Friday, November 30, 2012

new/old blood - Popeye


Andrew Jacobs here,

I've decided to make this "new/old blood" thing (where I post about bands/artists whose members have been a part of their respective music scenes for 20 or more years and who are still active in the 2010s) a series of sorts here on the Decibel Geek website.  Today's featured artist goes by the name of Popeye.

Popeye hails from the same Orange County, California hardcore punk scene that I grew up in back in the 1980s and the 1990s (speaking of which, the 1990s portion was documented quite well in my brother Evan's Orange County Hardcore Scenester documentary film).  He began his musical career playing guitar in a number of bands and in 1989, he became the singer/guitarist for Farside, one of the best and most prolific bands to emerge from the OC hardcore punk scene of the 1990s (and, of course, Farside was documented quite well in my brother Evan's Orange County Hardcore Scenester documentary film).  Farside would go on to release 3 full length albums (including the superb Rochambeau and Rigged), two EPs and play countless shows throughout both the United States and Europe before disbanding in 2000.

In the mid 2000s, Popeye joined forces with his good friend and fellow 1990s OC hardcore punk scene musician Jeff Caudill ("new/old blood" post on him forthcoming) and played guitar & sang in Caudill's solo band.  Then in 2008, Popeye and Caudill formed Your Favorite Trainwreck and released their first full length album in June of this year.

After listening to Farside fans clamor for a reunion for over a decade, in 2012, Popeye decided to satiate the demand somewhat by playing a series of solo acoustic shows where he only plays Farside songs. His next performance will be at the Revelation Records 25th Anniversary at the House Of Blues in Chicago, IL on 1/6/13.

On a personal note, Popeye is one of my brother Evan's best friends and has been Evan's friend and my friend as well for over 20 years.  He has been there for both Evan and for me during many of our darkest times, including the deaths of our mother and, most recently, our father.  I am very proud to be both a fan and a friend of Popeye.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"meeting" Mr. Wright


Andrew Jacobs here,

I first heard of record producer Toby Wright in mid 1995 during one of Bruce Kulick's guitar clinics at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California and then again a month or two later at Eric Singer's drum clinic at the very first Official KISS Convention in Burbank, California on June 17th, 1995 (a very big THANK YOU to my best friend Chad Sanford at this point for not only getting me into both but for getting me into the $100 a head Convention for FREE - sorry, Gene).

After Kulick's and Singer's respective clinics had concluded, each of them took some questions from members of the audience.  At this point, I vividly remember a number of the audience members asking both Kulick and Singer about the upcoming KISS studio album Carnival Of Souls.  The internet was still several years from taking over the world in 1995 and bootlegs of said album wouldn't hit the black market until sometime in 1996, so KISS fans hadn't heard or been privy to any of the songs on the album at this point.  The common theme among the fans' questions about Carnival Of Souls was fear that KISS would jump on the extremely popular "grunge train" (as one of the fans called it) and that Carnival Of Souls would sound like almost every single other rock album being released at that time.

Both Kulick and Singer did their best to calm the fans' collective fear by stressing Wright's collaborative producing style as well as emphasizing Wright's understanding of the essence of hard rock & heavy metal music (and it certainly didn't hurt that Wright's extremely impressive and prolific resume speaks volumes - no pun intended).  Kulick and Singer had nothing but good things to say about Wright's work on the album and what was in store for the fans.  While I can't speak for the other fans, I certainly felt better after hearing that.

In 1996, Carnival Of Souls bootlegs became readily available and so did scores of KISS fans' criticisms about it sounding too grungy.  Of course it didn't sour my immediate love for the album in the least and I enjoy the hell out of it to this very day.

Bravo, Mr. Wright!

Living The American Dream Caesar's Way


Livin’ The American Dream Caesar’s Way

I came across the self titled Little Caesar cassette in a bargain bin about twenty years ago, attracted by the cover art.  I flipped it over and noticed Bob Rock’s name in the producer category… the cash Batman! 

At that time my friends and I thought Bob Rock was a God (Canadian as well) and anything he laid his hands to was gold, much like our opinion of Rick Rubin.  As I did every week, I stumbled into the house with an armload of cassettes fresh off the “new release” shelves of the local record store and performed my weekly ritual of sitting on the floor in front of the stereo, reading liner notes and air-drumming with pencils, sometimes jumping up and wailing on the imaginary air guitar!  I fought with the shrink wrap and finally was able to free the cassette with the little cartoon character on the front from it’s plastic prison.  I was immediately treated to a helping of up beat, bluesy rock from the opening track Down-N-Dirty.  This was catchy and good, but not what I had expected by studying the look of the long haired, tattooed biker images inside the liner notes, this gruff appearance did not match the sound I was hearing!  Track two, Hard Times, continued with the same powering tempo…....where’s my pencils?  By the third song, a cover of Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools, I was fully hooked!  This was a different sound, soulful and rocking.  Every track is awesome and the funky, southern  flavoured Cajun Panther, drivin’ hard rocker Wrong Side of the Tracks and another motown cover in I Wish That It Would Rain are certainly worth a mention.  And 55 minutes runtime means a ton of bluesy growly 70’s rock infused with R&B to assail your ear drums!

By 1992, fed up with the poor selection at the record store in our small town, my friends and I were making regular trips south to the big city for the wider variety and better prices.  I always made a beeline to the hard rock/metal new release section and my excitement was barely containable as I grabbed at near everything on the wall, much of it being a new album from a band I was into, but had no idea that they had a new recording!  My arms already over filled with cassettes stacked high, I caught the cover of Little Caesar’s Influence.  I struggled with my already unmanageable pile of music as I reached to pluck it off the shelf.  I curiously noticed right away that the little cartoon character was absent, was this the same band?  My queries were laid to rest once I flipped it over and saw the back cover photo of the gruff looking bikers.  The inner sleeve informed me that most of the “usual suspects” were present and accounted for again, with the only change being Earl Slick replacing Apache in one of the guitar slots.  Influence picks up right where the self titled issue left off.  Opening up with the stand-out, hard edged track, Stand Up and continuing the same formula through You’re Mine, Turn My World Around and then into the up-beat tempo of the ode to Rum & Coke (featuring Cinderella’s Gary Corbett on piano).  The Ballad of Johnny slows down the pace a bit with the touchy subject matter of suicide and depression.  Overall a very enjoyable listen, but I prefer the début, which still often gets play in my household.

