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Ned Evett

Posted February, 2012

nedevett2Photo by Gregg RothIt’s pretty safe to say that anyone reading this right now knows someone who has been devastated by this meat grinder of an economy.  You may have been directly impacted by it yourself.  I know that I certainly have.

Fortunately, compared to many people I know and know about, I was only lightly affected.  I know of bankruptcies and divorces. I know of PhD’s having to get jobs at Home Depot in order to survive.  I’ve seen former managers in the high tech field wait tables in restaurants and think, “There but by the grace of God . . .” knowing that the person I saw didn’t deserve their lot in life. It just happened.

With that as an emotional backdrop, last month I reviewed an album (here) that resonated with me on so many levels. The album, Treehouse, is the latest album by singer, songwriter and fretless guitar hero, Ned Evett, and was written with huge chunks of his soul oozing from every note played and sung.  As I wrote in my review of Treehouse, “Ned pours out his tale of emotional, vocational, financial and marital devastation in this 14 song autobiographical CD”.

I knew when I listened to it that I had to talk with this man. Contacts were made and a phone interview arranged with the man behind those heart-rending songs.  Ned called me from his home in Nashville, Tennessee (aka, “the throne of God” – at least in the Patterson household it is).  As me made introductory small talk, I asked him what brought him to Nashville.

“When I moved here a year ago, I got a place out by Adrian Belew’s studio because of the record. The record took nine days to record but it really took a couple of months to get everything done.  I did demos and I wanted to be able to spend some time with Adrian prior to going into the studio. That’s one of the reasons I moved to Nashville.

“I really studied the music scene here to try and see where I fit on a performance level. There’s everything here – from the Ryman clear on down to The Family Wash in East Nashville.  The scenes are all pretty different – the real commercial country stuff - which isn’t my bag. Then you have the alternative country thing but it’s totally my bag. And, then, you have experimental guys like Reeves Gabrels who lives here. So does Adrian Belew, as you know, as well as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones – it’s very diverse.”

His comments sparked an unplanned question in my mind. Nashville has the reputation among some in the music business – though the town is incredibly friendly – that it can be a bit tough to “fit in” – that, musically, it can be a bit cliquish.  I’m not a musician nor do I live there (unfortunately) so I have no idea if that rap is earned or not.  So, I asked Ned what his perception of the town was in that regard.

“I have not had a problem.  Like you said, people are very friendly- it’s part of the culture and that’s nice. On a musical level, I’ve found people to be very welcoming. It’s been pretty positive for me. I don’t know why that is. I mean, I’m certainly an outsider musically.  I mean, I play a strange guitar in a strange manner but I’m from here so I had reasons beyond the music business for moving here – just exploring and catching up with my roots. That helps.  Perhaps if I had moved here exclusively just to try to become a Nashville star or something, then I might have a different opinion of it.”

We veered off with small talk about Dallas area venues – especially the beautiful and historic Granada Theater where Evett has played before. Ned shared that “it was great!  I played there about a year ago. It was the first gig that I had been at – we were the support act for Joe Satriani and it was the first gig where people were actually hollering for us before we went on. People were, like, ‘Ned Triple Double! Ned Triple Double!’ (Triple Double being the name of Evett’s band).  That was really cool. It was a great night.

“Interestingly enough, the gig before that was the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. We had two days to make the drive to Dallas. That’s a pretty healthy drive.  Our van – which was a nice rig – broke down in New Mexico. We had to get it towed 200 miles. We had to rent another van. We literally pulled up into Dallas a half hour before we were to go on.  Every available second went into getting to that show.”

Though I usually ask about tour plans later in an interview, since we were talking about the Granada Theater, I went ahead and asked if there were any tour plans in support of Treehouse.

“Tour plans.  I don’t really have any tour plans, as such, to discuss yet. It’s still kind of early in the process. I don’t really have anything lined up. I love Texas, though. I love Austin. We played Houston at the House of Blues.  Stephen Robinson – who’s an astronaut – is a friend of mine and he gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the NASA Space Center – the whole band.  That was killer!  I can’t wait to come back to Texas.  Also, my manager is from Texas – League City. So, yeah, I really enjoy Texas.”

 When you get your copy of Treehouse (and for the life of me, I don’t know why you don’t already have it), you’ll notice on the cover of the enclosed booklet a picture of the most amazing tree house you’ve ever seen.  That tree house is the famous creation of one Horace Burgess in Crossville, Tennessee, and it will blow your mind.

While I am obviously very impressed with that amazing creation, I asked Ned the obvious question: Why the “Treehouse” theme?  I really wanted to know what the significance of a tree house was to him and the theme of the album.

“There’s a literal connection. Starting in 2009 I lived in a two bedroom apartment that was surrounded by 100 year old oak trees in Boise, Idaho. It was like living in a forest canopy at night when I opened up the windows and there would be squirrels chasing each other. It was tucked way off of Main Street and over a market. At night, the market closed and the traffic would die down and the sounds of the canopy would take over. I would just lie there, listening to that, dealing with a lot of stuff, obviously.

 “That apartment, for me, became my first independently operated space following living with someone for 20 years. It had all my things in it - all my guitars. I rekindled my sculpting – my visual art, as well. For the first time, I combined something that I never felt there was a place for it before in my life.

“So, the ‘treehouse’ was a combination of my artistic stuff and my music.  It always felt very tenuous in some ways but very alive. An actual tree house is that way, too. It’s attached to a living thing and that thing is always growing and, ultimately, that structure can’t last. It comes down when the tree dies or before. I liked the metaphor of the tree house – of impermanence.

“Prior to my period in ‘the tree house’ I had lost my job. I was able, briefly, as a contractor, to resuscitate and cobble together an income but it didn’t last. I was torpedoed a second time, and lost the tree house apartment. For a period of 5 months I was without a permanent address. I lived in my car for a couple of weeks, couch surfed. Then I was able to find a place to stay – I did a house-sitting gig for a while. I had a world tour with Joe Satriani lined up that took almost four months to complete. I had that on the calendar and I knew it was coming up so I basically sold all my possessions and put all of the things that I wanted to hold onto in storage. In October of that year (2010), I hit the road with him.

“When I came off the road, I lived in a hotel and then moved to Nashville on Valentine’s Day last year, came to Nashville, started to work with Adrian, recorded Treehouse and I’m still kind of catching up.”

In sharing common stories between us as to how life’s trials impacted us and our view of the world, Ned shared, “It’s actually very strange going through it. I went through a divorce after losing my job and divorce bestows a certain amount of surrender. I wound up surrendering in a way that a lot of people do. You let a lot of stuff slide and, coupled without having any sort of income it was pretty much it for me.

“People stepped in when they could. They helped out. There were situations where friends – as well intentioned as they were – what can they do? They can give encouragement but this recession was large enough that it really dwarfs people’s abilities to really help out.”

When artists create from their sense of trial and need, they often say that the process is – to use a word that is often overused - cathartic for them. I wondered if that was the case with Evett. He paused as he digested the question before very slowly and deliberately answering it.

“Yes, I definitely process emotion into my songwriting. I’ve been writing songs for a long time and that was not always the case. But, at some point, it became – with another overused phrase – a free source of therapy – and very healing. Once you tap into that, if you need that, it’s there for you – like a good friend.  But, then, on Treehouse, Mars River Delta 2128 is certainly not a process of anything I went through.

“So, songwriting is very broad and can be so expansive. You can write about anything. The sky’s the limit. But, then, sometimes, at the end of the day, writing what’s in your heart and what you’re going through is what gets done. On Treehouse, I certainly wrote about a lot of stuff.”

I asked Ned a question that I recently asked Mitch Ryder:  What has been the impact of this album on the relationships that the songs cover?

“The sad thing for me is a lot of people I wish would hear the record probably will never listen to it just because of having friends and falling out, things like that. That’s always hard. That’s always difficult. There’s not a lot of apologies going on in Treehouse and I’m not sure that I’ll ever get around to some of that. It’s not apologetic. I’m just chronicling my own take on it – my own emotional take.

“That being said, Just About Over This Time is told from the standpoint of the person slamming the door in your face and what they’re going through. I tell you what: If you had to have people sign a release to the songs about them, wow! I don’t think a lot of songs would ever get written.”

In my own experience, one of the results of the trials I went through was the conscious effort to relate better to everyone – my wife, my daughter, my family – to be a better friend.  I asked Ned if his experiences have had an impact on how he relates to people.

“I lived in a really small town for a long time. I moved to Idaho ten years ago to start a family, work a middle class job and pursue music and it all kind of went up in a fire when the job left. I left town when my support system collapsed. Coming here to make Treehouse took me out of that situation and has given me a lot of time to think about the damage. To be honest with you, I don’t know where a lot of that stands.

 “In a lot of ways, I’m still waiting to rebuild my life here. It’s a lot to let go of. I have family in Boise. I don’t want to just let go completely. So, how do you move on in your life and still keep hold of something that’s two thousand miles away? People move on with their lives. It’s like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – a theory of emotional relativity, almost. Generally, people that are left behind have a different sense of things than those that shoot off – that are displaced – that economic displacement. The diaspora – that experience - is different than for the people that remain.”

Lest Evett be viewed as someone who feels that he’s the only one who has, and is, experiencing this economic and emotional roller coaster, he added, “As we both know, Randy, we’re talking about millions of people who have gone through this. The scope of it is big. I guess I didn’t realize that (before). That was one of my issues back in my scenario.”

Then, sharing more details about his own personal job loss, Ned said, “Most of the people I knew were unaffected by the economic downturn. They all had jobs. They were the ones that were selected to stay and I was not. I ran a commercial recording studio and I did commercial music and voice-over recording. It was a great gig.  I had started with this company and it had grown. I had been there for almost ten years.

“Their core customers just stopped spending money. HP and Intel, companies like that all stopped spending money for a long time and affected a lot of people – not just me, of course. But I had bought into ‘this company is family and we’ll all hunker down’ and I had started to hunker down with everybody else. And, then, when you’re laid off while you’re trying to marshal your resources to push the company forward, it’s very difficult.

“I had pursued my music career on the side for a long time. In a lot of ways, it was a compliment to my ‘day job’ – as part of the culture of the company.  I’m definitely a ‘fly-below-the-radar’ type of individual and I don’t ostentatiously shake my accomplishments in people’s faces but I had accomplished some things that were huge – that even the HP engineers and executives in Idaho were aware of.  I had been on PBS television in 2004, so I was on national television and getting some praise. I always tried to keep that separate from my day gig and the company itself started to embrace that and celebrating my work/life balance. That felt really good. I was reluctant to combine those things so, when I was laid off, it was really, really difficult and I lost a lot.

