show, but we didn’t have a press kit or a demo. A week later, Geffen got in touch and eventually offered a deal.”
Signed to Geffen Records just months apart from each other, Junkyard and GN’R were suddenly label mates. On at least one occasion in 1987, the two bands paired for a blinding double-bill.
JUNK PEDDLER: Axl Rose wearing his favorite dirty laundry.
“I don’t remember much about the gigs with Guns, because I was there,” Gates jokes, admitting that a moment of clarity places Junkyard as GN’R support at a place called Perkin’s Palace. “I don’t know that we had much in common with Guns from a musical standpoint, but we had a lot in common as far as the intensity we brought to the music.”
Initially short on tunes to complete a full-length album, Junkyard finally followed the release of GN’R’s 1987 “Appetite” with a 1989 self-titled debut produced and engineered by Motley Crue/Poison studio gurus Tom Werman and Duane Baron. “Junkyard” was followed by the slightly more polished “Sixes, Sevens & Nines,” helmed by Ramones and Motorhead producer Ed Stasium. Collectively, the albums contained the semi-hit radio singles “Simple Man,” “All the Time in The World,” “Misery Loves Company” and perhaps the band’s best-known track, “Hollywood,” which lyrically could pass for a distant cousin to GN’R’s “Jungle.”
While Junkyard’s tour introduced the world to an unknown support act called the Black Crowes, GN’R was on the fast track to becoming the biggest band on Earth. Fortunately, a scrap of Junkyard was along for the ride.
WILD CARD: Junkyard’s major label deal ended after two albums, but a handful of collectibles followed on Anodyne Music, including this collection, which may be their best (if you can find it).
“I did a T-shirt print job for someone and got paid with a surplus of black shirts,” Gates recalls. “I made a silkscreen and we printed Junkyard shirts in the kitchen of our house. For a while, you couldn’t go anywhere in Hollywood without seeing our shirt. Axl wore his a lot, but most importantly, he wore it at big shows in New York and L.A. Those photos circulated for a long time and definitely didn’t hurt our credibility.”
Competing with GN’R for Geffen’s financial support was also fairly painless.
“Geffen treated us very well, all in all,” Gates says. “They worked the hell out of the first record and we managed to sell a few copies. Having Nirvana join Geffen hurt us more than Guns!”
Indeed, a needle of another kind was back to burst the bubble. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 2FAST2DIE Note: Stay tuned next time for the unpublished Dangerous Toys story.
Meanwhile, learn how NOT to drive courtesy of Chris Gates in the video for Junkyard’s “Hollywood.”
WALK THIS WAY: Yeah, I was this giddy when Steven Tyler welcomed me and my wife into his dressing room. It’s always cool when your heroes don’t disappoint, but it’s even better when their hospitality is totally random and hugs-all-around sincere.
RATS IN THE CELLAR: Backstage and raising all kinds of hell with an outta-control Brad Whitford. Kidding aside, this guy is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock. He also cranked countless killer riffs on a LOT of my all-time favorite music.
Let’s just say meeting Aerosmith was hardly a night in the ruts.
The date was Nov. 16, 2012 in Austin, Texas, when Aerosmith hit town on the “Music From Another Dimension” tour. Depending on which day you ask, Aerosmith may be my all-time favorite band (they share a coin toss with the Ramones). Regardless, the Bad Boys from Boston are a band I can’t live without. And singer Steven Tyler? My absolute favorite.
Knowing my pal Yayo Sanchez jams with the son of Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford, I mention that I’d be (ahem!) more than a wee bit willing to tag along if he had any backstage leverage the night of the gig. Yayo said he’d be happy to help if things fell into place, but I must admit to bracing for the deflating punch of defeat.
Nonetheless, this being Aerosmith and all, I decided a slim chance was better than none so I brought along the band’s ultra-classic “Rocks” album from 1977. I figured if I managed to meet the band and didn’t have an album ready for autographs, I’d be kicking myself to the grave. If, on the other hand, I didn’t meet the band, then carrying the album would still leave a free hand for beer.
ROCKS HARDER: One of Aerosmith’s classic albums is now even better thanks to personalized, backstage autographs from Tyler and Whitford.
After texting back and forth during opening act, Cheap Trick, Yayo and teen Whitford arrived at my seat to escort me and my wife backstage. Sweet! At the very least, I knew I was going to meet Brad, which in and of itself would’ve rattled my rocks forever. Sure enough, we navigated the backstage corridors and found Brad in his dressing room where we exchanged a few words, snapped some photos and got my prized autograph. Brad seemed as mellow as they come, but he also was a super nice guy. It was an honor to share his space.
Just when life couldn’t get sweeter, Yayo started motioning frantically toward the hallway. Clearly this was a signal that another Aero-dude was nearby. I stepped through the door and into the hallway just in time to see Steven Tyler getting ready to disappear into his dressing room. What happened next is probably the most surreal moment of my life (excluding the birth of my son).