And then they were gone.  Influence did not stay on the record shelves long and was all but forgotten and had disappeared on another trip south a few weeks later.  I didn't hear a thing about Little Caesar again.  Why had I not heard of these guys before my chance discovery of the début and where did they go?  According to their Facebook page, three weeks into the initial release of the début their label Geffen Records was sold and their label manager left the company making way for accountants to take over.  The records got lost in transit to the distributors, leading to a lack of sales due to product availability and so the accountants shut the project down.  They were able to put out the follow-up, but with the grunge scene attacking the musical landscape, Little Caesar melted away.

A few years later, another hard rock blues based band that I was rampant about, The Four Horsemen, their full length début getting the same kind of regular airplay on my stereo as Little Caesar (both usually in the car….great driving tunes!) was coming to town at Warehouse Bar in Toronto.  I had seen The Four Horsemen before and they put on a great performance then, so I was looking forward to seeing them again having recently acquired their latest CD.  After a fine opening act in Toronto icons, Teenage Head, The Four Horsemen took the stage.  Now, I knew that there had been some tragedy in the band with the death of original drummer Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery and the motorcycle accident of lead singer Frank C. Starr.  I had just assumed that Frank C. Starr had recovered from his injuries and was on tour with them, but this was not Frank on vocal.  He looked and sounded extremely familiar, but I could not fully place the crooner until I caught a glimpse of the back covering jungle scene tattoo! Ron Young from Little Caesar!  Ron brought his soulful growl to the Horsemen classics that night and I was excited for the continuation of that band with Ron leading the charge.  Although it was not to be as the band, marred by tragedy with Frank C. Starr in a coma and eventually passing away, they disbanded.

Little Caesar has always been about the music, their love of playing and would not stay dead.  Avoiding the pressures and influences of record companies, perhaps understandably soured from past experiences, they released 2009’s Redemption comeback album, the first of newly recorded material in about 17 years, independently.  Same Old Story starts in same place, with a buesy pumping tempo. Loving You Is Killing Me is classic Little Caesar and Sick & Tired is probably one of the best songs they've ever come out with!  A nicely done cover of Woodstock and Every Picture Tells A Story are also included here.  With the four original members Ron Young (vocals), Loren Molinare on guitar, Fidel Paniagua on bass, Tom Morris (drums) and now Joey Brassler taking on the second guitar role Redemption is just that for Little Caesar. 

Now teaming with the label Unison Music Group, May 2012 saw the release of American Dream keeping the same line-up as RedemptionHoly Roller starts it off in fine fashion and sets the tone for the record.  Is Your Crazy, Getting Lazy?, Hard Rock Hell and the title track are all stand-out cuts.  Little Caesar have always been about the music, a statement evidenced by their non conventional to the style looks and this CD just drives that home once again.  For an almost 45 minute serving of toe tapping bluesy guitar driven rock, pick up American Dream and get lost with Little Caesar.  Here's the American Dream video link from the band's website:

In October 2012, Little Caesar, as a thank-you to their fans released a free six song download album entitled Knuckle Sandwich.

Recently I was able to catch up with lead vocalist Ron Young by telephone and asked him about Little Caesar, The Four Horsemen and his current project The Blue Eyed Devils.

Ron: Happy Thanksgiving to you

Meister: Thanks, Ron.  I had mine a few weeks ago, I’m from Canada.

Meister: So, you had mentioned that you’re off to the UK next week?

Ron: Yeah, we have a couple quick shows and a big festival that we’re playing (Hard Rock Hell Festival) and then we’re jumping down to Sheffield, England to do a show and then back home.  A whirlwind vacation.

Meister: I’d love to see you guys up here in Canada.  Is that something you’d consider?

Ron: Always interested, it’s just with the economy it’s really tough to generate enough revenue to get up and that and all the guys are working and stuff, so it’s hard to pull together sometimes.

Meister: Well, let’s go back to how Little Caesar got together and started, you were originally a night club bouncer?

Ron: Yeah, I was working at some clubs, was working at the door.  It wasn't really a bouncer, just more of a door guy.  You know, my New York attitude, they liked the New York door policy, they thought that was cool.  But the music scene was all just teased up hair, a lot of guitar players, you know, screaming look at me and just kinda getting frustrated ‘cause it was just getting away from the rock and roll that I grew up on.  And just found a bunch of other like minded guys that were just frustrated with having to look like girls to be in a band and having to play pop kinda stuff, that we’re really into notes and that much soul.  So I just found a bunch of other like-minded guys and we just started doing a couple of shows and we clicked and got a lot of attention and a lot of it was because we stood out amongst all those other bands, you know the emphasis was on strong singing and strong playing and strong harmonies and a strong hook to our soul based stuff.  We kind of put the band together and then never really thinking about getting attention, it was more of we have to put a band together, we really enjoy making music.

Meister: So it was always about the music first and not so much about making money?

Ron: Then the emphasis became , you know, how do we get attention and we didn't really worry about the music, we worried about the hype and the look and that kind of thing.  It was kind of frustrating.

Meister: Do you think that your image held you guys back at first because you weren't that glammy make-up band?

