Saturday, September 16, 2017

(Another) Night of the Living DEAD BOYS

“It’s been a little on the reckless side; the crowd’s been pretty crazy. My favorite guitar got broken, but other than that, it’s been good!”

The above words were delivered to me with a chuckle by Cheetah Chrome, a guy who’s still on the road touring when most people his age hit the sheets by 9pm. Easily one of the most resilient and inspiring characters in Rock ‘n’ Roll (and one of my absolute favorite people to interview), Chrome has been creating amazing music with his six-string since the mid ’70s – first with Cleveland’s legendary Rocket From The Tombs (featuring future Pere Ubu members David Thomas and Peter Laughner), then with original CBGB-era Punk kings The Dead Boys (as well as their short-lived original Cleveland incarnation, Frankenstein). Currently living in Austin, Chrome is spending 2017 celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Dead Boy’s classic ’77 debut, Young, Loud And Snotty, by putting together a new version of the band (including original drummer Johnny Blitz), re-recording the album and putting out a new version called Still Snotty: Young, Loud And Snotty At 40 (released last week on Plowboy Records). Chrome and his comrades are also currently on a US tour that will run through mid-November.

The new album and tour mark the first time Chrome and Blitz (who also drummed for Rocket From The Tombs) have played together since a 2005/2006 Dead Boys reunion alongside fellow classic-era members Jimmy Zero (guitar) and Jeff Magnum (bass), which saw Chrome handling the vocal spot left by the 1990 death of Stiv Bators.

“Me and Johnny have been playing together since we were 15. We learned how to play together, and it’s really fun being back with him.”

That’s all fine and good, but a Dead Boys reconfiguration in 2017 is clearly missing one hell of an important ingredient. How in the world could anyone replace Stiv Bators? It’s been nearly 30 years since the guy passed away; who would have the balls to take over that role? Ladies and gentlemen, Chrome and Blitz have found their fucking man.

Enter Jake Hout, singer for “zombie” Dead Boys tribute act The UNDead Boys and the closest approximation of Stiv Bators you’ll ever get from anyone who’s actually breathing.

“Jake just fucking walked in and took over,” Chrome says. “He’s the first person I’ve ever trusted to fill Stiv’s shoes.”

Detroit scene legend Ricky Rat, who previously shared the stage with Chrome when he was playing with Texas Terri, is on bass. Jason “Ginchy” Kottwitz, a long-serving member of Chrome’s solo band, rounds out today’s Dead Boys on second guitar.

“To me, it’s amazing how the dynamic’s pretty much the same [as with the original band]. These guys are nuts, too! It’s really cool; I’m really enjoying it because it feels like a band.”

While this new lineup is an undisputed powerhouse, there are two other original Dead Boys still walking the Earth who are not involved in the present band’s activities. Addressing the elephant in the room, Chrome blames health issues for Zero’s absence – and points to personal conflicts as the reason for Magnum staying home.

“Jeff’s just not the right guy for this band. In order to save a lot of time and trouble, I had to make that call. I don’t think he was into the original band that much. He missed a lot of gigs. He let us down several times, and he bitches incredibly. Do I need to keep going, or can I stop?” (laughs)

By re-recording Young, Loud and Snotty, Chrome and Blitz can finally address an issue that has bothered them both for decades. As brilliant as that album was and still is, Chrome insists that it was only meant to be a demo. Once Sire Records released the album without the band’s official go-ahead, they were stuck with it – until now. Chrome is happy to finally get the guitar sound he intended to have on the record all along, while he says Blitz was pleased to be able to spruce up some odds and ends behind the kit.

“It was really fun going in with this band and doing it. We were hot from the road; we were in Nashville for a couple of days and just did it.”

Naturally, the fact that Chrome and Blitz are this willing to redo moments from their past raises an important question: Will their second album, 1978’s Felix Pappalardi-produced We Have Come For Your Children, receive the same treatment?

 “I sure fucking hope so!” the guitarist replies. “If ever a record needed to be fucking redone, it’s that one. It sucked.”

In addition to reimagining past recordings, Chrome has set his sights on re-releasing the original Dead Boys studio albums as box sets, although he’s quick to add that Warner Brothers (Sire’s parent company) has been “slow as fucking snails” in coughing up the original masters to make this plan a reality.  

The new record and tour also serve to rectify another dilemma in The Dead Boys’ history: Cash. Like many musicians from the original Punk era, Chrome knows all too well that legendary status doesn’t always equal financial rewards.