“It really sucks when you feel that you’re not one of those resources that people need to in order to move forward. Plus, when they laid me off, they actually told everyone in the company – and it’s a large company of 300 employees –that I had quit – that I had voluntarily left. This was made known to me months later. I had noticed a distance in people – being very confused as to why I was leaving. It baffled me because I had worked with these people, in some cases, eight years or so.  Finally, one of them said, ‘Why did you leave without saying goodbye?’ and I said that I was let go. I was let go the day before Thanksgiving and was out the door.

“They promised me contract work to kind of placate me. But, overall, I felt thrown out. Maybe they didn’t want to leave the impression that they were laying people off yet.  I was one of the first people laid off. Later, they (the layoffs) came fast and they came deep. To go from being embraced and being part of the culture, which I did not want to do but eventually succumbed to, to go from that to being laid off, it’s hard.

The comment was made that we can’t let life’s events be poison in our lives.  To that point, Ned added, “Honestly, the ‘poison’ kept me going for a long time. I’m coming to the end of it now. I can’t sustain it and, when I go back to draw upon it for some kind of strength or direction, I realize the futility of it.  Fortunately, I have other things in my life that are much more positiveI have a very monastic, artistic kind of life. I’m staring at my guitars and my art work. I’m making a video right now for Bend Me off of Treehouse – I’m a stop sculptor/animator, as well. I built all of the characters out of clay.  That’s all great.

“My timeline is moving forward. I can feel that and I’m thankful for that. I have some great people looking out for me like my manager, Sandra Prow, for one, who lives in London and Chris Kelly from Peavey, who lives in Austin; Carol Kaye, who’s Jeff Beck’s publicist in New York City and has been handling the record part quite well. I really like her.”

Shifting our conversation to his album, I asked Evett if he were to point to just one tune on Treehouse that he would want people to listen to, which one would it be?

“It’s funny, midway through the record, you have Bend Me and Bend Me is very positive. It’s at that point where you have the information and you’re willing to accept people telling you that it’s going to be okay. I think, in this world, that’s probably a very important point to reach. It’s like, ‘okay, I can’t just crater for the rest of my life.’  Most of us have individuals, friends and family that say that you’ve got to get yourself together. Bend Me is about that experience. It’s about going ‘Okay! Alright! I’ll listen to you and I’ll find that change within myself. I’m ready.’

Evett bringing up Bend Me provided me the perfect segue to ask him about a couple of other tunes that are on Treehouse. I first asked him what the back-story is on Nightmare and a Dream Come True.

“Nightmare and a Dream Come True is about when you live alone – particularly your first time out on your own – living alone for the first time in 20 years. You have a lot of dark nights of the soul because you don’t realize the comfort just being with somebody brings.

“I guess Nightmare is also about new people in your life, helping you through important things but you’re not sure yet who they are. It can vacillate between being very positive in your life and being very negative. Sometimes, when you’re estranged from your friends and your family, there’s a big vacuum and you tend to gravitate towards people you don’t know that well. They may be going through the same things you’re going through but that can be very disorienting.”

Another great tune from the album that I wanted to know more about was Say Goodbye For Both of Us.

 “I had the chorus of the song before I had the verse. That’s sort of the nuts and bolts of the whole thing. It is autobiographical. I’m from out west. We’re all from rural America one way or another. We come from funny little towns with unpronounceable names. It’s hard to let go of people, too. In this day and age, it’s really hard to completely drop someone. They won’t stay gone. You can get rid of their cell information and stuff like that – you can lose people’s numbers on purpose but, eventually, they can track you down.

“Say Goodbye For Both of Us is also about ‘I’m going to do the right thing here and I’m going to stop contacting you and, then, you will stop contacting me and we’ll both get on with our lives’. Someone’s got to do it.”

The last tune that I asked Ned about was Why Can’t I Believe?

“Yes!  Well, this is a very honest song. Belief in yourself, for some people, it’s just their condition. They believe in themselves no matter what. On a musical level, look at American Idol, look at the singers who think that they’re the best thing ever but they’re completely horrible. There’s that personality type, in the extreme, and then there are people who are extraordinarily talented who have a hard time feeling that they are. I sort of fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum; that song is about that and about someone close to you who believes in you but you cannot let go of your own insecurity and see you the way they see you and how difficult that is.”

It’s clear that Ned Evett is listening more and more to those voices who say, “Yes, you are! Yes, you can!” and moving positively forward with his life and his career. His style, songwriting and musical mastery insure that we’ll be hearing a lot about this artist for years to come.

If you like listening to artists and songs who have lived what you have lived; experienced what you have experienced; felt the same kinds of pain that you have felt or are feeling; and who has articulated all of those feelings and experiences into great music, you will want to follow Ned Evett and purchase Treehouse. Believe me when I say that it will resonate with you.  Listen to Treehouse and you’ll be a fan for life.

Sully Erna, Lzzy Hale and Mike Mushok Mass Chaos Interview

Posted April, 2012

lzzy2Metal fans across the fruited plains are amped up over the recent announcement by Staind, Godsmack and Halestorm that they have joined forces for a tour labeled Mass Chaos 2012.  In the spirit of the band’s constant efforts to stay close to their legions of fans, the name of the tour is the result of the bands engaging the help those fans.

As the intensity of interest in the tour increased in the fan and press communities, there came with it an overwhelming number of interview requests with various members of the bands.  So much so that there management couldn’t possibly accommodate them all individually.  With the Solomon-like wisdom, they set up a conference call between various members of the rock journalist community and Mike Mushok of Staind (see the earlier Boomerocity interview with Mike here), Sully Erna of Godsmack and Lzzy Hale of Halestorm.

Because I like to think of myself as a gentleman, I’ll share with you the questions that were asked of the always beautiful Lzzy Hale.  Though she has the least seniority when it comes to the music business, she is quite comfortable with handling boneheaded journalists like me.  I was quite impressed with the ease in which she handled the questioning.

For instance, Ms. Hale was asked what is a girl to do with a male dominated band and yet another tour dominated by males.

“What's a girl to do? Well, I kind of have a different view of all of that than I think many of my female counterparts. I freaking love being a girl on an all guy bill! It's an honor to be on a bill like this. I mean, it's great. You feel like a little sister in rock almost. You've got these big brothers around you. You learn a helluva lot and you stick out like a sore thumb. I love it! I think I've always taken the positive route when it comes to being a lone woman on a tour dominated by dudes.”

When asked if she was star-struck while in the company of the choir boys from Staind and Godsmack, Lzzy was quite the skilled diplomat.

“You know, there definitely has been the occasion. I am a girl after all and being surrounded by such handsome men on nearly a daily basis, it's a great position to be in! Ha! Anyway, it's great, man. I mean, to think, I think that, again, you learn so much from all these people and the fact that both of these guys, Staind and Godsmack, have had such huge careers and have such experience on the road. 

“I think that to me I'm really looking forward to just watching and listening, and just being completely put in my place, because it seems like every time I think, ‘Well, you know what? I've got this. I'm the boss.’ And then you play a tour like this and you're like, ‘Man, I've got to practice.’

“So, I am star struck. I’m amazed every night at what there is to learn from these great bands. I've also had the amazing privilege to open for some of my classic idol such as Megadeth, Black Sabbath with Dio, Alice Cooper. And they definitely leave me speechless. I'm going to be talking with Pat Benatar soon, too. It's like, ‘Man, what do I say to these people?’ Mike and I go way back, and today, I'm talkin’ to Sully on the phone! Ha!  Hopefully, he likes me in person.”

Last year Halestorm released a CD of covers entitled ReAniMate and the question was asked if Lzzy planned on the band performing anything from the album during Mass Chaos.

“ As far as our cover EP, ReAniMate, goes . . .  we loved running the gamut and covering Beatles, Skid Row, Guns and Roses, Temple of the Dog, and Heart to Lady Gaga. They all had reasons for being chosen. The Beatles cover was the first song that the guys in my band and I ever jammed to, just to kind of feel each other out when we first met. And the Heart one was my go-to karaoke song.

“We used to crash some karaoke bars every now and then.  Now I don't voluntarily, but my guys will sometimes volunteer me and I'm like, ‘Really, guys?’ So, it was the deal, that if I did the song on the EP, they won’t make me do it twenty times at karaoke! Ha! Ha! But coming on this tour, we're probably not. We might throw in one or two depending on the show, but considering the new album is dropping, we're going to be playing most of our new stuff!”

While Lzzy was on the subject of Halestorm’s upcoming CD, Strange Case of (landing on May 1st), a few questions were thrown at her about it – starting with finding out what aspects of the new release Ms. Hale is most excited about.

“Everything! I'm so proud of this record. I mean, when we made our first record, it's our first record so we weren't really sure what we were doing and we weren't sure who would grab on to it  and who we were actually going to be singing to. So, with this record, we had just a better concept of our fans and a lot of what we did was inspired by them and the feeling that we got during our live shows.

“Also, the music is bridging the gap between what we do live and what we can do in the studio. This was lost on our last record, so for the people that are geeks about this stuff, we recorded drums to two inch tape and we hashed out most of the stuff - just the four of us sitting in a room as a band. So, it's a nice step up from the last record! There more energy and also more intimacy. You're going to be hearing and tasting a lot of different sides of Halestorm on this record. I'm excited about what people are gonna think!”

Word is around that the first song written for Strange was the tune Love Bites. The question was asked if that song set the tone for the new record.

“Well, yes, Love Bites, our newest single, yes that was the first song that we wrote and the first song that we recorded for the new record. That particular song was directly inspired by the cover Slave to the Grind by Skid Row that we put out a couple months ago. When we recorded it we discovered that, wow, we can actually do a song at this tempo. We should write one like this. So, we ended recording Love Bites (So Do I).

“You have to realize that we literally got off tour, had 24 hours to pack, and then got on a plane to L.A., were in the studio the next day recording this song. We got to record drums for it at Sunset Sound in the Van Halen room! It sounds amazing, but I don't know, it definitely set the tone for the record because we were barely off tour.  The amps were still ringing in our ears. So, there's a lot of energy that we captured while we were still kind of in that tour mode.

“So, really that one and then the first eight songs that we recorded to be considered for the record were very aggressive and probably the most aggressive that we've ever done and they're very risk heavy and I'm screaming my head off.  It's funny because then what ended up happening halfway through was I ended up writing some of the most intimate and personal songs that I've ever written, and I was like, ‘Wow! What a turn!’

