Posted June, 2010
During my late teens, one of my favorite songs at the time was Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meat Loaf. That song seemed to dominate the air waves as it should have. Like many of you who listened to the songs of our rock idols, I wondered what Meat Loaf was like in “real life”. What did he do in his spare time? Where did he live and did he have a family?
Fast forward over thirty years to today. I finally had the privilege of having some of those questions answered during an interview with his lovely and incredibly talented daughter, Pearl Aday. Pearl, whose biological father was the drummer for Janis Joplin’s band, Full Tilt Boogie, was adopted by Meat Loaf after he married her mom. In my book, this is the epitome of being a father. My hat is off to you, Mr. Aday.
If there’s anything to pre-natal learning, and I do believe there is, then Pearl had her musical Masters by the time she was born. While Pearl was forming in her mother’s, Leslie, womb, she had to be hearing some of classic rock’s greatest music being recorded or performed back in the day. Add to that the fact that, after she was born, she was surrounded by great music and the musicians who played it as well as getting used to huge crowds as she took on various roles as part of her dad’s act. She started as a toddler, running out on stage in a gold lame jump suit to bring her father a new scarf after every song.
As Pearl got older, she was a back-up vocalist in her dad’s band for nine years as well as working with Motley Crue, even contributing lyrics to their song, Man of Steel. As if all of that isn’t enough, she caps it all off by being married to Anthrax guitarist, Scott Ian.
With all of that fire power in her DNA and in her life, it’s no wonder why Pearl’s debut release, Little Immaculate White Fox, has classic rock screaming from every note and syllable. Whether on that CD or in her performances, she exemplifies a naturalness and ease in delivery that gives the most seasoned entertainer a run for their money.
With all of that as a back drop, I asked Pearl if her performance is innately easy as it she makes it seem.
“You know, I’m still learning every time I go up on stage. I mean, I sang back up for my dad for nine years and also he’s my dad so my entire life I’ve been able to watch him perform. I really do think he’s – as far as performers go - he’s at the top of the list because he gives it his all every single show no matter what. One of the things he taught me, actually, and I’ve always agreed with him is, having an audience to perform to and a stage to stand on is a privilege, it’s not a right. The audience is there to see you. They’ve paid their money and taken their time. They’ve travelled. They’ve driven, whatever the story is, they’re there to see you and you are an entertainer. You’re a performer. It’s your job to entertain. It doesn’t matter if it’s five people or five million people in the audience, you always give your all – a thousand percent. That’s what I learned from and I always take that into account every time I step on stage.
“Coming from being in the background – a backup singer to actually moving to the front, it’s a hard job. I don’t think people realize, if you haven’t done it before, what it actually takes to keep energy moving and to be the main focus on stage. It’s a tough job and it takes a lot from your guts, which it should. People want to see your guts when you’re up on stage. That’s one of the main things that’s so compelling, in my opinion.
“But, like I said, I don’t do it perfectly. I don’t have it down pat. Every time I go up on stage, I learn something new. I’m still finding my footing. I think I’m doing a good job when I go up there now. I’ve come far enough to where I trust myself and my own instincts. But, yeah, I think it’s constantly a learning process. Always. You never stop learning about it.”
Pearl name came from Janis Joplin’s nickname. I asked Ms. Aday how much of an influence has Janis’ work been on her work even though the icon was already gone before she was born.
With a laugh she says that “It’s funny that you mentioned that I was born after she passed away. I just had an interviewer ask me if I ever got a chance to see her perform. NO-O-O! That would’ve been weird. She would’ve been a zombie! Ha! Ha! But, anyway, Janis – of course, I grew up with Janis’ music playing all around. The album, Pearl, the last one that she recorded, as far as influence, sure, I could sit with the greatest hits album or the Pearl album or the other various live recordings, I know it forward and backward!
“I definitely remember sitting down whether it was with a cassette tape or a vinyl, or later, CD’s, sitting down in front of my stereo, right in front of the speakers, and listening to her over, and over, and over again, studying, trying to hear the vocal gymnastics that she was displaying. I don’t know about you but she was one of a kind. No one before her, no one after her. She was one of a kind.
“I just remember being marveled, sitting and playing her songs in a loop and being marveled with the stuff that she could do with her vocals. The beginning of Cry Baby, when she starts it off with ‘Wah-ah-ah!’ (doing a great Janis Joplin wail). It’s like harmonics! It’s like what’s happening right now? What are you even doing?!