“My publishing deal sucks; I’ve been trying to get out of it for 20 years. I receive some [money] when like Guns N’ Roses or somebody does [our music], but our fucking sales are nothing.”

Also worth checking out is Dead Boys 1977, an incredible new hardcover book by photographer Dave Treat that chronicles the band’s earliest days in Cleveland.

“Dave Treat was a good friend; he was right there at the very beginning with us, and he got some amazing photographs. One of them was the prototype for the cover [of Young, Loud And Snotty], but [Sire Records head] Seymour [Stein], in all is wisdom, said we needed a professional photographer to do it. It turned out all right, but Dave’s shot was better. I’m happy [the book] is out; it catches everybody in good moments. It really shows us back when we were a team and a real band.”

Looking ahead, Chrome intends to record new Dead Boys material and add to his band’s legacy.

“I see this whole thing going forward. The anniversary is the anniversary, but we still want to make some new music, too.”

He also intends to release a follow-up to his 2014 solo EP (called – what else? – Solo) in the not-too-distant future.

“I actually have some stuff in the can that’s on hold because I’m in the unfortunate position of competing with myself, which is kind of stupid to do. But there’s definitely some new Cheetah Chrome stuff coming, too.”

And that ain’t all, folks. During our chat, Chrome revealed that he has been in contact with the inimitable David Thomas about working together again.

“Me and David are in touch about doing something –  just a me-and-him project – at some point before we die. I want to do something a little crazier than [Rocket From The Tombs].”

Thanks to Still Snotty: Young, Loud And Snotty At 40, The Dead Boys are finally able to bring their iconic music back to life and show the rest of us how the real deal is done. Since he’s had this opportunity to bring his previous work into a present context, what does Chrome see as the magic formula that has allowed The Dead Boys’ music to survive and remain so powerful even after 40 years?

“We were fucking good; we could play! We cared; we gave a shit. We took what we did [and] put it on vinyl, and it shows. The cream rises to the top. I think we were the fucking redheaded stepsons of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but we’re still here.”


9/17 – New York, NY – Bowery Electric
9/18 – Somerville, MA – Once Ballroom
9/19 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
9/20 – Harrisburg, PA – Mid Town Arts Center
9/21 – Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
9/22 – Toledo, OH – Frankies Inner City
9/23 – Nashville, TN – Little Harpeth Brewery

10/21 – Omaha, NE – Lookout Lounge
10/22 – Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club
10/23 – Milwaukee, WI – Shank Hall
10/24 – Lombard, IL – Brauer House
10/25 – Madison, WI – The Frequency
10/26 – Detroit, MI – Small’s Bar
10/27 – Toronto, ONT – Velvet Underground
10/28 – Montreal, QUE – Fairmont
10/29 – Ottawa, ONT – Brass Monkey
10/30 – Rochester, NY – Photo City Improv
10/31 – Brooklyn, NY – Lucky 13 Saloon

11/1 – Long Branch, NJ – Brighton Bar
11/2 - New Hope, PA – John & Peters
11/4 – Cleveland, OH – Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
11/7 – Phoenix, AZ – Club Red
11/8 – Flagstaff, AZ – Green Room
11/9 – Las Vegas, NY – Beauty Bar
11/10 – Los Angeles, CA – Viper Room
11/12 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge

11/13 - Sacramento, CA - Harlows


Friday, September 15, 2017

Words for Basil Gogos

Hey, Joel. Take this; you don’t want to go in empty-handed.”

Those were Jerry Only’s words as he handed me a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland #63. It was the spring of 1995, and I had taken off from school to spend the day in NYC with The Misfits at Jerry’s invitation. The agenda that day (among other things) was to go to the city and visit the great Basil Gogos, who had recently completed what would soon become known as “Santa Gogos,” the first new piece of official Misfits art in more than a decade.

When Jerry, Doyle, their brother Kenny (a.k.a. Rocky) and I walked into Basil’s office, the excitement was palpable. There stood Basil – a friendly, warm and likable guy whose nature could instantly remind anyone of their favorite cool uncle. You should have seen it when Basil unveiled that painting: Jerry jumped up and down and clapped his hands like a little kid at Christmas, while the rest of us stood in awe of Basil’s unparalleled mastery. (“I think this is the best thing Basil’s ever done!” exclaimed Jerry on the ride home.)

Moments later, Basil and I started chatting. After autographing my magazine, he asked, “So, are you a collector?”

I am NOW!” I replied.