“So, the finished product ended up being this record that has a very strange duality to it and showing literally all sides of myself. But, yeah, definitely Loves Bites gave us the road map for keeping that sort of live, human element throughout this record.”

And how would Lzzy describe the sound of Strange?

“Wow! Well, this new record was a lot of fun to make and it kind of came together - it's us really not boxing ourselves in. On our last record, we paid so much attention - we were trying really hard to make sure everything is consistent, that there was like, a theme. Everything was on 10. With this new one, we just kind of let it be what it was going to be. 

“It's extremely flattering that Revolver said it is the most anticipated or they consider it one of the most anticipated, because the anticipation is killing me, because I want it to be out there now! But, I mean, definitely the sound on this record is a lot more ‘human’ than the last record. I decided to be brave on this record and go to all extremes.”

Lzzy was asked if Strange contains musical leftovers from the previous album or even older tunes that were never recorded. 

“It's kind of all of the above, because it's not necessarily the same songs from anything that was considered for last record. Basically that entire time is kind of cut off and we started anew. However, there were a lot of riffs and small parts that were written around that time that we were incorporating into some of these new songs. 

“We were listening to a lot of Lamb of God at that time and my guitar player, Joe, had this amazing riff and I kind of turned to him like, ‘Do you want to do something strange?’ I wanted to kind of harness my inner James Hetfield for the bridge/breakdown, and ranted some crazy stuff over his riff.

“With Love Bites (So Do I) we're trying to do something different that would stick out and on the radio and by us playing it atsully1 that Alamo Dome show and on that tour gave us the confidence to go for it. So, you know what? We can thank you guys for enabling us to do get riskier!” 

Shifting attention to Sully Erna, he was asked for his thoughts about Staind and working with them – especially Mushok - on the Mass Chaos tour. He quickly broke the ice with his characteristic humor.

“Yeah, our paths cross way too often. I can't stand any of these guys. It hasn't been long enough.”  Then, immediately shifting into a relatively more serious mode, added, “No, it's good. Listen, we're New England brothers, man, and we've been playing together since even before we were signed. 

“I know we were on album number two . . . but, yeah, and we had a great time. It was very cool. I mean, the guys get along great and me and Mike this time did a Town Press together and we had a blast together. So, I'm just anticipating it's going to a really fun tour. I don't see any problems.” 

When asked how he shifts emotionally from one tune to the next, Sully replied, “I don't know. I haven't really thought about that. I guess it depends if I'm going from Godsmack to the solo stuff and it's a completely different world.  But within Godsmack genre, it's all kind of the same. I don't know. I mean, the band's fairly aggressive and loud and raw and so, I mean, it's pretty easy to stay there. But switching from Godsmack to the solo stuff, if that's what you mean, yeah, I need to kind of separate the two for sure, because one's very different from the other, but I need balance to both.

“So, I mean, I need to be one to be the other and so I think the stuff I do as Sully Erna is the more serene kind of humble stuff and then Godsmack is obviously for Godsmack. And so, I don't know, there's really no set preparation I do. It is what it is. I just can't blend the two together. I couldn't do a bunch of Godsmack songs and then switch right into solo stuff; it wouldn't work. But I don't, like, sit Indian style and float in the air, if that's what you mean.” 

May 15th will see the release of Godsmack’s live album, Live and Inspired, so Sully chatted up the album as well as what fans can expect from their lives shows during the Mass Chaos tour.  

“Well, we're not supporting, like, a new studio record, but . . . we're doing this live CD. I think that's what we've been known for is the live show. And so it's nice to capture that finally and put together this CD.

“It's a live record from Detroit, Rock City, that we thought it was just kind of a very exceptional show for us. We had a really good show. We were recording a lot on that tour. We actually recorded the whole tour. We were going to do a compilation, so like this song was from Vegas, a song from Chicago, some from Dallas, but I don't know, the more we looked in this Detroit show and the more, we just kind of figured out that it was just, it was a really good show for us and it's always a great audience, as any rock band will tell you, playing there. It's just a special kind of fan base that they have there. They live up to their reputation. They're a great rock audience. And so that's where the record has been recorded from.”

About the tour shows, Erna adds, “I think we just have the mentality of going out for, like, kind of the greatest hits tour out of that supporting new music. So, we're just going to put together a really fun set. Obviously we'll have the drum battle that me and Shannon do and we're just going to try to put together the best songs we can, the most energetic songs that we can, and stuff that we feel is going to be the most interactive for the audience.

“So, this is actually kind of a vacation for us a lot in the sense there's no real hard work behind prepping for a new record and all that stuff. This is kind of ‘let loose and have fun with it’.”

While talking about what Godsmack fans can expect during the Mass Chaos tour, Sully shared what it’s like working with the band’s drummer, Shannon Larkin, and what he brings to the band.

“I'm probably his biggest cheerleader. I've known Shannon since 1986, '87, somewhere around there. We met when we were both drumming in different bands and we did a bunch of shows together and probably he was the first and only guy since I've seen that made my jaw hit the floor when I watched him play. And if you've seen Shannon, you know what I mean. He's the most animated - he's just amazing. Like, to me, he's probably the showman drummer I've ever seen and watched.

“He's got a great energy about him. He's a really super great guy. He's got a great heart. He's real considerate. But on stage he's a monster; he's so not what he is offstage than what he is onstage, but he's been one of my idols and I'm really proud and grateful to have him in this band. He was my first choice and he wasn't available when I first reached out to him when I started the band, and then years later when we decided to let go of our drummer (Tommy Stewart), I reached out to him just one more time, and he had just happened to leave his band and he was going to give it up. I mean, he was pretty much hanging it up. Shannon's a great guy, man. He's a great drummer and, I don't know, I can't say enough about him.”

Before Mike Mushok joins the conversation, Sully’s asked when a new Godsmack studio album will be coming out.

“We're hoping for 2013. We just started listening to some ideas. It's very, very, very early in that stage, so we're not sure yet, but we are going to shoot for 2013 sometime.”

Mushok and Erna were asked if a tour such as the Mass Chaos tour is an economic necessity in order to survive.  Mike responded first by saying, “I mean, my opinion of it is it's something we've always tried to do. I know whenever we try to put through - we basically put through the best package we can. And I think in this economy it's tough for people to have extra money to be able to go to a show. It's kind of like a little bit of a luxury. So, I mean, the more bang for the buck you can give them, I think the more likely chance you have of getting people there and, hopefully, give them the most value for the dollars. So, that was really the idea for us and we had this record and we were looking to who we could play with and Godsmack was like, ‘That would be fantastic if those guys wanted to do it.’ So, we went and put it together.”

Sully injected, “Yeah. You know what? It's really not that different than how it used to be back in the day anyways. I mean, there was always at least two strong bands that went out and obviously a third or a fourth, even back in the '80's when it was Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe or whatever. So I don't think this is really that uncommon. I think that question is maybe more geared towards festivals where it takes seven, eight bands to fill up an amphitheater or whatever.”

When you put monster talent together like is being done for this tour, it’s not unusual for there to be hard-fought battles as to opens and closes the shows let alone any on-stage collaboration. Both men address both of these very forthrightly and their comments betray the true collaborative spirit that is the foundation of this tour.

Mike comments first by saying, “I mean there was talk about swapping back and forth, but I have no problem with Godsmack closing the show at the end of the night. I think, like you said, Sully, you guys do your drum thing and we kind of just go out there and play our songs. So, we'll play the same amount of time, the same productions, so as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't really matter to me. So, and I'd love to do a collaboration thing.”

Sully adds, “Yeah. I'm the same, man. I feel like either band could close. I mean, both bands are strong; all three bands are strong. The whole line-up is great. Any single one of these bands could go on first, second, or third; it wouldn't matter. I mean, the whole package is really strong and I'm really excited about it.

“As far as collaborating, me and Mike have spoken about it. We're going to try to figure out a handful of songs that a bunch of us could jump up and just have some fun with a band of the night, which we're all about. And so we don't know what those are yet, but we're definitely going to consider it and we're going to try to put something together that just tops the night off and becomes fun for everybody.”

Both Staind and Godsmack were formed in 1995. When Mike and Sully were asked what they think are the reasons for such longevity in such a brutal and fickle business, Sully deferred to Mike to provide the answer.

“You know, look, honestly I think that we, and obviously I think Godsmack is going to make this a great tour, Sully and Halestorm, too. I know you guys have some great fans. But, I mean, look, obviously I think all three of us know that if it wasn't for the fans, we wouldn't be here. They allow us to do this. Those are the ones that buy a ticket, come to the show, support the bands, and, I mean, that's why we're still around obviously. We do our best to write the best music we can. I know Lzzy and Sully do also and you try to put out the best product that you can and you hope that people like it and want to listen to it and be a part of it. So, we've been fortunate so far and, hopefully, we can continue.”

Mushok was asked his thoughts about playing with Godsmack.  His answer reflected what are obviously pleasant memories and a long held respect for Sully and the boys that dates back to the late 90’s.

“I remember hearing those guys locally on the radio. We were trying to get our stuff played, like right around the same time, and, I mean, our first, I think we played a Warped tour, like on the local stage together. I think we did some show in Springfield together, and then kind of didn't really see each other until . . . we were just about to put out our second record.  Theirs had just come out, and we did a tour together in 2000, and really kind of became good friends.

mushok1“In fact, Sully, we stayed in touch for a bunch of years after that and we kind of lost track of each other and I came to this opportunity again to play together. And as I said earlier, I mean, I just thought it was a great way to kind of reunite with these guys and, I mean, I think that between all the bands on there, you're definitely going to have heard some of the songs that are played during the evening before. So, it should be fun.”

Since Mike reached back to the band’s beginning, it begged the question of what the differences are between the Staind of 1995 and today’s band.

“Well, we have a drummer now; that's one big difference. Look, I think what we tried to do on this record is kind of come back to what Staind of '99 was. I mean, that was really the idea behind it, to kind of get a little more aggressive and really the reason why we started the band was kind of play more aggressive music. We kind of went on this journey and I think the last record you lose the progress; really kind of took us as far away from that and we could have gotten almost. And, look, I enjoy the journey. I love some of the songs on the last record, but I think after kind of completing that, we said, "Let's kind of come back to why we started the band," and that's really what the idea was behind the album.”                  

With a nod to the successful solo career of his band mate, Aaron Lewis, Mike adds, “And, look, obviously now Aaron has a solo thing going on, so that kind of ties up his time, so it makes it a little more difficult to get all the time we need for Staind. So, those are really the big differences.”