“So, I grew up unbelievably impressed by her as I’m sure everybody else is, as well. I’ve only met a few people who think her voice is an acquired taste and they haven’t found it yet”, Pearl says, chuckling. “But, you know, she’s undeniable. So, as far as influence, I don’t know. I was definitely influenced by her.”
I mentioned to Ms. Aday that it would be worth double the price of admission to see her perform some of Joplin’s hits with Big Brother and the Holding Company and asked her if she does any covers of Janis’ songs in her shows?
She responds very humbly. “I don’t. Not right now. I don’t know. I would love to but I’m such a purist with her in the sense that I want to hear anybody sing her songs except for her”, she says with a laugh. Continuing on, she adds, “I like them the way she did them. I think they’re perfect the way she did them. I don’t think anybody really needs to do them with the exception of, say, Kristofferson’s, Me and Bobby McGee. I think some people have taken a stab at that and done it well.
“Early in my touring life with my dad, he would give me the spotlight in the middle of his show and I used to do Mercedes Benz – just me, a cappella, the way that she did it. That was fun for me. But, as far as doing her songs the way that I know them and the way that I feel that they were meant to be sung, I don’t want to try that because I wouldn’t be able to sing it the way that she did!”
With her debut album out for about a year now, I asked Mrs. Ian what the receptivity of the project has been like.
“So far, so good. I’m getting great reception from everywhere – from all sides. I don’t often do this but I did it once: I went on and searched for reviews and I couldn’t find a bad one, if I do say so myself”, she says with a laugh that betrays surprise. “That’s just the truth! That’s just the truth! People are just liking it.
“I think that my band did a great job. I think my producer did a great job and I think that to be able to write these songs with – the main bulk of the songs – with Jim Wilson and Marcus Blake from Mother Superior, I’m secure and happy with the lyrics that I’ve written. I think we just couldn’t go wrong with it. It just feels really good – it’s just rock and roll, you know what I mean. It’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel! But I think it’s a genre that is kind of lacking right now. I think that people are wanting their rock and roll and they’re wanting it straight up and they’re not getting it. It’s not really out there, you know what I mean?”
I have a few favorites on your album (Mama, My Heart Isn’t In It, Anything). Could I get some stories behind a some of the other songs like Lovepyre and Broken White?
“Lovepyre. Well, actually, I wanted that title to be one word instead of two – like ‘vampire’. Long story short, I wrote that song about a girl I don’t talk to anymore. She ended our friendship – well, I ended our friendship. She acted like a total jerk and I had just not the day before gone and had a writing session with the guys and I had this music on my recorder – that’s the process I go through. They put down the idea and I plug in the words. It was like a bar room rockin’ tune.
“We (Pearl and her friend) had our falling out and those words just came to me. I’m telling someone off, you know? In Lovepyre, I came to the chorus and – a term I always use, like ‘funpyre’, a vampire sucks the blood out of you, someone who is a funpyre is someone who sucks the fun out of a room, you know what I mean? So, she’s a lovepyre. She sucks the love out of a friendship. That’s just my own made up term but it made sense to me. It was just me trying to put a little twist on it because ‘pyre’, funeral pyre, death of love, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was just taking some artistic license with that title.”
I knew that her tune, Broken White, was inspired by some art she saw featured in New Yorker Magazine. I asked Aday to shed some more light on the song.
“That was just a story that I wrote about this painting I saw in the New Yorker, where it made my brain go and what I was thinking. I have a BA in creative writing so fiction, poetry and stuff like that have always been my interest. I looked at this piece of art and that’s what it made me feel. It’s basically this story of this woman who has been attacked. She’s rising up and haunting her attacker. She wins in the end. Her spirit is rising and she’s haunting him from above. She gets the last word.
“I also took some ideas from the book Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I had read that not to long before that song started to get fleshed out. It’s a story told from the perspective of a 14 year old girl who was raped and killed and she knows who did it. But, of course, she’s dead and she’s trying to help her family with clues to find out who the perpetrator was. With the exception of Mama, that is probably the heaviest subject matter on the album” she concludes with a laugh.
Pearl’s album opens with the blazing Rock Child, which is obviously biographical in nature. As a child of a rock icon, I asked her what she thought the biggest misconception is of being the child of a rock star. She answers in a matter-of-fact manner.
“My dad’s always had, and my family’s always had, a really good balance between persona and what goes hand-in-hand with that and the ‘home dad’. Growing up, my dad – of course, he goes on stage and he’s this big, sweaty, screaming, beer can eating monster and he’s screaming his heart out and singing and taking control of arenas full of audiences. Then, he comes home and he’s in his pajamas with his glasses and his baseball cap, playing some fantasy football.