Ron: It did because of the mind set of the industry at the time.  Our attitude was that things had to change, you know, you can’t just keep putting out the same old bands with the same old hairdos, with the rock track and then the ballad and then the rock track and the ballad.  We saw change coming, and it came with grunge.  It came with guys with goatees and fucked up clothes and not really caring about the glamour.  The music of that took a little bit of a different turn, but it did sort of have that 70’s based low fidelity, sort of agro-organic kind of sound to it.  The problem was at the time was that they were looking at us going "these dudes look so scary, but they know how to sing and they do these great R&B sort of based ballads, that’s gonna confuse people".  And we’re like "no it’s not, believe me".  And they tried so hard to try to work around that and a big part of it is, quite honestly, is that when things didn't go well, that’s what they blamed it on.  The real deal was that three weeks into our release the record label got sold, a lot of people got fired and the label manager got fired for jerking off on his secretary.

Meister: I was actually going to ask about that, I’d read that before somewhere.

Ron: Yeah.  Our records weren't in stores, but our video was on MTV and you know, the problem is that when you have the John Kalodners and the David Geffens and the Jimmy Iovines and the Bob Rocks involved there's a lot of egos and there’s a lot of expectations.  The things that would normally be done for any other sort of rock band going to radio or MTV, it was a completely different set of circumstances for us and you know the problem was that the battles at the time weren't achieved because of things completely unrelated to the band really affected the band’s business.  Back then a band had six to eight weeks to really hit it out of the park and even though we came out of the box stronger than bands like The Black Crowes, they were expecting us to go double platinum in eight minutes.  And it wasn't like that and once that didn't happen and everybody started pointing the fingers and David Geffen didn't want to blame it on the label being sold and the records not being in the stores cause that makes his whole business look bad.  He’d start to say things like, “well the band is so scary looking that they can’t….” and it’s like "nah, really? Is that the best you can do?" And so that was sort of the excuse-de-jour was that.  You know, we were no scarier looking than Guns ‘N’ Roses or other bands on a certain level.  It’s just that our music was very acceptable and they fought to break us at top 40.  Back then, you know, no hard rock band was going to top 40, but they really wanted to try very hard to make us platinum in a week and it doesn't work like that, you have to build it from the ground up.  We’re a real rock band first and you can’t try to make a band cross over and be commercially huge just because their music is a little more acceptable than the other bands and if you can’t get past the fact we look a little scary and can do a nice ballad, that’s what the whole alternative thing proved.  You know, people wanted an alternative, you could be anything from a Blues Traveller to a Red Hot Chilli Pepper to a Metallica breaking the top 40, you know but we were a year or two to ahead of that and the label just didn't understand what we were trying to tell them.

Meister: But they were still able to put out the second album, Influence?

Ron: Yeah.  Once all the shit hit the fan on the first record and Jimmy Iovine and David Geffen were fighting and the label was sold and half the people we were working with got fired and they brought all these accountants in just to make the books look good and get rid of a bunch of acts and then Apache left the band.  By the time the second record came out, nobody wanted the stink of the band on them, they felt that they were too far behind the eight ball to really turn this thing around. So they just wanted us gone and out of our contract and to go away.  Things had gotten really tense and really kind of nasty and everything had changed and a whole bunch of people were gone and at this point they were looking at Nirvana.  Throw all that music out, you know.  Now there’s this alternative thing happening, you know, we were on the same label as Nirvana and they told us, “oh those guys will sell maybe 80,000 records, they’re a college band” and we’re like "I don’t think so dude, this is the kind of band that we’re talking about, this is the kind of music that’s really gonna change people’s taste in music".  "You’re not gonna just keep throwing the Warrants and the Wingers and the Whitesnakes and the Poisons anymore.  This is a really cool, honest down to earth really cool kind of band" and they’re like “no, no, no, they’re a college band, they’re never gonna go more than college radio”.

Meister: Why didn't they just release you so that you could go on to another record label?

Ron: Uh, well, David Geffen’s exact words to me after we sat down to discuss, you know, what was gonna happen ‘cause our option was up, was that he wouldn’t let us….he said he’d let the band go, but he would hold me to my contract as the key-man,  because if we went to another label and became successful it would make his whole business look bad.  Then it would be obvious that it wasn't the band’s fault, it was his business’s fault and the way that they tried to promote us and his business is more important than my career.  Looked me right in the fuckin’ eye and told me that.

Meister: Politics just held you guys back from the start?

Ron: Yeah, dude.  He said listen, I collect artists like I collect my artwork.  He said do you want to know why Neil Young didn't put out a record for ten years?  You wanna know why Don Henley’s been trying to get off my label for fifteen years?  It’s because, and he says it in a documentary that just came out, is that he doesn't trust artists.  He thinks artists are gonna fuck him every time, so he’ll fuck them before they fuck him. 

Meister: That’s a pretty bad attitude!

Ron: I can’t fight with a guy that just sold his label for two billion dollars, it was ridiculous

Meister: What do you do, right?

Ron: Yeah well, you start doing drugs, worked for a while.

Meister: Sure it’ll mask things for a while, but at the end of the day…

Ron: Yeah, yeah, well you don’t figure that out until you’re too late, you know.

Meister: Sometimes when something like that happens you just need an escape, right, to help you deal with it all.

Ron: Yeah, that’s kinda what happened.

Meister: So did anyone else stay in the music business or did they move on to other things when all this went down?

Ron: Well, you know, when it all crashed and burned, we had such a bad taste in our mouths. Uh, Tom, the drummer started working for like Hollywood records, Fidel went back to running his shop, I did a couple of little projects that never did anything, Earl Slick went back off to play with David Bowie, um, Lauren started working with some music manufacturers.  Then I started being a production manager at a nightclub in town here.  We all just kinda got out of making music, it just put such a bad taste in our mouths, man.

Meister: So, what about this time around?  What brought you guys back?

Ron: We've always been really close friends and, you know, through all the shit, I got into a bad drug habit and it took me a while to get my shit together with that and everybody was just working and providing for their families, kinda licking their wounds.  You know, a bunch of years went by and we were itching to make some music, so we just got together to play and then we started to do a couple of shows.  Eventually it became, I got sick of playing the same old songs, we should really do a record.  We sat down and just started writing songs in like 2009 and the record came out in 2010.  We've just been having a blast ever since.  I mean the one nice thing about the whole music business changing is that now we can just kinda be our own label and our own managers and our own promotions.