Mike mentioned drummers in the band.  Coincidentally, one topic of recent interest to Staind fans has been the addition to the band of drummer, Sal Giancarelli, who took the place of Jon Wysocki. Mushok was asked for his view of Sal’s contribution to the band.

“Well, look, Sal has been with the band since '99 and previous to that he was in bands . . . that we played gigs with. So, we always knew he was a great drummer and even during his career as being a drum tech, there's been a few times along the way that he had other bands that he tried to pursue a career in music, which he always wanted to do, and used being able to be a drum tech as a way of getting out there and kind of getting some of his stuff out there.

“And even along the way, I mean, there was a couple shows where John was sick; I mean, it wasn't the first time Sal played with us. He's sat in before on one tour, I think, specifically that he played a couple of shows. So, look, we've always known that he was a great drummer and, when it came time, it just seemed like the perfect fit to go from behind the drums to playing them, because he knew all the material and we knew he could more than handle it.

“Personality-wise, I mean, he's the same guy. We had this thing that we joked about on our website, these webisodes, where we made him seem like this big egotistical guy and wanted to name the band after him, so it was all a joke. I mean, Sal's the most quiet, down-to-earth guy you'll ever meet, and he hasn't changed one bit. And that's another reason why, sometimes when you introduce someone else, it's a whole other personality. We knew his personality. He's been on the road with us for 12, 13 years so he was already part of the family.”

Mushok was asked about the reasoning and thought processes behind the naming of the recently released self-titled album.

“Yeah, what I was kind of alluding to early, we really wanted to kind of go back to where we started as far as a band, and I think with that was kind of why we ultimately decided on having it self-titled. I mean, there was talk about it being called, Seven, because this is the seventh record and that's what seven demons on the cover kind of represents is that. And so that's kind of how we incorporated it. But, no, it was really just about the fact that we kind of got back to playing with the music.”

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the three bands have created the Mass Chaos tour with lots of direct involvement from the fans.  When asked if the bands were going to be greeting fans at the gates or if the fans will be part of the show, Mushok jokingly said, “I think we're going to let the fans actually play the shows. I'm just going to be a lazy boy on the side actually and watch them play.”  Then, shifting into the serious gear added, “I think it's kind of cool that the way things are nowadays. You know, you can put this stuff out there and let some of the fans who are creative be a part of it, and some of the poster submissions, especially some of them were great, I thought. As far as the tour goes, I think we're just going to go out there and do our thing.”

Then, jumping on the whole concept of fans taking over, Sully added with a laugh, “But I love that idea. I think we should find fans that look like every band and just have one night where we kick back in lawn chairs and watch them go. That would be awesome, man!”

With these innovative, forward thinking musical giants, don’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting next to Sully, Mike and Lzzy, watching fans play tribute to the real thing.

You just never know.

Check your favorite band’s website for details about the Mass Chaos tour.

Staind     Godsmack     Halestorm

Rick Derringer

Posted May, 2009

RickDerringer1In the early Seventies, many a teenage boy fantasized about being able to play guitar just like their favorite guitar hero.  When they’re favorite guitar song would come on the radio or while listening to it in their room, they would imagine that was THEM playing that song.

One such song during those innocent times was a song that helped define the music of the Seventies.  That song is "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo".  The guitar virtuoso wailing on the guitar on that song was a 26 year old man by the name of Rick Derringer.

By the time that song was rocking the airwaves, Derringer was already an 8 year veteran of the rock scene.  He recorded his first huge hit, Hang On Sloopy, at the tender age of 17, with his band, The McCoys.  He also performed the guitar solo on Alice Cooper’s 1971 album, Killer.  Soon after “Hoochie Koo”, Derringer had a follow-up hit with Teenage Love Affair.  With those hits under his belt, Rick worked with Johnny Winter and his brother, Edgar, as well as the jazz rock band, Steely Dan.

In the Eighties and Nineties, Derringer has been involved in a plethora of projects and bands, including working with Weird Al Yankovic, Barbara Streisand, Kiss, and Cyndi Lauper, as well as work for the World Wrestling Federation.  This was all in addition to his continual touring and working on his own projects.

In recent years, he’s converted to Christianity but still tours and performs his past hits as well as his more recent work.  In 2006, he was featured in a Fidelity Investments television commercial.  In 2007, “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” was featured in the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero 2, which will inspire another legion of teenage boys to fantasize about playing just like Rick.

I had the privilege of sitting down with Rick Derringer during his appearances at the 2009 Dallas International Guitar show.  We covered a wide range of topics that included his new CD, Knighted By The Blues, and his line of guitars. We also discussed his vintage guitar business and the market in general, as well as his faith and several other topics.

A scramble-brained rock star he is not.  Derringer is an affable man who can converse on almost any topic and smoothly segue from one topic to another.  His business finesse and command of current events and how he views it all through the lens of his faith is evident from the git-go.

I started off by asking Rick Derringer how the guitar show was going for him.  “Very good!  I mean, I come here, more than anything, to just do my concert, be a part of this great roster of guitar players and Jimmy Wallace, who runs the show, is also a good, strong Christian and I like to help him out.  One of my favorite parts of the show is Sunday morning, before the show starts, we have church over there.  So, I come here for a lot of other kind of reasons that aren’t necessarily connected to selling guitars.

“On the other hand, I do work with Warrior Guitars.  We’ve created a Rick Derringer Signature Model guitar.  And, uh, I always spend a quite a bit of time at their booth showing people that guitar.”

When asked how sales of his Signature Model guitar were, he enthusiastically responds, “They do pretty well!  It’s a custom guitar company.  They make them by hand.  You don’t see them in many music stores so it’s kind of a smaller number of sales than like a Paul Reed Smith or something like that.

Paul Reed Smith, I think, makes 70 a day at this point.  And we make about, I think, 30 in a month, which is still pretty good volume but – and there are all other (Warrior) guitars as well as the Rick Derringer model.  But people that play it enjoy it and because of that, most of them that are really ready to buy a guitar – after they play it, will buy that one! “

We then segued into a discussion about his vintage guitar business.  He describes it this way:  “Yeah, well, always in my life, I’ve been a lover of toys.  A new guitar, to me, is a toy.  And, so, I enjoy acquiring the NEW guitars.  So, what I usually do is, I take my old ones and I play them for awhile.  And they end up sitting somewhere in a vault or somewhere.  Eventually, I sell those old ones so that I can get more NEW ones!  And that has turned into being kind of a business over the years. I always have guitars in my collection and whenever I put a few up for sale, they seem to go pretty fast.  We always provide a certificate with them saying that they’re from my collection and that adds a little bit to the value, as well.”

However, Derringer acknowledges that the current economy is impacting his business.  “I think that it’s affecting everything!  Not just the vintage guitar business.  It definitely affects everything.  I mean, we’ve all heard that people thought that they had money.  They thought they had invested wisely in real estate and they looked at that equity as their nest egg.  And they looked at themselves as affluent!  As soon as that disappeared, as that nest egg became, apparently, gone, that affluence that they felt was gone, too.

“So, all of a sudden, when people felt that they had money that they could spend for whatever it was, they don’t feel like that anymore.  So, I think it’s definitely affected the vintage guitar business from one point of view.

“Now, here’s the other side of the coin:  People are nervous about putting their money in real estate.  They’re nervous about putting it in stocks.  And there are some things that have intrinsic value that will not go away.  One of those things is rare instruments and from that point of view people that see that are still there and they’re actually looking to buy up instruments right now when they’re cheaper – a little cheaper.”

With the help of a weak dollar, Rick is seeing continued purchases not only domestically but from overseas, especially Japan.  “It’s a world-wide business. Certainly the Japanese like to come over and take the guitars back over there.  But it’s a worldwide business.”

We turn the discussion to Derringer’s touring.  “Touring this year is less.  This year, I decided to just really tell my agent that I was retiring from concerts.  He chose that as a opportunity to say, ‘Well, if I got you ‘this much’ money, would that mean that we could still get you out there?’  And, I said, ‘Yeah’.  But it was quite a bit more than I have previously charged.  So, I didn’t expect to get any gigs, frankly.  I just said, ‘Okay, I will put in the hands of the Lord and He will provide.’

"And what has happened is He has!  Just by not having as much of my time tied up travelling, I’ve been able to work on a lot of other kinds of projects.  Albums, CD’s and things like that.  And, also, then just devoting time to properly focusing on our business.  We also manage other artists and produce other records and things like that, too.”

Derringer has a new CD out entitled, Knighted By The Blues.  I asked him to tell me about it.

“Yeah! ‘Knighted By The Blues’, it’s called.  It’s on Blues Bureau International Records.  I’ve done – this will be the fifth one for them.  And each time – in some ways – they’ve given me a little more freedom.  But Mike Varney, the president of the company, really is a very strong president.  He has his definite ideas.  He’s a guitar player himself.  He wants to make records for guitar players.  And he wants, somehow, to make sure his interests are protected.  He helps you choose songs for the records and things like that.  And this is the first one where he’s actually allowed me to just ahead and do it without his – I did it in the studio where I like to record as opposed to his turf.  I used the musicians that I like as opposed to the ones HE likes.  I chose the material myself as opposed to him having any input.  And from that point of view, it certainly reflects more what I look at as a blues CD.  And that is not necessarily the strict, old-timey, kind of blues that – it’s a different kind of blues CD.

“It’s a little more current.  The songs are more relevant to subjects that I think are current.  It doesn’t rely as much on just old songs, too.  There are not as many covers there.  And the covers that I have done, I am personally fond of as opposed to somebody saying, ‘Well I think everybody else is going to like this song.’

“I’ve done Jimi Hendrix’s, “If Six Was Nine”, which is a song that I always enjoyed.  We changed the lyrics just enough to make them reflective of my Christianity.  And it’s not one that a lot of people have covered.  So, it’s one that people will find refreshing.

“I did a very rare Ray Charles song that I don’t know – I think only one other person has ever even recorded it as far as I know.  Diana, uh, not Krall. Ah, it doesn’t matter.  At any rate, only one other cover that I know of, of the song.  It’s called, “Funny, But I Still Love You” and I LOVE that song.  We closed the album with that one.

“So, most of it, though, is brand new original stuff.  And it expands the gamut from the slow, what we call “gut bucket blues” all the way to – one which seems to be finding acceptance with rock radio.  I can’t believe it!  I never would’ve expected it!”

Later in the conversation, Derringer glows as he describes his wife’s contributions to the CD.  “She’s written about – we wrote seven songs – original songs.  And I think one or two of them I wrote.  One of them, she wrote. And the rest we wrote together.  She’s right there all the time!

