2010. május 1., szombat

Vain - Tommy Rickard

Guitarist/Vocalist Davy Vain founded Vain in 1986 in San Francisco, CA, after recording a demo in the studio that was produced by Metalica’s Kirk Hammett and the songs hit hard and the recording captured the intensity of Davy’s unique vocal style, does it mean, that this demo was done only by Davy and he hadn’t any line up at this point?
Davy had some guys he was playing with, but he hadn't officially formed the band Vain at that time. I actually sang background vocals on a song on that demo. It was called "Out for Number One."
What were the songs on that tape? How was the demo recorded at all?
"Out for Number One" was on that demo, as well as a song called "Hot Rock." I have no idea how that demo was recorded, as I wasn't playing with Davy at that time.
Was it the first Vain demo by the way?
I guess you could call it that, but again it wasn't really a band at that time.
Is it correct, that with demo tape in hand, Davy set out to put together a band that could take over the world and each band member was selected for their looks, musical chops and their belief in Davy’s vision of what the band would be all about?
Yes, and the vision was shared by all of us. Everyone had something to add to Davy's already existing vision.
By late ’86, the line up was complete: Vain was Davy (vocals) Ashley Mitchell (bass), Danny West and Jamie „Rose” Scott (guitars) and you (drums), do you still remember how did all of you get in the picture exactly? Were all of you the first choices of Davy?
Davy and I knew each other through the local music scene, and I was the first to join. Then came Ash, Danny, and last but not least Jamie. Ash, Jamie and I went to High School together, and I knew Danny from the local record store/Metal scene. We were all our first choices, definitely. No one else was even considered.
What about the musical background of all of you? As far as you, you spent your teenage years drumming in the punk band The 4xLoozers and opening for punk legends like Black Flag, Agent Orange, Victims Family, and Sea Hags, can you tell us more about your early footsteps as musician?
I grew up playing in the local punk scene. That's how I learned to play. I would just stand on the side of the stage watching all the drummers play, taking in everything they were doing. I would then cut school and go home to practice everything I learned by watching them. I would also copy all my favorite drummers like, Clive Burr(Iron Maiden), John Bohnam, Phil Rudd, Ringo Starr, Neil Peart, and Keith Moon to name a few.
How did your choice fall on the drums at all? Do you play other instruments too?
As a kid I would always tap along to music. I never gave it a second thought. As far back as I can remember I considered myself a drummer. I think I picked up my first set of sticks when I was 9 or so. Being a drummer isn't something I planned on doing. I was born a drummer. I do play guitar now as well as sing in my own band. But I'm now fronting the band, standing up playing the drums and singing, like one of my San Francisco heroes, Andy Sturmer from Jellyfish.
Were you self taught or…?
I was self taught until 1992. After we finished touring for "No Respect," I knew there was a lot to learn about being a drummer. So I started studying with Chuck Brown. He's amazing. A brilliant teacher as well as a therapist for drummers like me. He really helped get my head on straight as far as drumming and living a life as a musician.
Back to Vain, after their first show, Vain was an instant headlining club band with a string of sold-out shows that caught the eye of the music press, what do you recall of those times? In which clubs have you gigged a lot?
We did start headlining pretty soon after our first show. We would sell out the Stone in San Francisco, the Omni in Oakland, as well as some great shows in LA at places like the Scream. Those were amazing times. So much fun. We were best friends riding a wave together. It was really special, and pretty unique.
What about of that early shows? Did you also open for bigger names too?
We did. We opened for Guns and Roses, Jetboy, Poison, Sea Hags, and a bunch of others. Those were the biggest.
How about the Bay Area scene at this point with bands, such as Heathen, Forbidden Evil, Legacy/Testament, Vio-lence? Would you say, that the Bay Area scene reached its peak around this time?
It depends on what kind of music you like, or you're talking about. There was a huge scene soon after that with bands like 4 Non Blondes, Counting Crows, Jellyfish, etc... But as far as the Metal scene, it was pretty huge back then, and it was really energized. All those bands were feeding off each other. It was pretty amazing to be around. I loved it.
Do you agree with, that you were close to the thrash scene because Davy was the producer of the first two Death Angel records? How was your connection to the thrash bands at all?
That was part of it. But as a kid Danny, Ash and myself would go see those thrash bands. We loved it and were pretty close with a lot of those bands.
Were you the oly one hair/glam/sleaze band in the Bay Area?
There were others like Specimen, Sea Hags and Jetboy.
Most notably, Kerrang! Magazine (and Metal Forces) which featured Vain on it’s cover before they were even signed, correct? How much did help the feature for the band?
It was a HUGE help for us. Before we even had a record out we had a buzz around the country and around the world. People were already talking about us, and anticipating our record before we were even signed. So when we did finally put out our record we were off and running.
Is it true, that Kerrang even put the band on the front cover and had a 6 pages story on you, and had lots of articles on you over the years?
Yes they did. They were really great to us, and we can't thank them enough. They still talk about "No Respect" and mention it as one of the best albums of the 80's/early 90's.