Here, you might like this,” he said as he walked over to the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein painting on the wall, took it down and handed it to me.

Was I nervous? Hell yes, and so were the Misfits guys! It felt like holding a newborn baby and being petrified of letting go.

I missed a day of high school, but I got to hold the original painting of one of the most iconic images in horror history – handed to me by the man who created it.

Afterwards, Basil took us all out to lunch, and we enjoyed his fantastic company. It was amazing to spend an unforgettable afternoon with such a kind and extraordinary person.

Twelve years later, I was at Chiller Theatre selling copies of my first short-run “mini-book,” Tales of Horror: The History of The Misfits & The Undead. I heard that Basil was in the other room, so I went over to see him as soon as I could. He remembered me from that day in the city, and I very happily presented him with a copy of my book – telling him that I mentioned our first encounter in its introduction. Then, he said something I’ll never forget.

Before you give me this, would you please sign it for me?”

Do I even have to explain how I felt at that moment?

We chatted for a few more minutes, and every second with the man was well spent. I’m grateful to have had those experiences with him.

Through his work, Basil opened our deepest imaginations and turned the stuff of nightmares into pure magic. There is no other artist alive or dead who has ever come close to successfully emulating his use of colors and lighting. This wasn’t computer-generated animation; this was pure art by a true old-school artist who inspired young kids like Jerry, Doyle and Rocky to grow up and create their own vision of the macabre. He also inspired guys like my brothers in Electric Frankenstein, whose album Burn Bright, Burn Fast features his incomparable cover art. I’m quite sure Rob Zombie (someone else who’s utilized Basil’s artistic talents) would readily credit a good chunk of his aesthetics to what Basil was putting on canvases way back in the day. And if you’ve ever been to my home, you know about the signed Gogos prints on the walls of “The Red Room.”

Basil’s death hurts, but his life’s work will fuel dark thoughts and bright dreams for generations to come.

Goodbye and thank you, Basil. It was an honor knowing you.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Josh Todd's New Conflict

Most people mellow with age, but most people aren’t Buckcherry frontman Josh Todd.

Eighteen years after first hitting the international stage with Buckcherry’s self-titled debut album, Todd’s about to unleash the heaviest record of his career with Year Of The Tiger, the debut release from his latest side project, Josh Todd & The Conflict. Long-serving Buckcherry guitarist Stevie D., current Buckcherry drummer Sean Winchester (Everclear/Bow Wow Wow) and former Dorothy bassist Gregg Cash join Todd in the new festivities. 

Out September 15 on Century Media Records, Year Of The Tiger is an album much closer to 90s NYC underground groups like Electric Frankenstein and D Generation than the band that gave Todd his first taste of fame. In addition to boasting f-bombs galore, the album finds the singer fronting a band that is as savage as they are solid. For starters, have a listen to Stevie D.’s Zakk Wylde-esque guitar pings on “Inside,” then marvel at how gut-punching Winchester’s Bad Brains-precise drumming is all over this thing. After that - when you feel your head and blood pressure needing a break - try on the radio-friendly “Rain” or the group’s cover of Prince’s “Erotic City.”

Year Of The Tiger’s arrives at the end of one of the tumultuous times in Buckcherry’s 22-year career, a rocky era that saw the departures of original guitarist Keith Nelson and drummer Xavier Muriel earlier this year. What does the future of Buckcherry look like at this point? Where does Josh Todd & The Conflict fit into Todd’s career goals? I tackle these and other questions with the man himself in the following interview. 

Obviously, you have a full-time band and you’ve done some other things project-wise in the past. I’d imagine you have a pretty bust schedule as it is, so how did this Conflict project take shape?

It started happening last year. I was on the road with Buckcherry. Stevie and I were walking through a Target parking lot, and I was like, ‘Hey, man. I need to find somebody who can make some beats.’ He said, ‘I can make you beats.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah? Make me a beat!’ We proceeded to start writing a lot of songs together for this project called Spraygun War, which was a clothing company that I had started; I always intended to put music to it. So we made an EP; we were out on a road, and we basically did it on a laptop. We had a lot of fun doing it, and my intention was always to make a Rock record. Buckcherry was kind of in disarray; there were a lot of things that weren’t decided at that point, and I’m like, ‘I’ve gotta make new music this year.’ Basically, Spraygun War kind of morphed into Josh Todd & The Conflict, and we started writing really heavily when we got off the road last year in November.

Musically, this is a bit on the heavier side compared to Buckcherry. What can those who know most through Buckcherry expect when they pick up this album?