“One of the songs – the one that rock radio likes – she didn’t even present that lyric to me.  She said, ‘Here’s some stuff that might be good for the blues album.’ But that’s not one of them.  I actually was able to go into her computer and pull up her song file and go through things.  And I found that one that she hadn’t even taken that much of an interest in, frankly.  But I said that this could be really cool!  So I took that one myself without even asking her and took it to the studio and turned it into a song, which she was pleasantly surprised!”

Later, when asked about the rest of his family, Derringer’s eyes light up again, telling me that he has a 16 year old and a 17 year old.  I comment that “they’ve obviously got to think that it’s pretty cool that their dad is a rock ‘n roller and can show them a thing or two.”

He shoots back, “They do! They do!  My daughter really sings well as does my wife.  And my son, he’s turned in to more of a writer.  He’s turned into a lyricist, so he’s writing words for songs.  And that’s cool.  So, we’re just – whatever they want to do, is pretty much up to them.  I try not to be the boss too much.”

One of the questions I like to ask those that I interview is how, if they were starting today instead of when they did, would they be able to start the same way?  I asked Derringer this question.  His reply surprised me.

“It wouldn’t be a lot different.  I mean, we were out there in the grass roots, just trying to be a good band.  And that doesn’t change.  You’re not going to get anywhere if the band isn’t good enough.  So, the first thing you concentrate on is on being a really good little band.  And we then went out, using that.  (We) got local gigs – as many as we could and tried to find gigs with radio stations and things like that, that would give us a little more visibility.  And that’s no different.  Everybody has to do the same kind of thing in that respect.  And, obviously, the end result is that somebody will find YOU.  The music business will find YOU.

“People have it a lot easier in some ways now.  They can supply their music to download sources, iTunes just being one of them.  But they – without a record company – can get their music out there and, theoretically, grow and become more well-known.  So that’s the only thing that’s really changed is the way – the ease – which you can get into the music business.  In some ways, it’s easier now than it even was then.

“The music business still loves young people – the young artists.  From that point of view, that hasn’t changed, either.  It’s easier for a young person to get a contract or record deal – or even a place on American Idol than it is for an older person.  That hasn’t changed.  So, uh, in some ways, I’m giving a message of hope and blessing because it’s just – all they have to do is be good.  Practice enough to be good.  The rest will come pretty easy.”

“So, is there a guitarist today – new – that really commands your attention?  I don’t want to put you on the spot!”

After pausing for just a moment, Rick answers, “Nobody in particular.  I was going to say a couple of names but – nobody in particular.  In fact, the lead guitar has kind of been downplayed, and it’s just more about the music and the songs than ever.  That hasn’t changed.

“But, you know, people are starting to find – I understand that the vinyl records has gone up over 30% last year.  And a lot of that is specifically college kids – people in dorms.  And they found that they don’t just have to have ear buds and only be by themselves.  They can actually put a turntable in their room, with speakers, and play music and other people can come in the room and all of them hang out at the same time!”

“Interaction, imagine that!”

“Yeah!  So, from that point of view, it seems to be growing more and more all the time.

Bringing the discussion back to the theoretical “then and now” discussion, I asked, “If you were 16 today and starting a band, would you be doing the kind of music you’re doing now?  Do you feel that was just what you were cut out to do?”

“ Yeah, music has to be reflective – every kid will find the kid of music he likes.  But they are finding, like I said – through the LP’s and stuff – they’re finding those guitar players.  They’re finding me and they’re finding Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.  All the music from the era that we’re from is being found, whether it’s by young kids or college kids.

“Guitar Hero (Xbox 360) used “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” in its very second incarnation, Guitar Hero 2.  So I was only one of the first 20 songs that were out there and that is giving us a world-wide presence again, too.  So, that kind of stuff is making – in fact, they accounted for 1/3 of the world wide music business in the last few years - Guitar Hero alone!  It’s incredible.  Everybody has one now.  The family has one.  Some families have several!  But it’s amazing what that has done for music, too.”

I add, “Our generation of music, it just spans.  It can stand on its own.  And people reach back to it as a foundation.”

“Well, it meant something special to us as a generation of – I don’t think that it holds the same place.  Music is viable, certainly, and kids will always go there.  Music is always going to be something that helps people.  Music is a different language – language of our soul, in some ways, (the) language of our heart.  And that’s not going to change.  We are humans.  As long as we have souls and hearts, then music will be viable.  And that hasn’t changed at all.  Like we said, kids will find the music they feel is important to them.  And that’s the stuff they’ll do!”

Derringer is not the least bit shy in letting it be known that he is a Christian.  Since he brought it up a couple of times, I drilled into how his faith has impacted his relationships within the music business and with his fan base.

“It hasn’t hurt anything!  It hasn’t hurt at all!  As a matter of fact, the idea is for some of ‘me’ to rub off on them!  And that’s what we’re really most excited about.  THAT’s the idea.  I mean, if all of a sudden I changed as a person and I – my music started sucking – uh, they’d all have a pretty bad image of it.

“They’d blame it all on it (his faith), huh?”, I added.

“Yeah, but, in reality, what happens is, you know, you’re still the same person you always were.  Where the Lord loves us THEN, He loves us NOW!  And music doesn’t have to get worse.  The fact of the matter just have to have ear buds and only be by themselves.  They can actually put a turntable in their room, with speakers, and play music and other people can come in the room and all of them hang out at the same time!”

“Interaction, imagine that!”

“Yeah!  So, from that point of view, it seems to be growing more and more all the time.

Bringing the discussion back to the theoretical “then and now” discussion, I asked, “If you were 16 today and starting a band, would you be doing the kind of music you’re doing now?  Do you feel that was just what you were cut out to do?”

“ Yeah, music has to be reflective – every kid will find the kid of music he likes.  But they are finding, like I said – through the LP’s and stuff – they’re finding those guitar players.  They’re finding me and they’re finding Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.  All the music from the era that we’re from is being found, whether it’s by young kids or college kids.

“Guitar Hero (Xbox 360) used “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” in its very second incarnation, Guitar Hero 2.  So I was only one of the first 20 songs that were out there and that is giving us a world-wide presence again, too.  So, that kind of stuff is making – in fact, they accounted for 1/3 of the world wide music business in the last few years - Guitar Hero alone!  It’s incredible.  Everybody has one now.  The family has one.  Some families have several!  But it’s amazing what that has done for music, too.”

I add, “Our generation of music, it just spans.  It can stand on its own.  And people reach back to it as a foundation.”

“Well, it meant something special to us as a generation of – I don’t think that it holds the same place.  Music is viable, certainly, and kids will always go there.  Music is always going to be something that helps people.  Music is a different language – language of our soul, in some ways, (the) language of our heart.  And that’s not going to change.  We are humans.  As long as we have souls and hearts, then music will be viable.  And that hasn’t changed at all.  Like we said, kids will find the music they feel is important to them.  And that’s the stuff they’ll do!”

Derringer is not the least bit shy in letting it be known that he is a Christian.  Since he brought it up a couple of times, I drilled into how his faith has impacted his relationships within the music business and with his fan base.

“It hasn’t hurt anything!  It hasn’t hurt at all!  As a matter of fact, the idea is for some of ‘me’ to rub off on them!  And that’s what we’re really most excited about.  THAT’s the idea.  I mean, if all of a sudden I changed as a person and I – my music started sucking – uh, they’d all have a pretty bad image of it.

“They’d blame it all on it (his faith), huh?”, I added.

“Yeah, but, in reality, what happens is, you know, you’re still the same person you always were.  Where the Lord loves us THEN, He loves us NOW!  And music doesn’t have to get worse.  The fact of the matter is, your conscience being freed up just lightens your load so that your creativity and music can soar!  That’s what I’ve found and people are excited about hearing that.

“So it hasn’t turned anybody off and, as a matter of fact, I have people telling me all the time that they appreciate seeing my testimony on the website.  And we’re actually spreading that more all the time, rather than less.  And that helps people see that they can, you know - they’re not alone!  The Lord can help ME.  He can help them!  And that’s the message that we have!”

Rick becomes even more animated at this point.  “Amazing!  Yeah!  Yeah!  You just put your – live by faith!  LIVE-BY-FAITH!  Because HE will provide!  “I will take care!” Like this year, for instance, like I said, I raised my price pretty drastically.  And, all of a sudden, I was turning down some shows because they were for less than what I was asking for.

 “And my road manager called me up and he was a little concerned, you know?  “You’re turning down this show!  This is a good concert!”  And I explained to him, ‘You know? Look. I put it in the hands of the Lord.  I told the Lord that I have FAITH that He will PROVIDE what we see as necessary.  If all of a sudden we take the first gig that comes along that is way less than what I asked the Lord for, what kind of faith is that?’  What kind of faith does that show?!  You HAVE to have the faith!  I mean, you just can’t pretend.  It has to be real!  As long as you put your faith in the Lord, He will provide!”

Curious how the church world was receiving him, I asked, “Are you getting any interest from church circles for your work?”

“Uh, well, we haven’t really tried to go out there and, uh, shoot for that.   But slowly –“

“You’re a different kind of gig than that.”

“Yeah, and I do have more churches and stuff, though, that are coming around, asking me to perform, and things like that.  But here’s what happened.  When I first started doing more Christian based music and changing some of my songs to reflect that standing, I was a little concerned about the kind of shows – we’d play for biker events.  And I don’t play anymore - we were playing bars and those kinds of venues.  And I was a little concerned so I asked my pastor at that time for their advice.  And what they told me was that, really look at it as the opportunity that the Lord has given me!  If I go into a church, playing for a bunch of believers . . .”

“You’re preaching to the choir!”

“Yeah, it certainly reinforces THEIR belief.  Once again, their saved!  You’re preaching to the choir!

“On the other hand, the places that I just mentioned where I play, they don’t necessarily ever invite a Christian artist to play those places.  So, I’m able to go in there – totally with their approval – and they’re even paying me – and play my concert and throw in a few songs that have now been changed to reflect that Christian standpoint.  I’m given that opportunity that nobody else has!  So I’m able to go in there and just do what Jesus said to do!  Be that light in the real world and, uh, deliver that message.  And even if some people don’t hear the lyrics, if they just – if I’m reflecting Jesus to that audience and they should be able to feel that and see it . . . and it works!  They said, ‘You should be doing THAT! That’s a responsibility that you’ve been given and you should honor it!’ And that’s what we do!”

Later, when mentioning other rockers who have also proclaimed their faith, Derringer interjects, “We call ourselves, ‘Double agents for the Lord!  We’re working behind the enemy lines!”