Was it easy to build up a fan base for the band?
It seemed easy because we loved what we did. It took tons of hard work, but we loved the work. We loved working together, playing together and hanging out with each other, so it was never really work.
How many demos did you still record after that aforementioned ’86 one?
I think we did 4 or so. I truly can't remember.
Were all of the demos shopped around to attract labels interests and distributed in the underground tapetrading scene?
Yes they were, and we sold them at shows.
By the end of 1987, Vain was showcasing for major recording labels and signed in 1988 with Island Records, were other labels also interested in signing Vain besides Island?
There were lots of labels that expressed interest. Nearly every label that was around at that time. But Island was the only one that let us be us. They let us make the record that we wanted to make, and didn't try and change anything about us.
When did you start writing the material for your debut „No Respect”? Did you have some old tunes besides „Laws Against Love”?
We were writing them from 87 all the way up til we left to go record "No Respect." In fact "Icy" and "Beat the Bullet" were written right before we took off to Canada to start recording. Whereas songs like "Ready" and "No Respect" had been played at some of our earliest shows.
How did the songwriting process go? Who were responsible for the lyrics and the music?
Davy wrote the lyrics and music. He would come to studio with an idea for the song. We'd play it until it started sounding good. Davy would then take it home and work on it some more. The band would then get in a room and mold them into what you hear on "No Respect."
You entered the Le Studio, Montreal to record the album, what about the recording sessions? Were you prepared to cut the material?
We absolutely prepared. We started cutting tracks on the first day we were there. We were beyond well rehearsed. Like I said before, we loved rehearsing and working.
Did you have enough budget to record the album? How long did the recording sessions take at all?
Yes we had the budget to record the album. It took us about a month to record it in total. Lots of that month was spent having a maybe "too much fun." We probably spent a week working.
The engineers were Paul Northfield, Warren Dennis, Dennis Hulett, were you satisfied with their work?
Of course. I loved working with Paul. I loved his the sounds he got, and loved and appreciated that he knew where we were coming from and going for as far as our record. He definitely got that we wanted "No Respect" to sound like we did at our live shows. He was amazing, and he had worked with with one of my heroes, Neil Peart. So on our down time he would tell me stories about Neil and how amazing a drummer he is.
Vain released their debut, „No Respect” in 1989, in your opinion was „No Respect” crammed with atmospheric driving metal with its own particular ambience owing to the live-in-the-studio recording technique?
The sound of the record was much more than just the "live in the studio recording." The live energy that each member played with and Davy's great vocal takes that also captured the feel of our live shows were a huge part of it. This was achieved in part by recording us playing live as a full band, but there were a few songs that we didn't end up recording all together as a band. In addition to the recording techniques, we didn't use samples or anything that wasn't us playing our own instruments on the record. A lot of bands at the time when "No Respect" came out, were using samples on the drums and layer upon layer of vocals and guitars. We didn't want any of that. We wanted it to sound like the same band that you would see at every one of our shows. The band and Paul all had a very clear vision of this and we were not going to be satisfied until we achieved our goal.
While the lyrics were largely sexually orientated, Davy Vain eschewed the usual glam perspective by drawing inspiration from his own relationships, is that correct?
You'd have to talk to Davy about that one. I hit my drums hard because I was drawing inspiration from my own relationships. haha!!!! :)
From a strict musical standpoint, you were far more talented, heavier and diverse than most of the metal bands who were around in the late 1980s, such as Poison, Warrant etc., how do you explain this?
How do I explain you thinking we were more talented and heavier than Poison, Warrant and other bands like that? Well, we were heavier and more rocking because that's the type of band we wanted to be. We really were a completely different type of band from the bands you mentioned. That's all it was. I didn't play like those drummers, Davy didn't sing or write like those guys, and we probably came from a heavier background musically than those bands. We all grew up listening to Aerosmith, Metallica, Ozzy, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. As far as being more talented...I'm glad you think so. We never thought about this or compared ourselves to any other musicians of the time. We just took a lot of pride in our instruments and the playing of our instruments. We all still do.
All killer no filler material here, a great mix of hard rock songs with a couple of really good power ballads thrown in for a good balance…
We wanted to make sure and make a record that was a full record from start to finish. No song was just put on there to fill space. I'm glad that came through.
Is the music a lot more raw, and less pop than many of the bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s?
It is definitely recorded and produced in with a more raw approach than most bands that we were compared to at the time. We again, just wanted it to sound like a live record. Almost like the first Sex Pistols record. As far as being more "pop," I don't know. I don't compare styles of music. We just wrote what we wrote, and strived to be the best we could be. Isn't "pop" just popular? Guns and Roses were the most popular band of that era, and I feel we were closest to them in our approach to music and being a band.
Do you agree with, that „No Respect” is one of the best and most underrated albums of the 80's?
I think it's a great album. And we made the record we dreamed of making. It's not necessarily underrated. It's always received great reviews. I would say it's more "under heard." It's kind of like being in secret club. The Vain "No Respect" is one of my favorite albums club. It's very exclusive. :)
You had the look and sounded great, you should have been famous…
Should have? Not sure. I do think that "No Respect" should have had more of a chance to succeed. Due to record company politics it really didn't.