Meister: You don’t have to deal with all the bullshit of people holding you hostage.  But it’s really different to put out a CD in this day and age because no-one’s buying hard copy music any more, right?

Ron: No, exactly.  They do more in Europe than they do here, but here everybody does downloads.  You just have to record something and get it out and onto I-tunes, keep control and it’s just a completely different thing.  There’s some downsides too, but for the most part you can run your own business.

Meister: For me, I hate the downloading, but it’s often hard to find where to buy stuff up here in Canada.  And with a download you don’t get any liner notes, I hate it.

Ron: Yeah, all of that, the liner notes, the artwork, the credits all of that stuff is, you know, an afterthought now and it sucks, but it’s the nature of the beast.  The technology has completely changed the nature of the music business.

Meister: Do you think that hard copy will disappear altogether?

Ron: I don’t think so.  I think in the same way that vinyl is making a comeback for a lot of the real passionate people it’ll always be there because of that.  I don’t think it’s gonna go away completely, but it’s just figuring out how the music business is gonna stay profitable.

Meister: So, what about Knuckle Sandwich that you released recently, that’s just a download right?

Ron: It’s just a download, something to give away as a promotion and we just did a compilation.

Meister: Something just to try and get your name out there a little more and get more people introduced to your music?

Ron: Yeah, just to give something away for free, so you hope that somebody talks about it.  It’s a way of giving something away that doesn't cost anybody anything, so that anybody that’s interested in your music, try to reach out to new fans and get some email addresses and stay in contact with people and give them a little sampling of a bunch of stuff throughout our career.

Meister: I notice that it covers every album, but it’s not necessarily the songs that you would expect, like Chain of Fools is not on there.  You chose some deeper album cuts for it.

Ron: We wanted to expand a little bit and let people know a little bit more.  I looked at I-tunes and 80% of our downloads are Chain of Fools, ‘cause that’s what people know and have heard.  You’re pretty much selling stuff to people that already know you, they’re just refreshing stuff to their computer that they used to own on CD.  So, it’s kind of like what we’re trying to do is a two fold approach.  We’re trying to remind people that knew about us from back in the day that A-we’re still around and you can still get our old stuff and then you can hear the new stuff we’re doing and on top of it get to all the people that we tried to get to the first time around after everything crashed and burned.

Meister: Right, well I saw that it’s doing well.  It’s in the number two most downloaded spot from the Noise Trade site?

Ron: Yeah.  No, listen, we’re so grateful for that.  I mean it’s really great, things are really picking up and we’re really grateful for that.  It’s just way more natural and exciting and kind of a very organic thing that’s happening and the more that we do and the more that we put out and the more that we reach out to people, ‘cause remember when we first came out there was no internet.  There was the radio stations, MTV and magazines, now with social media and downloads and I-tunes it’s a completely different world.

Meister: It’s easier to reach people in some ways, but it’s also easier for people to get the music without paying for it.

Ron: Every day is a learning experience on how to reach out more to people and you know, we’re just grateful that people are reaching out back, it’s great.

Meister: So, after everything went down the first time, you ended up in a project called Manic Eden?

Ron: Yeah.  I got a phone call from Tom Fletcher, the producer and he was working with those guys and James Christian from House of Lords was fronting the band and they just didn't like the direction it was going in and wanted to do something a little bit darker, a little bit bluesier a little bit more progressive and he was a little bit more pop kinda oriented, so they parted ways and I came in and it felt really good, some cool ideas and we jumped right into the studio to do the record and then change sorta came.  That was during the whole alternative thing and this was really Adrian’s baby.  He put it together and he kinda jumped ship from his own project to go back to working with David Coverdale.  So we did some stuff in Japan and a little bit in Europe and you know, Adrian got kinda frustrated because no-one wanted to grab us here in the states, no major label any ways.   They kinda felt that our music was……they threw the baby out with the bathwater.  God forbid a guy sells six million records, but it’s not Nirvana or Soundgarden, so just throw it away.  And it’s like, well what about the six million people who still like that sort of thing?

Meister: And now there’s people searching for it.

Ron: Exactly, ‘cause it was an import kinda thing. 

Meister: So, that was it, just the one album and you guys broke up after Adrian left?

Ron: Yeah, I mean we had just started to promote it and were still in the process of looking for distribution worldwide, we were just doing territories and then Adrian just basically said, hey listen man, I gotta pay my mortgage at home, so I'm gonna go back to working with David Coverdale.

Meister: Too bad, that’s a great album, a little different

Ron: Yeah, it’s kinda quirky

Meister: So after that you went on to The Four Horsemen?

Ron: Yeah, you know, I got a call from Dave Lizmi from The Four Horsemen and he told me the whole situation that Frank was in a really bad motorcycle wreck and that they had just finished a second record and there was a lot of interest from up in Canada and it didn't look good that Frank was gonna come out of the coma, but it would really just be a tragedy if they didn't get to promote the music and support the music and so as a tribute to Frank would I be interested in kinda coming in and not really replacing him, but playing tribute.  And yeah, it sounded like a blast, I knew all those guys so……I still talk to Dave… we went up and it was like "what happens if people like this, you wanna keep doing it?"  And I was like "sure, I’m up for anything, I got nothing going on and I like you guys and always liked your music and it’s right up my alley".  So we did that little tour up in Canada and it was great and people really liked it.  Then, you know, came back home to L.A. and you know, Randy (Cooke) and Mike they were up in Canada, so it was tough to get together and then there started to be some personal relationship drama with some of those guys and their wives and soon to be ex-wives.  So, same thing, we just never got it together to write a record.  We started, we did a couple of songs and some demo's of some songs and they were really cool, but it just….you know, we were all spread out and couldn't keep it going.

Meister: So, in 1999 it was back to Little Caesar with This Time It’s Different?