“Steven!” I shouted, not willing to let my hero escape without an attempted hello. To my utter amazement, he stopped dead in his tracks, turned and fixed his gaze on me and — instead of casually waving hello and ducking into his private room — he sent me into a giddy tailspin with a quote I’ll never forget: “Wellll, look atchoooo!” he said. “Get over here, man!” I think I started floating.
SWEET DEVOTION: Getting lippy with my idol. He makes dreams come true, baby!
As he waved me over, I grabbed my wife’s hand and hoofed it toward Mr. Hey Diddle-Diddle himself. Standing face-to-face, we shook hands and exchanged hellos before he quickly steered us into his dressing room (tapestries, candles, incense, the whole gypsy vibe) so we could visit in private. Yes, I was flipping out. No, I don’t think it showed. I handed him “Rocks” and asked if he’d sign it. “Sure,” he said. “That was a good album.” Uh, yes sir, it sure as hell is!
In person, Tyler is every bit as electric as his persona. He yaps more than talks and his beady eyes, skinny frame and legendary lips are as animated as Wile E. Coyote. Hyper is his middle name and there seems to be no difference between the on-stage Tasmanian peacock and the off-duty Steven Tallarico.
After a few pictures and maybe a 15-minute visit (Who can tell? Time went so fast, yet also stood still), I gave Tyler another handshake and a hug (he’s like a bundle of sticks) and thanked him for being so over-the-top-accommodating in offering us such an exclusive visit. In true Tyler fashion, he rasped off another zinger that I’ll not soon forget: “We make dreams come true, baby!” Indeed you do, brother!
As jaded as I’ve become over the years, I found myself so happily disoriented by this whole ordeal that I barely noticed (or minded) that Tyler kissed my wife on the lips as a parting shot goodbye. Eh, what the hell? He’s Steven Tyler, dammit!
CHOIR BOYS? Buckcherry, left-right, is guitarist Keith Nelson, bassist Jimmy Ashhurst, singer Josh Todd, drummer Xavier Muriel and guitarist Stevie D. Despite new album, ‘Confessions,’ these boys aren’t likely to be spending much time in church.
BIBLE STUDY: Buckcherry’s sixth studio album is partially based on the seven deadly sins and was fully recorded at the home studio of guitarist Keith Nelson.
If Buckcherry admits to anything on new album “Confessions,” it may be a degree of infidelity for straying on “All Night Long.” While that 2010 album idled mostly in Neutral, “Confessions” is a return to Buckcherry’s punch and swagger — albeit with added dynamics and vibe.
Ambitious without being Radiohead, “Confessions” is the work of a primal-scream rock band that doesn’t mind flirting with nuance. Sure, the thrashing bounce of “Seven Ways to Die” and the crushing guitar chords of “Water” are as jarring as Gatti vs. Ward, but beneath the black-and-blue impact are new layers of complexity that lend a certain finesse to Buckcherry’s glam-bang whiplash.
From the Aero-boogie of “Air” and the blood-rushing charge of “Gluttony” to the cold-hearted stroll of “Greed” (check that tasty guitar solo!) and the swelling — almost majestic — chorus of “Pride,” Buckcherry’s pumped-up rhythmic muscle swings like a slugger on dope.
Of course the ‘Cherries have always had a sweet spot and “Confessions” delivers two scoops of lighter fare in the form of the radio-ready “Truth” and the gently, acoustic (almost Green Day-ish) album closer, “Dreaming of You.” If it was 2005, “Truth” would be this album’s “Sorry.”
Undoubtedly the truest purging on “Confessions” is “Sloth.” A grandiose and heavily orchestrated suicide lament from singer Josh Todd to his long-deceased father, “Sloth” is a beautiful heartache of a song that stands as the “heaviest” of Buckcherry’s career. Just reading the lyrics can dampen eyes.
IF YOU WANT BLOOD: The alternate cover of ‘Confessions’ features tattoo-style artwork and song-title symbolism.
While the song titles and loosely narrative lyrics suggest a seven deadly sins theme, the conceptual thread has so much slack that each song swings on its own (and “swing,” again, is something this album has in spades). That said, “Confessions” still manages a start-to-finish flow that defies today’s all-too-familiar formula of obvious single(s) and filler (it’s also interesting to note the absence of a blatant Buckcherry party song a la “Crazy Bitch” and “Too Drunk”).
Way more musical than Motley Crue and vastly more relevant than leftover Guns N’ Roses, “Confessions” takes new turns in all the right places, but still sounds right at home in L.A.’s Sunset Strip clubs. Truth be told, “Confessions” is quite arguably Buckcherry’s crowning achievement.
* Overall rating: A+ * Favorite tracks: “Greed” (because nobody spits the “F” word like singer Josh Todd), “Water,” “Pride,” “Nothing Left But Tears,” “Air” * For fans of: Smartly melodic sleaze rock, Jose Cuervo, tattoos, the “F” word * Visit www.buckcherry.com