Tuesday, August 7, 2012

This Threesome Does It Doggy Style

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I just recently discovered this trio from Columbus, Ohio after reading a review on the internet.  I was searching for new music and decided to give it a shot, purchasing the Scars-n-Bars CD without hearing a track.  I have to say I was instantly hooked from the opening tune as it grabbed me.  The grinding, pumping beat of the first cut, Working Man, and lyrics like “when quitting time comes around, an ice cold beer is gonna taste pretty good”, had my fist in the air!  With sex and alcohol being a major lyrical theme, this band is straight ahead rock and roll at its finest.  The high energy, dirty and raw sound was a refreshing change over what I had been recently listening to.  I highly recommend that you open an ice cold brew and get into The Last of a Dying Breed.

The trio formed in 1999 with Michael Hannon (ex-Salty Dog and Dangerous Toys) on bass and vocals, Steve Theado taking up the guitar and Keith Pickens pounding on the skins.  Pickens departed after 2009’s Mean, opening the door for Michael Harris behind the kit.  With twelve tours of Europe under their belt and at least one visit to Japan, I think it’s safe to say that there’s more to this dog than cracking into the next beer.  With a back catalogue of six studio recordings, two live CD’s and three DVD’s, there’s no shortage of material behind the recent release entitled Poison Smile and everything is available on their official website www.americandog.us along with an assortment of t-shirts and other swag.

Poison Smile was to be released in June and with already having three Dog CDs not only in my collection but also in my regular CD listening rotation, I counted the days waiting for it to become available.  In true Dog fashion I stocked the fridge with some of my favourite beers and cued up the disc as I settled down to hear the latest offering from this snarling canine.  With the volume cranked up and beer in hand, I was assaulted with the blistering pace of the opening track, Devil Dog.  The boys have obviously not lost a step with the change in drummers.  The brand of humour that I’ve come to expect from the Dog shines through on track two, Just Like Charlie Sheen, and the video, complete with band members dressed as some of Charlie’s characters, is available for viewing (along with others) at their website www.americandog.us .  I was always taught “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and why would you, just like track three, Old Dog New Tricks says “nothing broken, ain’t nothing to fix, can’t teach an old dog new tricks”!  Sticking to the Dog’s proven formula, the album powers on, keeping the pace with The Real Nitty Gritty.  Giving us a short break from the onslaught, Steve Theado shows his guitar versatility on the instrumental number 2012 AD, which makes a nice prelude to my favourite track from the album, Poison SmilePoison Smile has been described as Alice Cooper-esque and I won’t argue with that one bit.  The album surges forward with Lust and Greed and maintains the pace, rocking into the tongue and cheek Bathroom Romance.  Grinding through Splinterin’ Sally, the high energy continues into Off the Chain, a straight ahead rocker at finest.  Closing out the album is the aptly titled cover tune of a 1985 song put out by garage punk band, The Cramps, Can Your Pussy Do the Dog.

I was able to catch up with Michael Hannon, bass player and lead vocalist, via telephone recently and he graciously answered a few questions about the nature of the beast and what’s in store for this special brand of “doggy-style rock and roll”.

The Meister: So let’s start off with the obvious.  I loved the Every Dog Has It’s Day record from Salty Dog.

Michael Hannon: Canada did really good for us on that album. 

The Meister: The Come Along single got a lot of radio air play

Michael Hannon: On MuchMusic? Is that the thing up there?

The Meister: Ya that’s the one.

Michael Hannon: When they look at percentages, like if you sell 100,000 copies in the states we should sell 10,000 in Canada, like a 10th of.  We sold 300,000 all together and we ended up selling a bigger percentage in Canada than the US if you look at it by that 10th thing.

The Meister: How did we treat you up here?

Michael Hannon: Canada was kick-ass; we played in your area.  A place down on Yonge Street called Rock & Roll Heaven and right down the street a place in Mississauga as well.  I can’t remember the name of the club, but it was really cool, one whole wall was a giant painting of Alice Cooper, so it was a really kick-ass place in other words!

Michael Hannon: One of the things that made us stick out from all the other bands at the time was our drums.  Our drums were big and thunderous on that album, whereas back then they had like tinny, fuckin’ jaded snare drums sound.  A lot of those albums, I like the music back then, but if you listen to the drums, they sound like shit.  And bumblebee guitar sounds.  I like a lot of that music, but I think it’s just recorded like shit a lot of that stuff.