“We were always taught – not specifically taught but shown that there’s difference between the two. We very much had a home life where my dad coached my softball team from when I was nine years old into high school. He took a losing, Bad News Bears team in my high school and took us to state championships. So he’s really into that sort of dad stuff.
“Christmas was always a huge deal – the trees and the presents. We had to leave cookies. Of course, Santa Claus in our house really wanted Diet Coke and Vienna Fingers!” That story brings a laugh to her voice as she concludes, “Santa apparently loves Diet Coke . . . and so does my dad! It’s very strange.”
Pearl continues her story: “On the same note, he’s doing five sold out nights at Radio City or five sold out nights at Wembley Arena and we can’t walk outside without being chased down the street. But then we always had the home to come home to so that didn’t exist there too much – aside from people recognizing him in the grocery store or at the movies. We actually went to the Baseball Hall of Fame once on vacation and we literally got chased out of there. My dad was holding our hands and we were running with this mob behind us. That was during (the time of the album) Bat Out of Hell 2.
“There’s a funny story from when I was little. I grew up in Connecticut and New York mainly and we always had an apartment in Manhattan. We would go across the street to Central Park and he would push me on the swings or I would watch him play softball – he was the pitcher. One day, we went out and we were going to have Daddy/Pearl day and he was going to push me on the swings. He just kept getting approached for autographs and I’m on the swing going, ‘Daddy, push me!’
“When the day was done, we went back home and my mom asked ‘How was the day’. I think I was five years old, maybe. They say it’s one of my favorite lines where I went, ‘Meat Loaf! Meat Loaf! Meat Loaf! It’s ALWAYS Meat Loaf!’ And I stomped off and ran to my room.
“So, I don’t know. I have a lot of friends, not a lot but a good number of friends whose dads and moms are performers as well and some of them – their parents took the craziness from the stage and brought it home and it was always like that, 24/7.
“I’m not going to say that we were the Cleavers because we’re not. We screamed at each other just like any other normal family. But, we didn’t have the debauchery and the backstage antics and all that crap. It never came home with us, really.”
Meat Loaf was born and raised in the Dallas area. His mother was the positive influence in his home. His father was an abusive alcoholic. I asked Ms. Aday how, from her perspective, that positively affected how he raised you and your sister?
“I don’t know. I know that my dad’s dad was a real violent alcoholic. I don’t know. I don’t know. I can tell you that my dad was real big on respect. When your dad is talking to you, you don’t roll your eyes and you don’t walk away. You don’t walk away! You DO NOT WALK AWAY!”, she laughingly emphasizes. “You don’t roll your eyes! He taught us about respect and about chores. I think that he did with what tools he had because he didn’t get to learn a lot of that good stuff from his upbringing. My mom, as well. They did the best with us with what they had. I think I turned out pretty well!”, again concluding with her infectious laugh.
Meat Loaf has a new 2 disc CD set out entitled Hang Cool Teddy Bear, replete with lots of great live cuts to enjoy. I asked Pearl if she contributed to the album.
“I did sing on a fun track for dad’s album. I don’t think it’s actually on the album. I don’t know. There was a track called Bone Yard that I went in and I went to (legendary producer) Rob Cavallo’s house and recorded some vocals for it. I don’t know if it’s going to be a special B side for iTunes. I don’t know where it went or what’s happening with it but it was a lot of fun. It’s always great to be asked to be a part of Dad’s projects. I’ve done it a few times and it’s always a lot of fun.”
What future plans does Pearl have?
“As far as future plans, we’re just really working to try and get out there and stay out there playing live. We don’t have any ‘money loaf’ from the record company at all. So every bit of touring, everything that we do comes right out of my pocket or Scott’s pocket. It ain’t cheap! We have to forget about flights, the van and gas and food and pay each band member. And, oh yeah, there’s hotel rooms on off days. To get out to everywhere is virtually impossible without losing your shirt and being left out on the street when you’re done.
“We’ve gotten offers for a few summer festivals which are quickly coming up but we’re trying to work it out and make it make sense for us, economically. But that’s the goal, to keep moving forward; to keep playing live when we can and doing everything that we can do to just let people know that this even exist. It’s tough. There are a lot of people out there to get the word to!”
Well, the Boomerocity readers have now gotten the word on this new, incredible talent. Read about the Boomerocity review of her CD here. You can also keep up with the latest happenings in Pearl’s career by checking out www.cheersloverock.com .