Ron: Yeah, Earl Slick was like itchin’, he’s like "I got this little label and I'm putting my own records out and some other stuff for some people I like" and you know, Slick, we stayed friends with him.  He was like, "do you guys have any demo's or unreleased stuff?"  We’re like, yeah we had a bunch of stuff sitting around, so we just grabbed whatever we had from some of the old demo's and a couple of live tracks that we had.

Meister: I noticed that one of the songs on there, Downtown Mama is pretty much Down ‘n’ Dirty from the first CD?

Ron: Yeah, That was the original lyrics and John Kalodner made me re-write the lyrics, he didn't like ‘em.

Meister: So you didn't change them on your own, you were forced to?

Ron: Yeah, that was the label, basically John didn't think that the words were good enough, so I'm like whatever man I’ll write some more words then.  That was the original demo that we did with Randy Bachman.  Me and Randy wrote the song, Randy Bachman from BTO, so we just kinda pounded it out in like two days and that was the demo that we did up at the publishing company’s studio.  And John  Kalodner didn't like the words so we had to do a re-write and we thought it would be kind of interesting to release the original, so….

Meister: What do you think is your favourite Little Caesar recording?

Ron: Oh boy, that’s really hard, um, that’s really hard.  I like Midtown a lot, I like Wish It Would Rain a lot from the older stuff.  I like some stuff off the new….you know, it kinda like changes all the time.  The songs will end up meaning different things, different memories, there’s different….you know, we start playing them live and it reminds me of different things, so it’s kinda like trying to pick your favourite kid.

Meister: What about the new song American Dream.  I've seen the video and the lyrics to it, have you had any flack over the lyrics or video?

Ron: You know, it’s interesting, the way that that came about, I was just getting frustrated with the whole political bullshit here in the United States and the crazy partisan shit between the conservatives and the liberals and it‘s just getting completely out of control.  So it was the first time that we tried to write something that was a bit more socially and politically relevant and then when we wanted to shoot our video, I just typed in "American Dream" into Google and went through the images and I just went 30, 40, 50 pages deep into a search and whatever images and whatever videos came up from you tube, so we let Google determine what American Dream was, it was just a compilation of all that imagery. 

Ron: And it’s really interesting because the feedback that we got, pointed out to me that music and videos were pretty much a mirror, you know, you look into it you get......each listener gets out of it what they relate to it.  It says more about you the listener than it does me the writer, because how you relate to it, what you think it means is like a big Rorschach test.  And so I had a lot of conservative people that loved it, I had a lot of liberal people that loved it and I only got one email from some guy that says he couldn't support the band because of our political views.  So I wrote back and I said, well what do you think our political views are?  And he never wrote me back, I'm like this is interesting, you tell me what it is, ‘cause all it is is just images, so what is it that he thinks our message is?

Meister: He never responded, eh, so it couldn't have been that big a deal to him I guess.

Ron: Yeah, well he also said that I probably wouldn't respond because most bands don’t give a shit about what their fans think, and hey man, I do.  I've got really conservative fans, I've got really liberal fans and you know, you have no idea what my political meanings are, I mean all I did was show the reality of what’s happening in America.  Our arrogance, our pride, our worship of guns, our worship of money, our worship of pussy….

Meister: Things that could be said about many countries, right?

Ron: Yeah, basically it’s just the human element, people trying to leverage those historical occurrences for their own political or sociological agendas, that’s all it was about, you know.  Racism did exist, we do have a black president, what does it mean to you?  Do you think I support racism, do you think I support equality? Because I showed both images, what does that mean to you?

Meister: Some people only see what they want to see.

Ron: What does the fact that we worship cars and money and women and food and the fact that 9/11 occurred, the fact that people are saying we deserved it, there’s people saying the opposite that this is why we've got to go over there and kill Islamists.  Where do you stand? What do these things mean to you? That’s what it should be about.  You defining your stance and sticking to it and not just being apathetic.  That was the whole point of that, but yeah, it took people by surprise.  They always thought our next video would be about girls and cars.

Meister: It’s not the first time that you guys have hit on some touchy subject matter.

Ron: But this is more on a political level, definitely the most politically minded thing we've ever done.

Meister: Certainly a little bit different from things like Drive It Home with the double entendre lyrics

Ron: That’s the song I always bring up.  The typical double entendre rock song.

Meister: And Slow Ride is the same thing.

Ron: Exactly. You know, which is funny, a lot of people are always wondering, I'm into bands like AC/DC and as simple as they are, they’re very clever.  And Aerosmith and a lot of bands that understand the double entendre that was used back in the sixties.  You couldn't sing about sex, you couldn't sing about drugs, so they came up with euphanisms and double entendres to elude to those things, you know, suck on my big ten inch record and jelly roll and you know, custard pie and all these double entendres about sex and drugs could sing and then the bands later in the 70’s and 80’s that used the double entendres in old blues songs and so, I was always poking fun at that kind of stuff to show that we don’t take ourselves to seriously.  Some people took all that stuff seriously, and it’s like, wow dude, like AC/DC she had the body of venus with arms, brilliant, you know.

Meister: But for sure there’s always gonna be someone who takes it a different way and you've offended them somehow.

Ron: Yeah, you know, we used to get that a lot from women writers.  They’d be like "are you very sexist"?  We’re like, "nooooo, you've got to look at the humour in it.  You've got to look at the ridiculousness of it….."

Meister: I wanted to ask you as well about The Blue Eyed Devils?

Ron: Yeah, we have our premiere show tonight!  I'm really excited.  Basically it’s just Bruce Witkin, who produced the last Little Caesar record and who’s a monster bass player and one of the other guys that works at our label, Joey Malone, he’s a killer guitar player.  And they actually grew up…..and they were in bands with Johnny Depp and they’re good friends with him, cause Johnny was a musician and they all came from Florida and they all came up to L.A. together from Florida.  And Rob Quinell, who’s a monster drummer, he’s played in some really big bands and we all just love soul and R&B music, so it’s basically just cover tunes of Sly & The Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, you know, on and on and on, The Four Tops, Temptations.  Just a really great band and we got some of the Tower Power horn guys to come in and lay some tracks down and we play along with the percussion and the horn parts.  It’s a labour of love of just some killer musicians playing killer songs and I get to be that black guy in 1968 in a shiny suit that I've always wanted to be.