The Meister: You think it’s just too over produced?

Michael Hannon: really crap, like pointy guitars at the time and they look like these little ants and everything is so processed and they sound real good when you play them alone, but you mix them with a real drum set, real bass and it sounds like a bumble bee.  If you go back ten years back further than that, Ted Nugent had a better guitar sound ten years before these guys, you’d think, you know with all the engineering developments that it’d be better, but actually it got worse.

The Meister: So you guys ever plan to play together again or that’s it, one album it’s all over?

Michael Hannon: We did one reunion show and it failed miserably.  (Laughing)

The Meister: Well that’s honest.  (Laughing)

Michael Hannon: We did that in December.  It was a Saturday night on Sunset right there at old Gazzarri’s, it’s called Club Vodka now and it probably wasn’t even two thirds full.

The Meister: Really?

Michael Hannon: Hell, obviously the guy that ran the place didn’t give a shit.  Me and the singer were walking around out front of the club and there’s the big calendar of what’s going on in the month and it wasn’t even fuckin’ listed, man.

The Meister: I read that you spent some time in Dangerous toys as well, how was that?

Michael Hannon: After Salty Dog broke up.  Salty Dog and Dangerous Toys had played some shows together.  I actually had met the guys in Dangerous Toys when Salty Dog played a show down in Austin, Texas, where Dangerous Toys are from, and I recognised the guys and after the show said “hey c’mon back and drink some beers”, so we did, hung out, kept phone numbers, ya know. And then later on we played some shows together in L.A. and I’d always go see them play when they were in L.A.  They recorded their second album out there, well, we just kept in touch and when Salty broke up they were getting ready to do a tour and they called me and said “hey our bass player can’t do the road with us, you got the gig if you want it”.  So I drove out there.  I put all my stuff in a storage unit, drove to Texas, slept on their couch for twelve days and then was on the road for almost a year.  I did 200 shows in a year with them.

The Meister: So, you just took all your stuff and put it into a storage unit, just packed up and away you went?

Michael Hannon: Yeah, that’s it.

The Meister: Sounds like fun to me, as someone who’s never done something like that.

Michael Hannon: Yeah, it was great.  I mean there were no hotels.  We had a bus, you slept in the bus.  The only person that got a hotel room was the bus driver.  You pray that the bathrooms at the clubs had the paper towels so that you could dry your face off, ‘cause those blowers are no good when you’re trying to dry your face!

The Meister: What do you think of Jason McMaster’s new stuff, Broken Teeth?  Have you heard any of it?

Michael Hannon: Broken Teeth and American Dog have probably played 50 or 60 shows together.  We did one show that you would have loved here in Ohio.  It was Rhino Bucket, Broken Teeth and American Dog together.

The Meister: I sure would have! I love Rhino Bucket and just saw then for the first time on the Monsters of Rock Cruise.

Michael Hannon: Oh yeah, they’re two of my best buddies.  That was a really kick-ass show.  That’s rock and roll where it’s supposed to be.

The Meister: You guys need to bring that to Canada!

Michael Hannon: I would like to.  Montreal has a great rock scene up there and so does Toronto.

The Meister: Now, before American Dog you were called Hilljack.  Is that just the same band with a name change?

Michael Hannon: Hilljack was the beginning of American Dog.  I started this band with a different guitar player and he wasn’t working out, so, fired him and got the new guy and we just got a new name.

The Meister: So basically it’s the same, because I know that some of the songs have been recorded as American Dog?

Michael Hannon: A couple of songs, shit.  First of all, it was a full length album that American Dog put out and then we toured on that for quite awhile, we weren’t ready to release a second album yet, but we got these really big show out of Sturgis, which is a really big motorcycle rally in South Dakota, and it was like dude, we got these really big shows, we’re playing for 20-40,000 people a night, so we had enough songs left over from Hilljack, that we did a live EP, Six Pack.

The Meister: Yep, Six Pack:Songs About Drinkin’ and Fuckin’, I don’t have that one yet.

Michael Hannon: Well it’s out of print, hard to find.  We’re out of it and it’s been on four different labels, so it’s out of print right now.  We’ve got it for download sale, but not the real thing.

The Meister: That’s a question that I wanted to ask you was about download sales, what do you think of that stuff as opposed to buying the actual CD?