We wrapped up our chat with what he’s got coming up, which includes some dates with Edgar and Johnny Winter in September.  Rick Derringer’s appearances are listed on his website,

This article written by Randy Patterson.  All rights reserved and cannot not be used without written permission, which can be obtained by writing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Tommy Emmanuel

Posted January, 2011


tommyemmanuelWhile attending my “30-something” class reunion last fall, a classmate and I were exchanging names of various artist who we had become fans of but others might not have heard about.  In the course of the conversation, she mentions the name, Tommy Emmanuel, whom I haven’t heard of until then. She raved about how great this guy was on the guitar and strongly encouraged me to check him out. She assured me that my feeble mind would be blown.

I did and it was.

I scoured YouTube for some of his performances and was entertained by a rich list of some of the best covers of some of the more memorable songs from the last 50 years. There were also lots of video of Emmanuel performing some of his own creations, most notably, Initiation. It was that last song that sealed the deal with me, making me a new Tommy Emmanuel fan for life.

Further research showed me that Emmanuel was performing professionally with his family’s quartet by the age of five and performed all over Australia by the age of 10.  Tommy and his brother, Phil, were appropriately deemed child prodigies, further broadening their appeal to Australian audiences.  His fame and appeal has continued to grow, eventually branching out well beyond the shores of his homeland and to audiences around the world.

Naturally, I wanted to speak with this acoustic thunder from down under and was fortunate to line up a phone interview during the Knoxville stop during his U.S. tour last October.  The engaging warmth and conversation that I saw in the concert videos were evident during our chat.

I began our conversation by asking him to, for benefit of the uninitiated U.S. crowd who might not have ever heard of him, how would he introduce himself?

“Well, I’m a 55 year old guy from Australia who plays guitar because I love to play. I’ve been on stage ever since I was five years old. I’ve never wanted to do anything else but play the guitar and entertain people. I see myself as a person who entertains people using whatever gifts I have and I work tirelessly on the instrument. I try to learn from every musician I come across. I guess I’m a person who loves to entertain people.”

Tommy continues by segueing from his introduction to sharing how his love for music and entertaining was nurtured.  “My mother gave me my first guitar for my fourth birthday but I didn’t play in public until I was five. She showed me how to play rhythm for her. She was playing the lap steel guitar at that time. We both loved to try to make music together.

“My brothers and sisters all took up instruments as well. My brother, Phil, my older brother, he has a similar gift to me except he approaches things in a different way. When we were kids, I was the rhythm player and he was the lead player. He would learn a song – he could figure it out pretty quickly – and he would say, ‘Here are the chords’ and then I would learn the chords and the structure of the song and then we’d play it together. 

“Then, when I got a little older, I discovered that, because I’m an ear player – I play everything by ear – I don’t read music, I never had any formal training of any sort - I discovered that I could figure out a song pretty quickly and hear the pattern in the song and work out where the song went. I got interested in song writing and that’s when my world exploded and that’s when I discovered that I could write songs and that I had a gift in music somehow.

“Of course, being on stage is whole different thing to being a song writer. It’s like two different roles. I loved being on stage. I loved performing. I loved getting a reaction from the audience. I loved making the audience laugh and surprising them. We’d be doing a song and I’d dance across the stage and people wouldn’t expect it. Stuff like that. I discovered that that was what I enjoyed the most was to make people laugh and to feel good and to take their mind away.

“These days, what I do on stage is I use every element of whatever I have to distract people from whatever they’re thinking and take them into another space kind of thing- make them feel good. So, I try to dazzle them with whatever technique I’ve got. I try to disarm them with the fun that I have and then make them laugh at me laughing at myself.  So, it’s like I’m the Three Stooges in one person.” He says with a laugh.

“It’s also so much fun and challenging to play the instrument. The instrument is so beautiful and so challenging. But I enjoy playing my songs and telling my stories and try to paint a picture in music without words for people.”

When I made a comment based on the assumption that he only played acoustic guitar, Emmanuel politely corrected me.

“I do play electric guitar. Certainly, I do!  All of my early albums – my really successful albums in Australia – were seventy percent electric and just a few acoustic songs. I do a bit of everything.”

The video of Tommy’s performances revealed that he is as also a master in the use of the electronic effect known as delay.  I asked him what inspired him to use delays and if there was somebody who used them that who inspired him.

“I was just messing around with a delay one day. A lot of people have done that. Les Paul did it a lot. Chet Atkins did it a lot. People don’t realize that the sound they were listening to is a guitar playing against itself.  It’s a brilliant sound.”

Ah! The great Chet Atkins!  My pre-interview research revealed that Emmanuel discovered the incredible talent of Chet Atkins in 1962, becoming a lifelong fan of Mister Guitar, spending countless hours as a student of learning Atkins’ style of playing.  He established a long distance friendship with the guitar great via mail and, 18 years after first being turned on to him, finally got to meet his idol and established a close friendship until Chet’s passing in 2001.  I asked Tommy about his relationship with Atkins.

“Yes, I wrote to Chet when I was eleven years old. He wrote back to me. We became kind of pen pals with me living in Australia, of course.” He then shares what his first thoughts are when he thinks of Atkins.  “Oh! There’s so much! He was like a daddy to me. He was a innovator. He was a great leader. He was a great organizer. He could put the right team together to do a certain project for a certain artist. He knew exactly who had what gift. He was very clever in that way. But the thing I learned the most about Chet was look for a good song and look for a melody that touches your heart and your soul and play it for people.


“Before he died, we had a beautiful day together. There’s a song he used to sing for his dad called I Still Can’t Say Goodbye. He asked me to keep singing that song. He said, ‘When I’m gone, I want you to sing that song.’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t do that. That’s sacred to you.’ He said, ‘You don’t understand. People need to hear that. That’s what’s important and therein lies the lesson. Forget what you think. Do what you know is going to be good for other people.’ That summed him up perfectly.

“The same thing for me. I’ve been playing Guitar Boogie and Classical Gas. I’ve been playing them all my life and you would think, ‘Why don’t you play something different?’  The moment that I don’t play Guitar Boogie, Classical Gas or whatever, people will come up and say, ‘I drove 500 miles to hear you tonight and you didn’t play my favorite song!’  You’re there for the people. Forget yourself! Get out there and do what you were born to do and do it for the people.”

As he wraps up his thoughts about the lessons he learned from Chet Atkins, Emmanuel shares the thoughts of a man truly in awe of the blessings in his life and the lessons he has been fortunate to learn.

“If you would have told me twenty years ago that I would be laying in a bed in Knoxville, talking to you, I would have told you that you were crazy. But so much has happened in the last twenty years of my life, it’s been extraordinary. I’ve taken my music to everywhere I wanted to go like Russia and China, Croatia, Hungary, Brazil, Africa. It’s just been an incredible journey. It’s only really just beginning. I’ve been playing for 50 years and I feel like I’m just getting going now.”

Who else has inspired and influenced Tommy?

“Oh, man, there were so many! Last night, I watched Carole King and James Taylor. They’re two of my favorites. I draw a lot of inspiration from those two. Carole King’s songwriting is just on a level that’s just so stellar – so beautiful. Same with James.

“I listen to everything. The only thing I don’t like is rap music. I don’t criticize it or say that it’s bad. I just can’t stand it. I listen to all music from Beyoncé to Metallica. I listen to everything. I don’t like everything but I listen to things to try and learn and to wake up my senses to hear something different.”

Having graced stages and delighted audiences all over the world, I asked Tommy if there was any place he hasn’t performed yet.

“Well, next year I’m playing in Chile, Argentina, Venezuela and places like that – where I haven’t been. So there are a few other countries that I haven’t been yet. I’ll be in China next week and I was in Russia last month. They are countries I really wanted to take my music to because I knew something was up. Especially with Russia and China because there were Russian and Chinese people coming to my shows in Amsterdam, Berlin and places like that and they had come from their countries for the show. When I met people to sign autographs, they were like, ‘When are you going to come to Russia? When are you going to come to China? We come to your shows from China. Why don’t you come to China?’

“I got a lot of e-mail from those countries so I found a promoter there and put the show on. Two thousand people came. It was unbelievable! A lot of that has to do with YouTube.”

I’ve read lots of interviews, biographies and autobiographies where an artist gets bored with what made them famous and no longer derive satisfaction from their work.  With that in mind, I asked Tommy what is the biggest thrill or satisfaction he gets from his work.

“We’re travelling on a bus for this tour and I have a great guitar player named Frank Vignola playing with me at the moment. Frank’s one of my favorite players. Yesterday, we learned a bunch of Charlie Christian songs. That was so cool to go back and listen to Charlie Christian again. That was just like going to school yesterday. We spent the whole day playing in the bus. It was great and I learned a lot of new songs.”

As I stated at the beginning of this article, I was particularly blown away by Emmanuel’s composition, Initiation.  I asked him what inspired that song and how long did it take him to put that piece together. 

“That’s the song I use the delay on. I spent most of my young years based in the outback in a place called Alice Springs. I played to mostly Aboriginal audiences and I heard a lot of Aboriginal music. What I tried to do with that song is tell a story of pain and suffering of the hardship of life for those people and to make it a haunting kind of thing. Some nights, I can really conjure up the sound that I heard as a kid. The sound of when an Aboriginal group is doing their corroboree or their getting together and making music, they’re telling stories and acting out dances. The sounds of all of that are in that song somehow.  It’s a very simple piece. It’s not brain surgery. I try to keep it as simple as possible because you don’t want to be putting the influences of other things in that. You want it to be as pure as it can.”

I said, “You say it’s simple but you’re talking to somebody who would just love to play your mistakes!”

He laughed and said, “Yeah, you leave my mistakes to me!”

Tommy Emmanuel has played on some well known hits and performed with some pretty big names.  Thinking of that, I asked him a two part question. First, what kind of project would he like to do that he hasn’t done yet?  Second, who hasn’t he played with, on stage, on record or in private that he really wants to play with?

“I’ve fulfilled a few goals – a few lifetime dreams in the last year. Larry Carlton was my guest a couple of weeks ago in Austin. I’d love to work with Larry more. He’s one of my big influences and one of my favorites. And the other guy that I got to really know and would love to work with is George Benson. They’re two of the guys that I would love to play with and love to work with.

“I’ve yet to find another singer that I would love to work with because it’s all about the songs. For me, it’s the quality of your work and the quality that you put out to the people that is important. Sometimes you can do that with a complete unknown. Sometimes you can do that with someone really famous. So I’m still on the lookout for the right kind of partner to either write songs with.”