Meister: And you said that your premiere show for that band is tonight?

Ron: Yeah, tonight down in Venice down by the ocean in this cool little club.

Meister: Has there been a good reaction to it so far, like a lot of people are interested?

Ron: A lot of people are interested, yeah, there’s a lot of people from around L.A. who know my background and just know how much of a love…you know, with Chain of Fools and Wish It Would Rain, that’s the music that I grew up on, the music that inspired rock and roll.  I mean The Rolling Stones and Bad Company, they’re all trying to be black guys, that’s what they’re trying to do, trying to emulate the soul of that with the power of guitars and the aggression of youthful angst.  To me that’s where all this music originates from, it’s soul based, gospel based, blues based music, so any chance that I get to go back to some of the best written songs, written by some of the greatest song writers, sung by the greatest singers, played by the greatest players of all time.  For me to find other guys who have this similar passion for it and who are good enough musicians who understand the nuances of it, um, it’s just so great to find a whole bunch of guys, just smokin’, just so in the pocket..  It’s so dynamic for me, I get to sing all that stuff that just totally moves me.  It’s really exciting, you know, so there’s a bunch of people coming down, it’s just a small little club, maybe holds 500 people, there’s really been a good response, so we’ll see.

Meister: Do you have more shows planned or is it just a one-off deal or see how it goes?

Ron: Yeah, we’re really excited about it, I mean we’re  having such a good time that I'm hoping that we’ll lay some stuff down………great little recording studio up at Bruce’s (Witkin) house, where we did the Caesar record so I'm sure one day we’ll set up microphones and start recording things.

Meister: Nice, nice, I’d love to hear it, but I don’t think I'm making my way to California any time soon.

Ron: Well, I’m hoping to get a video tonight and I'm hoping that the audio is good enough and I’ll post a whole bunch of it up on you-tube.

Meister: That would be awesome!  I’ll check it out for sure, just let me know when it’s posted.

Ron: For sure

Meister: I won’t take up too much more of your time.  Is there anything else that you would like to mention to our readers or let them know?

Ron: No, no, just thanks.  Thanks for having enough interest to keep paying attention so that we get to keep doing this.  That’s really all it is, man, we’re just a bunch of guys who love each other and love music and we’re just so blessed and grateful that we still get to do it and enough people care about it that we still get to make some records and go out and do some shows and nowadays that’s really hard for people to do so I'm glad that there’s enough people who have paid attention over the years.

Meister: We for one, I'm glad that you’re still doing it.

Ron: My pleasure.

Meister: Good luck with the Blue Eyed Devils tonight and thanks for talking with me.

Ron: Hey, thank-you.

To get your Knuckle Sandwich, click this link:
For all other Caesar related info visit:
Or follow them on facebook:
This scene from Terminator 2 features Ron Young getting thrown out of a bar by Arnold Schwarzenegger after he breaks a pool cue over the back of Arnold's head:

The Meister

Episode 61 - Toby Wright


Sometimes, things are better the second time around. Such was the case in the circumstances that led up to the making of this episode.

Multi-platinum, award-winning producer/engineer Toby Wright has worked on so many amazing landmark rock and metal albums that a cursory glance of his discography is staggering. For Chris & Aaron, Toby literally helped build the soundtrack of their lives. So, it was no surprise that upon learning about his move to Nashville in 2011 that he was added to the Decibel Geek interview wish list. We're very proud this week to present to you our in-depth and engaging conversation with Toby Wright that touches on many notable albums from throughout his career. What you are hearing today is take 2. The reason for this is explained the  opening of the show. After everything we went through to bring this episode to you, we think you'll agree that Toby Wright is truly a great sport when it comes to being interviewed.

Jar of Flies, the acoustic-based 1994 EP from Alice in Chains, was a pivotal release for the "Grunge" era as it proved that there was more to this new genre from the Pacific Northwest than overdriven, sludgy guitars and doom & gloom vocals. Toby Wright's involvement in this album, as well as its creation, was a very organic thing. In this discussion you will hear Toby's memories of how all parties involved went from zero preparation to writing, producing, and mixing a full EP in just 10 days. Jar of Flies has since gone on to sell over 4 million copies and remains one of the most relevant releases of the early 1990's.

While not all of our listeners prefer the mid to late 1990's genre loosely known as nu-metal, there's no denying its impact on the ever-shifting tides of what's popular in the musical world. Toby Wright was right in the middle of this, love-it-or-hate-it, groundbreaking new style with his work with bands like Sevendust (Home, 1999) and Korn on their massively successful 1998 release Follow the Leader. Wright remembers being aware of what he wanted to do with Korn's sound right away. "Personally, I thought that the sound was a little sloppy. I was looking to make it bigger and fatter." Raising Korn's production level with a thicker, deeper sound, Wright's work paid huge dividends and Follow the Leader caused Korn to explode in popularity as it has gone on to sell over 14 millions copies.

Some projects that Toby Wright was involved in have had some controversy from fan circles over the years and in this long-form discussion, you will get his take on some long-running rumors and speculation.

In 2005, Ozzy Osbourne's camp released the Prince of Darkness box set. This package was intended to be all-encompassing of Osbourne's career and included studio tracks, live tracks, b-sides, demos, duets, and cover songs. Toby Wright was brought in to produce the new material for the box set. In this discussion, Wright remembers back on Ozzy's displeasure over the speed at which the basic tracks were prepared and the encounter with Sharon Osbourne that led to his dismissal from the project.

Slayer's 1994 Divine Intervention album is discussed in this interview with Wright reflecting on Tom Araya's thought process in the lyrical composition as well as the painstaking process of mixing the album numerous times to make Slayer and American Records owner Rick Rubin happy.