Michael Hannon: I like physical product myself.  I like to look at it, you know, you buy a goddamned download, you don’t know anything

The Meister: Agreed. Sometimes when you open the download in your windows media player you get the cover art and sometimes you don’t, but that’s all you get.

Michael Hannon: Yeah, you don’t know anything. If I’m gonna go out and spend the money and then I can put it on my computer if I want and then on my mp3 player myself.

The Meister: That way I can read the notes, lyrics, guest artists.

Michael Hannon: To me, I’m a music fanatic.  So when a new Alice Cooper or Motorhead album comes out, to me that’s a holiday.  And I get a 12 pack of beer, bring the new Alice Cooper home and I put it on and the fuckin’ phone goes off and I read along with it and I listen to the whole damn thing and I enjoy it.

The Meister: That’s what I loved as a kid with my new record coming home with the artwork and following along with the liner notes, but now it’s getting harder and harder to find that hard copy CD, do you think that’s gonna disappear and all we’ll be stuck with is digital downloads eventually?

Michael Hannon: It’ll happen, but I think the disc format is always gonna be there in some way, because look, vinyl’s coming back, it’s a lot more popular.  CD’s are gonna last a lot longer, I mean it’s all I’m gonna buy.  The day I’m gonna feel like shit is the day that one of my favourite bands like Nashville Pussy or Motorhead put out an album that’s only available as a digital download, I’ll be pissed off!

The Meister: Yeah, it’s something I’ve recently gotten used to, having trouble finding the stuff I want in stores.

Michael Hannon: Buy off Amazon, that’s what I do.  And some of the re-masters sound so much better.  With downloads you’re going backwards in sound.  You really are. I mean, I’m a real sound fanatic.  I’ve got my stereo in my man cave in my basement, I’ve got JBL speakers hanging from the ceiling, so there’s no vibration whatsoever, hangin’ by chains.  With an old tube pioneer amp, I love the re-masters, they sound great!

The Meister: You think that’s the recording?

Michael Hannon: Well, it’s because it’s compressed so much, just like satellite radio, the sound is awful. You ever listen to that?

The Meister: I don’t like the radio; my own CD collection is mostly what I listen to aside from recently when I discovered the Decibel Geek podcast.

Michael Hannon: I like the radio, I find myself listening to classic rock stations a lot.

The Meister: So, you’re still not catching up with new music.

Michael Hannon: No I’m not, but it’s good music.

The Meister:  So, has Charlie Sheen heard the song, is he a fan?

Michael Hannon: I don’t know I hope so.  I was talking to Kevin Cronin about a month ago.  Kevin Cronin’s the lead singer of REO Speedwagon and they’re neighbours.  I was telling Kevin about the song, he said “oh shit, that’s great”, but first he was like don’t you like Charlie?  And I was like, no I think he kicks ass.  He’s hetero-sexual, he’s a man. I’d be doing the same thing…..matter of fact; I do the same thing just on a different level.  I said well, we got this video out and he said, “As soon as I get off the road, I’ll make sure Charlie sees it”, but I haven’t heard anything from his camp.

The Meister: So, what do you think is your favourite American Dog recording?

Michael Hannon: Probably this new one.  This is the first time we’ve had somebody outside of our camp master it.   Rodney Mills mastered this, he’s worked for Sheryl Crow quite a bit lately and Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special and he also used to work for the Atlanta Rhythm Section.  I know you’re going, well that sounds a lot mellower than what you are, but you know it just kinda shows you some of the big names that he works with for mastering and he did an excellent job, the sound quality is just great on this disc.

The Meister: It’s a great disc.  I waited for it to come out and wasn’t disappointed.

Michael Hannon: Yeah, we’re already playing eight songs off the album live already, so that shows you how much we like it.

The Meister: How’s the reaction to it from the fans?

Michael Hannon: Great!  This is the quickest that we’ve sold this many CD’s, it’s just flying out the door.  We really haven’t done a tour on it yet, we’re not going to Europe until November, so it’s just been local shows, Ohio mostly and Indiana and West Virginia

The Meister: You mentioned Europe and I’ve seen on your website that you’ve done 12 tours over there.  You must have a big following?

Michael Hannon: France is probably our biggest market over there, Belgium’s pretty good, and we’re starting to creep into Spain, Switzerland and Holland and Germany as well.  But France is by far the biggest.  We’re on a French label, so they do the best promotion in their home area.

The Meister: Now what about Japan?