Almost as an aside, Tommy dropped this bombshell on me.

“I just played on a track for Michael Jackson which I love. I hope that they release it. I don’t know what is going to happen with Michael’s new stuff. I just played on a beautiful track on his – I hope it’s on his new album! They haven’t told me if it’s going to be released or not but they asked me to play on this track and I did. When I was in London they sent me the stuff on the internet and we downloaded it in the studio in London. I played a solo and a backing part for Michael who has been one of my heroes in my life, too. It’s an incredible vocal, I’ve got to tell you. I hope it comes out.”

The Jackson album Tommy referred to did, in fact, come out in December.  Entitled, Michael, it does include Much Too Soon and is a phenomenal piece of work. Congratulations, Tommy!

As he concludes his story about working on Much To Soon, Emmanuel says: “It’s been really good – it’s been a great journey. A couple of years ago I got a call from a guy named Peter Asher who used to manage James Taylor.  Peter’s a great producer and a good singer himself. He was managing and producing Diana Ross’s new project and I ended up playing on that as well. Things like that come along now and then and I really enjoy that. It’s so exciting and so challenging. I can’t tell you the feeling I had, especially with Michael’s track.  I was in London and the producers were in Los Angeles and they’re trusting me with his track. That’s a big responsibility and I have such a big respect and admiration for Michael and the quality of his work. Nobody raised the bar like him. It’s phenomenal.”

When answering my question as to what can a new fan expect from one of his shows and who makes up his audience, Emmanuel says, “To be surprised and to be reminded to have fun in life and to fly your kite as high as you can. Live in the moment. Be in the moment. Be in the moment!” Regarding his audience demographic, “Baby’s to grandparents. Everybody! I get heavy metal guys. I get jazzers. I get folkies. I get blue grassers. I get blues guys. I get grannies. I get pimply teenagers. I get everybody and that’s great. That’s the human race!”

For the pure musician Boomerocity readers out there who are learning of Tommy Emmanuel for the first time, I asked him to share what kinds of guitars he plays.

“I have a quite a collection of guitars in my homes. I have a home here in America and one in England and I have guitars stored in Australia as well. I have some homemade guitars that are made by friends of mine that I don’t take on the road. My main instruments are made by the Maton Guitar Company in Australia. These guitars are not like other instruments. They have a beautiful sound but they have the best electronics that you’ll ever hear. It was Jean Larrivée from  Larrivée Guitars who said to me, ‘Building a great guitar is a no-brainer. Getting the pickup right is almost impossible and that’s what these people have done!’

“So, if you want an acoustic guitar that you can mic up or, more importantly, you can plug in and get a good sound, there’s no guitar like a Maton guitar. As you can see by the finishes on my guitars, they can take a beating, too!” He concludes with a laugh.

After my chat with Tommy, I was struck by the fact that it took me so dang long to discover this gifted artist.  So that YOU won’t be the last one on this fan train, I would encourage you to tell others who love great guitar work or gifted entertainers about Tommy Emmanuel.

You can keep up with the latest news with Tommy Emmanuel by signing up for his mailing list at If you don’t order any of the music flagged in the pages of this interview, then you can certainly order his great CD’s, DVD’s and other great times from his online store.  Oh, and, of course, you can be among the first to know when he’s going to appear at a town or city near you – wherever you are in the world.

Jan Carlo DeFan

Posted April, 2012

ELAN main LOWL-R: "Cheech" DeFan, Elan, Jan Carlo, Charlie Padilla and "El Pato" LopezWhat does the Guadalajara area of Mexico have to do with rock and roll?  Well, I can’t say that I would blame you much if the only answer you could come up with is that Elvis sang the song, “Guadalajara” in that movie, Fun In Acapulco.

What isn’t known here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. is that in a small village just outside of Guadalajara, Mexico, a brother and sister were born, raised on rock and roll and learned to speak English – perfect English . . . better English than I speak – and grew up to form an incredibly success rock band that literally blazed its own trail of success.

That trail is fifteen years long and marked with 1.7 million albums sold and will be marked with a lot more in sales with the release of their new album, See Us Spin and a tour that will wind up hitting the U.S. in the near future.

Oh, yeah, the band!  The band is called ELAN (spelled with all caps) which also happens to be the name of its beautiful and highly talented lead vocalist (and keyboardist), Elán DeFan.  Her brother, Jan Carlo, is the lead guitarist for the band and they are joined on drums by Michel “Cheech” Bitar DeFan, Jan’s wing man on guitar, Maurico “El Pato” López, and, on bass is Carolos “Charlie” Padilla Maqueo. Together, they make the latest 15 year long overnight sensation to hit the U.S.

I recently received an advance review copy of See Us Spin (as well as a copy of their Retrospective 2002 – 2012 2-CD set) and I became an instant fan.  It’s great rock and roll in all its varied beauty.  Hard. Soft. Bluesy. They’re great. Really great.

Naturally, when the opportunity arose to interview Jan Carlo, I jumped at the chance.  He called me from his home in Mexico and, if I do say so myself, I immediately felt as though I was talking to an old friend.  Not the kind of old friend to whom I’ve owed fifty bucks to for the last 30 years but you get my point.

As I said earlier, Elán and Jan Carlo were raised on rock and roll so I asked the guitarist to fill me in on some details of that starting with who his biggest musical influences were.

“Well, actually, it was Mom and Dad. My father and mother had a really beautiful – actually, they still have – a really beautiful vinyl collection. It was a very big one. You have to understand that we grew up in a little town on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico, so radio and television were kind of rare. The radio signal did not get there that well so we grew up kind of isolated from what I think now would be called Modern Music. So, for us, the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Zeppelin III and all those records that are cherished for us were our cornerstone. I mean, that’s what we knew. That’s the music that we liked!

“So, I think when we got a little older, technology advanced a little more and we actually had a chance to listen to “modern music” and we didn’t really know what was going on. We were really turned off by it.

“My first acoustic guitar was my father’s first acoustic guitar – which I loved to death. My mother played the piano a little and I think that’s what got us going. Between the Stones – to us Sticky Fingers was really modern. It sounded really new. So, when we finally got radio, needless to say, we kinda had a consistent case of explosive vomit! We really didn’t like the way things sounded. This must’ve been ’86, ’87 – that’s when I first became aware of music on the radio. It was a very shocking time for me . . . because the vinyls that we listened to had emotional impact. I felt that and I feel that now more than ever.

“I feel that people really have this need to be liked. When you write a song for radio – the concept of a single, to me – I try to comprehend but I just do get. How do you write something so that somebody else will like it?  You can’t do that. Either you write and you play because you love it – and, I mean, you hope that people like it but you can’t do it so they like it because it has absolutely no class. It has no honesty to it.”

Regarding other influences, DeFan added, “If you listen to the Allman Brothers and then you move into Skynard, when you realize that Warren Haynes walks on water, that’s when you understand guitar work. That man! It doesn’t get much better than that!”

While listening to Jan speak, I was struck – confounded even – by the clarity of his English.  As I wrote at the beginning of this interview, his English is much better than mine.  At the risk of offending him, I asked how was it that he was able to speak such flawless English.  His answer is a testament to the wisdom of the child-rearing skills of his parents.

“Basically, we’re really bi-cultural. Our parents made sure that we spoke both languages without any accent and they used to do it with vibrations. You can actually pick up accents with vibrations – cheek-to-cheek or hand-to-cheek. You can pretty much pick up any accent that way.”

My daughter has said a time or two that, because of the music, she feels that she was born about 25 to 30 years too late. Because of Elán’s and Jan’s love for classic rock, I asked DeFan if he felt the same way.

“To be honest, we feel so disconnected from – I love how people say ‘the music scene” – we’re so far away from that. We’re so disconnected from it. I wouldn’t know how to describe where we’re at regarding that thing because we’re just not part of that ‘music scene’. So, I definitely feel – oh, god, if we could only go back to those times, things would be really, really good!”

My next question pertained regarded if there was a particular one who turned Jan on so much that he knew that he wanted to pursue a career in music.  I expected an answer that included – oh, I don’t know, say, the Stones or Janis Joplin, judging by the incredible sounds that he, his sister and the band produce.  His answer surprised me but it was a great one.

“To me, I think that there was a more modern band that, to me, was very modern but they didn’t sound modern to me which really gave me an uplifting hope which were the Black Crowes. When I heard the Crowes, I thought – and I had a chance to hang with them for a little while – the Crowes were very, very key. There’s a buddy of mine that I had a chance to record with, he’s been a very dear friend for many years, Nathan East, who plays the bass for Clapton. He made me feel that it didn’t matter when you were born, you had to make the kind of music that you love and everything was going to be okay.

“So, I think between the Crowes being a younger band that was playing real music – they still had slide guitar and Rich (Robinson) really cared about the sound and the lyrics still mattered.  After some years passed I realized that it didn’t matter the age, what mattered was the fact that they had something to say and they didn’t care what other people thought of them. That was a cornerstone for me.”

The band is almost single-handedly responsible for blazing the concert touring trail in Mexico, playing wherever they could – from small cantinas to large venues.  DeFan shared the story with me. With a laugh, he said, “We call it a ‘paper route’. We figured out how to make our own paper route and we’re very proud of it. And, yes, we still do it to this day.

“You have to carry three of everything. Whatever guitar you’re going to use with a certain tuning, you have to have three of them because if one breaks down.  I read articles all the time and we meet bands from other countries – especially the States and England . . . and a little bit from Australia – and they complain so much about how tough it is to tour. We just look at them and we laugh our butts off. They have no idea how hard it is to tour.”

So, does ELAN still run into surprises that they have never anticipated?

“No, no, no, no, thank goodness. After success comes, you start having a crew and you start needing guards and you start needing chauffeurs and all that stuff. After awhile, you’re travelling with a whole bunch of people – really nice people. We’re a big circus family! The checklist started maybe eight years ago so now that’s all taken care of before the tour starts. Things just run smoothly. All we have to do now is step on stage and have a good time!

“We do most tours on land. The whole flying thing has become a real pain in the butt. We travel in vans now. We can’t do buses because the buses can’t get through the streets in some towns so we do a van caravan. We’re not very high maintenance. We’re very easy to maintain. We have a couple of bottles of Jack and tequila every night and everybody’s happy!”