It’s basically my roots. Stevie and I have each known other since I was 19. We wrote all the songs together, and he knows my background and where I came from. I grew up in Southern California; my foundation was independent Punk Rock records. I wanted to make a more aggressive record that didn’t have traditional tuning on the guitars – something heavier. Stevie knew exactly what I was going after. He would just come up with these great compositions, and I would just be off to the races with lyrics and melodies. It’s just more along the lines of my foundation.

Where do you see The Conflict in the grand scheme of things in light of the ongoing Buckcherry thing?

I always wanted two bands that I could work that had two different flavors. I could work one year on one band, and then the next year on the other band. I like to work, you know? You can’t just continue to hammer the road with the same product all the time – not in this day and age. You have to be diversified. If I was making the amount of money that some of the top bands are making where they can just sit home for a year and pay all their bills, it would be a different story. That’s not my situation; I have to work. I love to work, and this is my labor of love. I created The Conflict so I could give Buckcherry a rest and create something that was inspiring for me and something that I could build – and that’s what’s going to happen.

The album’s coming out on Century Media. I’m always curious when I talk to artists who got their careers rolling right when the industry was changing and becoming more digital-based with Napster and what have you. We’re a good 17 years into that, and the industry’s a lot different now than it was when the first Buckcherry album came out. For you, why was it advantageous to go with a label for this as opposed to doing it home-grown using Facebook or any of the other things at your disposal as an independent artist?

We kind of did that with the Spraygun War EP, and it fell flat for us. We have big intentions for this, and we want a big machine behind it and a worldwide situation going. We’re touring on this; we’re going to make more records. It’s just a different thing. I’ve got a lot on the plate – I need help. I need somebody who can take over those situations. I can’t get to everything, you know? It becomes a big load for me as an artist to sing and write the songs, record them and coordinate where I’m going to be. That’s when things start falling through the cracks. At the end of the day, you’re like, ‘How did this record cycle get to be so shitty?’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, because you weren’t paying attention to enough things.’ So we wanted a great record label in place that we could have a great relationship with and that could really handle radio and the things that we’re not paying attention to on a daily basis when we’re out working. That’s why you have a label – to help you with kind of stuff and the distribution and all that as well.

I want to touch a little bit on Buckcherry, because I know there have been some recent changes internally with the band. For those people who are curious where things are, how would you best characterize the current state of affairs within the band and what you’re hoping to do moving forward?

Buckcherry is in the best place it’s been in a long time. Basically, for the last three years, it just wasn’t really a band. We weren’t connected; we didn’t have any synergy anymore. There wasn’t that magic there. We were just kind of going through the motions, and it sucked, honestly. The changes took place, and they were great changes. I know that a lot of people who were close to the band were kind of bummed out about it. Some people were fine with it, but I got new players. Sean Winchester’s on drums, and we've got Kevin Roentgen on guitar. The band’s got the best players it’s ever had; the live shows are going off. We’ve done a lot of shows with the new lineup, and it’s just in a great place. It’s so weird because I have these two great bands, and I have to be diversified as far as giving Buckcherry a rest and then tending to this other project so that Buckcherry can thrive. I want The Conflict to thrive as well, so you have to get time away for each project so that it can do that.

You’ve had a long-running career at this point with Buckcherry, and you’re still trying new things with this new project and other stuff you have going on. It’s becoming more and more difficult to build that kind of career in this industry. For you, what was been the key to longevity and survival in this business?

First of all, I think the key to it is to remain teachable – and you’ve got to be passionate. If you’re not passionate, you shouldn’t even do it – especially now, because it’s become a lot more challenging. I know this just from starting something from the ground up again. There are so many things that I’m learning through The Conflict that I didn’t even know about as far as getting a brand happening again from nothing to something. It’s like, ‘Wow! Things have changed.’ I established my brand with Buckcherry, and there was always an audience to go to. Now, it’s like the great news is I’ve got this great record; the shitty news is that I have to kind of establish an audience. I’m going to get some Buckcherry people, of course, but I want a new audience as well. In order to do that, I have to find it and get in front of the people, and we’ve got to play the shows. That’s the challenging part right now. We’ve got to really get on a great package tour. These bigger bands know who I am, but they don’t know what this is. I have to be patient and wait for the record and the awareness to get out there.

* Portions of the above interview were edited for space and clarity. 

Official Josh Todd Website

Josh Todd & The Conflict on Facebook