One longstanding question among Metallica fans is in regards to the bass sound, or absence thereof, on the ...And Justice for All album in 1988. Rumors have abounded over the years that then-new bass player Jason Newsted was enduring a rough hazing by guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich as the reason for the burying of Newsted's bass tracks. Toby sets the record straight on this rumor and also looks back on the grueling hours spent as an engineer on this album perfecting Ulrich's drum parts; "We actually walked out of the studio with about 45 seconds worth of recorded music per day. 6 months to do drums, my friend."

We finish things off with a heavy discussion of two KISS albums that Wright was involved in; the polarizing Crazy Nights (as an engineer) and Carnival of Sous (as producer).

Crazy Nights, released in 1987, seemed to be the apex of Paul Stanley and co. chasing trends. Featuring pop-friendly hooks and over-the-top guitar acrobatics from lead guitarist Bruce Kulick, Crazy Nights was a bold attempt to take KISS back to the forefront of the musical mainstream. With slick production, catchy songwriting, and top-notch production courtesy of Wright's engineering and Ron Nevison's production; the album had all of the ingredients needed to be a hit. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be as KISS had a hard time shaking their previous reputation as an old arena act and longtime fans of the band were turned off by the slick sound of the album. In this interview, Wright recalls his time working on the album, his history with Ron Nevison (over 25 albums together) and fondly remembers his brief time working with the late Eric Carr; "He was just an amazing dude. I remember laughing quite hard in the studio a few times."

Finishing off the interview is an in-depth discussion of the 1997-released (but 1995-recorded) Carnival of Souls album. This album will always be somewhat of an anomaly in the KISS canon due to the circumstances in which it was made. Recorded as the follow-up to the critically successful Revenge album from 1992, Carnival of Souls featured KISS going a much darker route. In this conversation, Toby Wright shares his memories of making this album, its material, his take on the fans' opinions of it as well as Paul Stanley's not-so-kind words on it. Wright was also present in the studio the day that the final offer for KISS to reunite came through and shares his memory of Gene Simmons breaking the news to Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Singer and their reactions.

Before we go, we get a quick take on Toby Wright's attitudes and opinions about the music industry today, what he thinks of the do-it-yourself state of recording, what he looks for in a band, and details about current and future projects.

Keep up with Toby at

There's so many more questions that we have for Toby Wright and hope to have in on for a second interview in the future as we really enjoying speaking with him. We hope you enjoy listening. Rock on and......

Buy Music!

Alice in Chains
Ozzy Osbourne
Hip Kitty

Contact Us!

Rate, Review, and Subscribe in iTunes
Join the Fan Page
Follow on Twitter
Comment Below

Direct Download

Steven Adler is Back From The Dead! - Interview

Adler - Back From The Dead

This album could very well go down as the biggest surprise of 2012. Adler, the band featuring it's namesake drummer - Steven Adler, Guitarist - Lonny Paul, Singer/Guitar - Jacob Bunton and Bassist - Johnny Martin have unleashed "Back From The Dead" a straight up, no nonsense rock and roll record that in this writers' opinion kicks some major ass! This album takes listeners on a ride through eleven great songs each with it's own story. Lyrically it digs heavily into addiction (something Steven has always been forthcoming with) and the band delivers some killer groves and some very tasty guitar work. A couple of special guests drop by with John 5 (Marlyn Manson/White Zombie) adding some guitar on Good To Be Bad and good friend Slash stepping up on "Just Don't Ask".
When it comes down to it, this album makes you move. I almost challenge you to listen to it without reaching for the air guitar or banging your head, damn near impossible, and that alone is the measure of a great rock record. Interesting to point out that over 25 years ago, a band out of LA put out a great, raw, in your face rock and roll record that went on to turn the world upside down. That album also featured Mr. Steven Adler on the drums. Now I am not here to compare albums but I will say that "Back From The Dead" will take a prominent place in my music collection, unlike a certain dust collecting snoozefest "Chinese Democracy" CD that I purchased a few years ago. Do yourself a favour and check out ADLER, and grab yourself an air guitar cause this thing rocks!


When I found out that I was going to be interviewing one Mr. Steven Adler, I have to say I was a little bit taken aback. This was Steven "Fucking" Adler! This was the drummer that was pounding the skins for Appetite for Destruction, quite possibly the greatest hard rock record of all time. Who can forget the opening beats to "Paradise City", this album was as close to perfect as you'll ever get.

Guns and Roses were a big part of the soundtrack of my youth. I embraced this new band way before they exploded into the mainstream and watched them self destruct slowly but surely. Steven's ousting from the band being the first wheel to come off the machine and truly the band was never the same. The magic of Appetite for Destruction and those five guys was over, Guns and Roses from that moment on was quite simply, broken.

All live shots courtesy of Bill Cairns

To me Steven always seemed to be the happy guy in the band, he is perpetually smiling in every photo I see. I always loved that about him. After interviewing him, I reflected on a guy who seems so truly thankful to be alive and have a second chance to go out and rock for the world. Personally I am rooting for him and can't wait for the chance to see this band live! Remember Toronto Steven!

Steven: Hey Wallyworld! Norton it's Steven and Lonny our guitar player is here too, how are you?

DBG: (laughing) I am doing great!

Steven: Well thank you so much for giving us this time.

DBG: Oh my, this is my pleasure. We do this because we are fans first and foremost, this is indeed a thrill for me. I have been a Guns and Roses fan since your music was first played here in Canada. Music is my passion so this is truly a blast.

Steven: Excellent dude, I love how you say it's your passion, there's nothing that's more of a buzz than doing something that you love.

DBG: Alright then, I guess we will just jump right in.

Steven: Let's jump baby! (laughing)

DBG: So it seems you are back, Back From The Dead you might say, tell us about this new band?

Steven: It feels good coming back,  the second time around. No forget good, it feels great! You know my favourite thing has always been to be part of a team and it really feels good to have that again. Having great team mates, all with the same goal to be the best band we can be, you know? Our new record was so much fun and exciting to do, we are all hoping that everyone who hears it will hear the excitement and passion.