With the release of See Us Spin, the band’s attention is now focusing more in other countries in addition to Mexico. While they’ve had exposure overseas, Jan and the band realize that keeping the buying public’s attention is very, very tough. In talking about previous attention in Australia, DeFan said, “These days, people’s attention span is so short. People now – they don’t read and everything’s Twitter, which is 140 characters. So, they might like you one day but they’ll forget who you are the next. The way we do it, we try to do it the Rolling Stones way. We record once a year and then we’re on tour all year long because, if not, they’ll forget you in one second flat!”

As for formulas for success, I shared something with Jan that Sam Andrew from Big Brother and the Holding Company shared with me three years ago. It had to do with the fact that, when BBHC was starting out, there were no classes, training books, videos or anything else to help them.  They were inventing the sound from their heart as the went along.  Jan pounced on that.

“That man really knows!  I don’t know if we’ve really got a formula and I don’t know if we’re going to be successful but something that was true with Janis and Jimi and the rest of them was that they didn’t really care if they were successful. I think that’s important for us because we’ve had this conversation many a time when we’re re-evaluating things.  We realized that we really don’t care. We’ll do this for beer or for money. Nowadays, when we get paid to do this, it’s amazing to us. We would’ve done this for free if someone wouldn’t have told us differently.”

Since Defan is coming with the whole band instead of by himself, I wondered what he’s anticipating while in the U.S.

“I’ll be honest. I’m really, really excited about the south. If we get to play Texas, Alabama, Louisiana – if we get to go to Jacksonville, Florida, I’ll pee myself twice!  Other than that, we’re just excited to be playing in front of a crowd that speaks English! At the beginning, that was a tough call for us (singing and recording in English). It wasn’t like we were trying to do something so that we could sell records. Everybody now, these days, are very calculating. Everybody calculates everything. If you make this kind of music, it will be this successful. The only thing we were calculating was if we get paid enough beer to get drunk and, if we were really lucky, we would have a bottle of Jack. That was, basically, the biggest calculation we did was that!

“We hear a lot of ungrateful bands. We’re really grateful! We’re really grateful to be alive. We’re really grateful to keep on playing music for a living. The fact that we now get to play in the states – we just can’t wait to play in front of a crowd that speaks English. Down here, you have to try fifteen times as hard because we chose the kind of music that we know how to make. I think that God and destiny and life allowed us to play the kind of music that was kind of hard to translate to other people. When people are playing pop in Spanish and you’ve got all these guys singing and dancing and then you go up there with a slide and my sister gets up there with that fantastic voice and yelling into the mic, it was, I guess, shocking, to some and disappointing to others.”

Jan’s comments begged the question of whether or not singing in English caused them any problems such as people wanting to beat them up or anything along those lines.

“Well, people love us here, we are kind of a source of pride now. But of course you get in a little hot water! The good thing was that our parents put us into martial arts when we were young so, before we had body guards, we could just get down, you know? but truthfully we are so loved down here . . . we have had tons of support. And there are mean people everywhere but they are very few and far between.”

Shifting our conversation to the subject of how ELAN approaches recording an album, DeFan said, “Let me put it this way: I don’t want to sound like a snob. I need you to understand this part. For us making an album, it’s a process of putting down, on tape or hard drive, one year – a chapter of our lives. We do it every year. They’re all our babies.

“We do it, number one, so that we can get it off our chests so that we can move on with the memories and the stories. Number two, I think we do it so, next year when we go on tour for another eleven months, that we’re happy to play some new stuff so that we can mix it up a little bit. The way we do it, we usually do three takes as a band with Elán gone. But, usually, she blows it out on the first take. If it takes more than three, we skip the song and it doesn’t go on the record because we figure that, if we can’t get it down in three takes, we’re not really going to get it down live.”

Like many other artists, Jan just said that the band’s songs are like their babies. Even so, I asked him if he could pick one song that he would like Boomerocity readers to listen to that he thinks would make you want to buy See Us Spin, which song would it be.

“To be honest, my sister’s voice on Stranger – you know, she doesn’t do two or three takes. With Stranger, there’s something about it. We always have Dad come to the studio and take pictures. He’s an amazing photographer. I looked over. My sister was belting it out. I remember looking at my dad and seeing tears coming down his face. So, I think Stranger would be the one for me if I had to pick one.”

Since Elán’s and Jan’s parents were – and are – rock and rollers, I was curious what they had to say about ELAN’s music.

“Just to clarify, we also had classical music shoved down our throats, too. We also listened to a lot of mariachi and a lot of flamenco music. My dad flamenco. He made me and Pato – the other guitarist – he, Charlie the bass player, we’ve all be friends since we were eleven years old. He (Mr. DeFan) made us study flamenco. He said, ‘If you want to study guitar, you can’t play like Keith if you don’t study flamenco.’ So we studied flamenco for a little while. I only went to one class because I’m not very good with school or authority figures so that didn’t work out very well.”

Then, with some emotion, DeFan continued answering the question.  “To be honest, now that you mention it, they’re proud. It’s kind of touchy to even think about it now. They’ve been so supportive for so many years. They weren’t the typical parents who wanted us to be doctors or lawyers. They’re just two of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. What’s weird is today, when everybody get divorced 16 times and nothing really matters, they come from an age where, if there’s something broke, you didn’t throw it away, you fixed it. I think they passed that on to us. I’m in such awe that two people can give so much love to five other people – actually more – that pride makes us work harder.

“It’s weird because we really come from a country sensibility - familiar with family ties. I think it’s a southern sensibility – ‘good day, sir’, ‘good evening, Ma’am’, ‘yes” and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I think that they gave us a foundation where you’re grateful for everyday regardless of what you do. Sometimes it rocks, sometimes it rolls but you smile every day and you’re just thankful for what you’ve got.”

As ELAN begins to make forays into the U.S., I asked Jan what he hopes the American audiences take away from their shows and how they view the band.

“To be honest with you, I hope for the same thing that I hope for every night. When you decide to become a musician, there’s a couple of things that my grandma asked us to do and our parents asked us to do which is your problems are secondary to everyone else’s because, basically, you’re soul doctors. You go to that night and people get to get drunk off their butts and forget about their problems for a little while.  It’s tough sometimes. We’ve had two recent deaths close to us in the last year and a half. My grandma being one of them. We had to play the show, go to the wake and then fly to the next show. We have to do that because that’s what we do.

“So, what I hope is that they enjoy themselves at the show and that we take a little pressure and weight off of the life we all have to live every day. Times do get easier, they get tougher, the economy gets a little tighter and the government gets a little crazier. That’s the way life goes. Hopefully, they’ll come to the show and they can forget about all that crap for an hour or two and we’ll enjoy each other’s company, get down and have a drink together and tell each other stories, move on and become better people.”

In his career, DeFan and the band have collaborated with the likes of Slash and David Immergluck.  I asked him if there is anyone he still wishes to work with.  His answer came in the form of a great story.

“One day, I was at Capitol Records, mastering a record. The gentleman there who used to be our mastering engineer – an amazing man by the name of Mark Chaleki – tells me that we have to go down to Studio C where we’d recorded before.  He wanted me to help him put up a mic, which I did. Then he said, ‘Now we get to hang out here and meet George Harrison’. I said that I couldn’t do it. The best way to put is how Jim Keltner put it – an amazing drummer and I had the pleasure of working with him.  He’s seen so many people come and go who have died from all the crazy stuff but he’s very straight forward.  We were having lunch and I asked him what John Lennon was like. He said, ‘Exactly the same person that you think you know through his music. That’s who he was.’

“I didn’t want to meet George – Mr. Harrison – because I didn’t want to have that changed. So, I never shook his hand. But, to be honest, when things happen naturally and when you meet somebody and you both laugh and you’re both having some drinks and things flow like they had with Slash or Dave or any one of those guys we’ve had the honor of working with, that’s wonderful. But when you get all these labels, these money people and bankers who need you to do something with somebody because they think it will sell more records, it makes me want to puke. So, if we’re lucky enough to work with people that we meet or we love and admire, that’s wonderful. But if we gotta do it forcefully and it’s gotta be done because you want to be liked – people just got to stop trying to be liked!  People have to go and do what they think is right and if you me for it, great, and if you hate me for it, then that’s life and you move on.”

When asked if he thinks that ELAN’s music has the message and passion that the music he and his sister grew up with, Jan replied with an very insightful answer.

“There’s something about being born Mexican is the Spanish, sadly, when they came here, they instilled a thing in the local tribes that I don’t think is very good called humility. I think respect is wonderful but the brand of humility that was installed in this country was not a very good one because it basically means that you have to look down on yourself. You can’t get rid of that with a song.

“I would love to say yes to your question but we’re not trying to carry on a torch because I don’t think anyone in the 60’s were carrying a torch. They were free enough and they were educated enough where they were going to say what they were going to say. Sometimes it was a beautiful thing, sometimes it was a horrible thing to say. But I think that amount of freedom alone allowed them to do the best they could with what they had. All I know is that we’re truly trying to do the best we can with what we have. I don’t know if it’s a big thing or a small thing but it is what it is. I’d love to say yes because I’d love to feel that we are part of that musical family – part of that generation that had the audacity of being honest – the audacity of being who they were. I think only time will tell that. The only thing that I can say is that we’re not going to stop until our heart stops ticking.”

As for the band’s plans for 2012 and their goals five years from now, DeFan said, “Number one, we’re going to try not to die. Number two, we’re going to be on tour for the entire year and, hopefully, we’ll bring out another record like we’ve done every year. I don’t think we’ll stop until one of us is gone. I think it’s going to be our version of Groundhog Day.

“Five years from now?  We’ll have recorded five more records!  Ha! Ha!  To be honest, I’m not that ambitious. I don’t think any of us are. We’re so truly happy to do what we do every day that I honestly believe that, if life gives us a chance to keep on doing this, we’ll hopefully be in the exact same place and continue to tour.”

While Jan Carlo, his sister and band mates presumably have a long and prosperous career ahead of them, I asked him how he hopes they’ll be remembered and what the band’s legacy will be.

“Wow! I love it! I hope we go down as boozers and brawlers and womanizers – and ‘maninizers’ in my sister’s case, I guess – I  hope that we’re known as good sons and daughters and pretty good brothers.”

Then, getting more serious, he added, “I hope that we’re looked at as amazing friends because when you look back at the records, you realize they’re not just musicians, they’re your friends.

“I remember the first letter that we got from this boy from Canada of all places. He wrote us a very nice, kind, long letter saying that his mom had cancer and that one of the last moments that he had to share with her was with our music. I realized then that we have a really interesting career because we get to take a little weight off of people’s shoulders if we do it right.”

Then, with a sincere humbleness that permeated our chat, he concluded, “We’re just really grateful and hopeful that we’ll have the chance to continue that.”