Michael Hannon: Well we did one tour over there and it wasn’t very good.  It was small clubs.  Steve and I, Steve our guitar player and myself both got the Asian bird flu while we were there.

The Meister: Oh no.

Michael Hannon: It sucks dude………. (Description of Asian bird flu symptoms omitted as a courtesy to the reader)……it’s fuckin’ terrible, it sucked ass!

The Meister: Speaking of Steve I wanted to ask you a question about him.  I read that he was hit by a car and finished one of the albums from a wheelchair.  Is that a true story?

Michael Hannon: Yeah, that’s why the album is called Red, White, Black & Blue.  You know what’s to blame for that?  Sobriety!  Sobriety is to blame and I’ll tell you how this works out.  Every once and a while Steve and I will just clean ourselves out, we like to drink our beer, but every once and a while we’ll do like ten or twelve days without drinking whatsoever just to, you know, clean out the body.  We played a gig that night, some biker thing up in Wapakoneta Ohio and I didn’t drink at all. I just had water the whole night, so I drove back.  We could have got a hotel; the club was paying for a hotel for us, no problem.  So I told the club owner, hey, man, save your money, you know, I appreciate it but I’ll drive back.  Steve slept the whole way back, which is a good two hour drive.  We got back to my house and he woke up, refreshed, feeling good and so he said I’ll see ya later man and he took off.  It was late at night, probably about 3:30 in the morning and he pulled over with a flat tire, was changing his tire and some guy swerved off the road and ran him over and just left him for dead.

The Meister: Holy shit!  He just ran away, like hit and run?

Michael Hannon: Oh yeah.  See if I woulda drank beers, we would have stayed there the night at the hotel and he woulda got a flat tire in the daytime, so he woulda been fine.  So there you go. Sobriety is to blame.

The Meister: I see that you did a show opening for Ace Frehley.

Michael Hannon: Oh dude, that was a great story.  We’ve played with Ace twice now.  We did this show, it was at a place called The Newport here in Columbus and we’re on right before him and part of our pay is we always ask for two cases of beer.  ‘Cause you know, there’s three of us after all.  We do this thing where for the song D-n-F (Let’s All Get Drunk and Fuck Tonight) where Steve does slide guitar and I pour beers down his throat while he plays the slide guitar.  The record by the way is eight beers, he drank in one song!  But anyway, so we’re doing that and the crew from The Newport freak out and they come running out and they grab all our beers away from us.  And I don’t know what the fuck’s going on, so we finish the song and one of them waves me over and Ace is really freaking out and his manager ‘cause they’re trying to keep Ace sober and they don’t want any brews around.  So, like Jesus Christ, you tell us now!!  But anyway, they’re like sorry we had to take over your beers to your dressing room, so tell you what just after the show, when you’re watchin’ Ace, just go over to the bar, tell ‘em you’re from American Dog and you get all the beer you want for free.

The Meister: Sounds like a bad move for the club!  (Laughs)

Michael Hannon: Game on!  We really fucked the club over, ‘cause boy when you hear all you can drink for free, and you do.  Oh man, we put it down you could float a ballast with all that booze.  Still it worked out real fine for us.

Michael Hannon: So, you’re in Toronto?  Are you a Maple Leafs fan?

The Meister: No, actually I’m a Montreal Canadiens fan.

Michael Hannon: Ok, I just wondered, because we got a team down here, probably the worst team in hockey called the Columbus Bluejackets.  (Laughs)

The Meister: I’m not sure about that. Montreal and Toronto have not had good years for the last few.  (Laughs)

Michael Hannon: Put it this way, we’ve been worse than Toronto the last two years. (Laughs)

The Meister: Hopefully better season this year.  Thanks for taking the time to talk to me tonight, I really appreciate it.

Michael Hannon: No worries dude, cheers.

Straight ahead, no holds barred rock in the vain of AC/DC and Ted Nugent, Poison Smile continues American Dog’s drink and party formula that was established over ten years ago.  American Dog has been described as politically incorrect, lewd, raw, hard-living drinking man’s metal.   Sounds like rock & roll to me! Although I do enjoy the earlier releases it seems to me that the Dog just gets better and better with every album!  The dog is loose and rabid; watch out it’ll infect you! I know I’ve been bitten and there’s no cure, but I don’t want one either!

I hope you enjoyed my chat with Michael Hannon and that you get into the Dog!  Always remember, Sometimes You Eat the Pussy, sometimes the pussy eats you, Cheers!

1 comment:

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