DBG: When I first sat down to listen to the album, I wasn't sure quite what to expect but when it kicked in I was smiling ear to ear. This is one hell of a rock n roll record

Steven: Thank you brother, you know that's a musicians dream to be able to write music that people enjoy and get off on. So dreams are coming true then, and it's only the first day!

DBG: One thing I noticed as I was listening to it was the lyrical content and a lot of the songs really focusing on addiction. My Own Worst Enemy, Habit, are these as more "personal" stories to you than just rock songs?

Steven: Oh it's all personal stories and not just mine, all of our stories come through on the album Lonny and Jacob and Johnny, these songs are all our lives you know?, Lonny and Jacob are the true masterminds, I am able to write off them but they are such musicians and I provide plenty of great stories. I am so thankful for them, I want you to chat with Lonny for a moment.

Lonny: How you doing Wally?

DBG: I am doing great. I have to say that there is some killer guitar on the new album.

Lonny: Thank you so much.

DBG: Going back to Steven's sobriety battles, they were certainly public and in fact played out on television, was wondering how things were going for you now.

Lonny: Steven just went to the other room to grab something but I can tell you that Steven and I work out every morning, he is clean and sober and couldn't be happier.

DBG: Two albums released this year that production wise really sound incredible is the new T&N album "Slave to the Empire" and this new Adler record, how did you guys to get to work with Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner) as your producer on this?

Lonny: He is an amazing producer. I was actually at a Christmas party with him last year and as I was leaving, I gave him a hug goodbye and said "Oh by the way Steven and I are putting this project together and we were wondering if you'd like to maybe play bass on a couple of tracks". Well one thing led to another and not only did he end up playing bass on all the tracks but he ended up producing it too.

DBG: One of the songs that really jumped out at me was "Your Diamonds", really a beautifully melodic song. What inspired that track?

Lonny: Well towards the end of the record, Steven called up Jacob and said I really want a Journey type sounding song on the album. The very next day Jacob comes in with "Your Diamonds" and it kicked ass.

DBG: So you unveiled the new band live in a rather interesting way, out at sea with the Kiss Army. How was the Kiss Kruise?

Lonny: It was the perfect way to introduce the band. The weather was fantastic, we all had balconies in our room and we got to sleep to the sounds of the ocean, it was beautiful. The response was fantastic and we all got to see KISS perform

DBG: I love how the album kind of flows through almost like a concept album in a way. Was this intended

Steven: We went in with the goal, we worked with Jeff Pilson who played bass on the whole record and a big part of it. This record really came together because of Jeff but we wanted to do a concept record. We felt that we haven't heard a record in 20 years where the songs told good, cool, interesting stories.

DBG: Well that's exactly what I felt about Appetite back in the day. Not so much that is was a concept record but it was 12 great songs and I feel that way about this new record.

Steven: Excellent, well I had a big part of Appetite of Destruction and I took that same mentality that we had then which came naturally and brought it into this. I don't think there's a band that has been in the recording studio and are giving each other high fives and having so much fun as we did. And the songs Jeff would say "OK, roll it" and I would count it off "1, 2, 3,..5!" and that's what your hearing on the record just like we did with Appetite, it's live. I would love to see anybody take a metronome and try to play these songs, won't happen because it's natural rock n roll just like on Appetite.

John 5 recorded "Welcome to the Jungle" on one of his records and I said, "how did you record that?, we never used a metronome on Appetite, it was all by feel" and he looked at me and said "I KNOW!" (laughing) It's just live Rock n Roll, I think the world needs a new rock n roll band and some new rock super heroes and we are just the band to provide that.

DBG: I remember reading your book and one story jumped out at me that I am sure the Decibel Geeks might enjoy. That was the story of the first concert you ever went to.

Steven: My first concert I ever went to was KISS at Magic Mountain when they were filming The Phantom of the Park. It was amazing, my cousin Karen won tickets from 93 KHA and you know before that concert I wanted to be a professional football player. I went to that concert and Gene Simmons came up and sat on one of the PA monitors right in front of me and he looked like he was 40 feet tall and I said right there, "that's what I want to do". Funny all these years later I get to play with him (Gene) on a cruise. (laughing)

DBG: So what's next for the band? The album is out, what is the next plan?

Steven: Our bags are packed and we are just ready for it to pick us up. We want to get out there and play our songs for the world, for the whole universe!

DBG: Now I did hear something about some shows with you and Duff's band.

Steven: YEAH! I think in March we will be playing some shows together in Japan. We are very excited about that. I had called up Duff to ask him some advice on something and he said "Why don't you and your wife come have dinner with my wife and I"?  So we went for dinner, I didn't make a spectacle of myself (laughing) and he enjoyed spending time with us. So he said, "why don't we play some shows together?" I was ecstatic and Snake (Dave Szabo) from Skid Row manages Duff and he put it together. Obviously in God's will and we couldn't be happier that it all came together.

DBG: Ok I know the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame questions have all been asked but I have one question for you. When Green Day brought you guys onstage, Duff went to the microphone first. Meanwhile you and Slash were having a conversation behind him. Would you let us in on that conversation?

Steven: Yeah, I said "Dude do you remember when we first started playing together and when we met and look how far we got. We achieved our goals, our dream came true". "And I just wish those two other assholes would have been with us." That's what we were saying and we said we loved each other and how great this whole thing was (laughing).

DBG: Before I get to my last question, was there anything else you would like to ad?

Steven: Well everyone can check out our stuff on and a huge thank you for all the people, for all the love and support over the years. I can't wait to perform and meet everyone.

DBG: Ok what is the one song that you wish you wrote?

Steven: hmmmm? well I helped write Welcome to the Jungle, and I helped write Sweet Child of Mine, so I will have to say "We Will Rock You" by Queen or maybe "YMCA" by the Village People. (laughing)

Blogger Template by Clairvo