Your videos, „Beat the Bullet” and „Who’s Watching You” were featured in rotation on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball and Hard 30/Hard 60 programs, how much support, promotion did give you these clips? Did they help a lot to increase Vain’s popularity?
Of course they did. MTV was where people went see their favorite bands and discover new bands.
Did you shot more videos or only these tow ones?
None that people can see. LOL!!! :)
Would you say, that „No Respect” and attendant single, „Beat The Bullet”, did well, particularly in the UK, where Vain toured triumphantly with Skid Row?
They did as well as they could under the circumstances. Again, business politics got in the way of it being distributed the way that it should have. That being said, it did do particularly well in the UK. That was due in part to the great press we were receiving even before our record was even out.
How did the whole tour go? What kind of experiences did you gain during the tour? Was it your first European touring experience for all of you?
It was awesome! The fans were unbelievable. They were so great to us. Skid Row were also amazing. They treated us as though we were co headliners on the tour, instead of treating us as an opener. It was all of our first tour of Europe.
Did you play only in the UK or were there other European dates too?
Unfortunately we only did tour the UK. We had an entire European tour booked and sold out as well as upgraded to bigger venues in some circumstances. That tour was cancelled 2 weeks before we left for the tour. Again record company politics.
Did you get on well with the Skid Row guys? How did you like their debut record back in the day?
We got along great. We had a great time with them. I remember Snake telling us that his mom came out to see us when we played in New Jersey. She wanted to make sure were good and nice guys. Funny. We truly did have an amazing time. It couldn't have gone better and the Skid Row guys couldn't have been cooler.
Lemmy of Motorhead, jammed with you at the Hammersmith Odeon, the final show of Vain’s sold out UK tour, what do you recall of that show?
Are you kidding? We played a sold out show at the Hammersmith. The place was packed before we went on. That never happened. UK fans never show up for opening acts. It was amazing. The crowd was unbelievable. I recall hanging out with Robert Plant and Lemmy before the show. Realizing that I shouldn't drink like they do, I did have a show to play. I remember being onstage and looking off to the side of the stage and seeing Nicko, Steve from Iron Maiden watching our set. Then I was onstage with Lemmy?! Wow!!!! It was a dream night. I couldn't believe I was meeting, and drinking with all of my heroes. It was truly a dream night.
In the USA you toured with Skid Row too, how were the USA tour compared to the European one?
We didn't tour with Skid Row in the States.
Do you think, that „No Respect” seems to have reached a cult status among sleaze fans over the years and it is criminal that Vain never got the exposure or commecial success that so many other less talented bands from those years enjoyed?
Criminal? Yes!!! I think everyone that worked for our record company should be thrown in jail. LOL!!!! Seriously, like I said before, I just wish "No Respect" would have had a chance to be as successful as I think it could have been. But then again, if it would have been more successful it may not have the feeling of being the member of an exclusive club. And the people who do have and love the record are amazing, and still love the band. That closeness to and feeling of appreciation for something we did 20 years ago is pretty amazing. I kind like it feeling that way.
So all in all, you made a hit with the „No Respect” tour, right? I mean, the tour was successful, wasn’t it?
The tour was a completes success. Most, if not all the shows we packed or sold out. We got to meet and interact with our fans, which was great. We traveled all over the UK, Japan, and Canada. So, yes it was huge success in my mind.
I have three bootlegs as for that tour, one of the boots was recorded in Sheffield…
I think I have seen the video bootleg from that and our Hammersmith show. Very cool.
You mentioned above that you didn’t tour in the States with Skid Row, with which band did you tour in the States? How was the US tour compared to the European one?
We headlined our own tour of the States. We did play a few shows here and there with other bands like Bang Tango. The States are HUGE. You travel from town to town in a bus and never know where you are. We played clubs in the States as well. In the UK we were playing theaters in front of a few thousand people. In the States it was usually 300 to 600 people. Both tours were amazing. The fans were so good to us, and treated us so well in UK and in the States. And just so you know, we only played the UK on our No Respect tour. Remember? The rest of our European tour was cancelled due to business bullshit.
I remember that „No Respect” had good ranks on the Hungarian chart and if I’m correct, it was also the album of the month back in the day…
That's great! It was doing well all over Europe. I'm sorry we never made it to Hungary.
At which point did you start writing the material for the second album? Did you have time to write some new tracks during the tour or…?
We had some of it written before we even did No Respect. But, most of it was written when we had finished the No Respect tour.
Were you under pressure considering the songwriting? I mean, you did an excellent, classic record and I think the fans had a lot of expectations into Vain…
We had more expectations than the fans. We take so much pride in what we do that we were putting pressure on ourselves to make a better album than No Respect. That are some songs on All Those Strangers that I feel we achieved that goal.
Unfortunately, in 1991, things were to take a turn for the worse for Vain, and it would be finances rather than grunge which claimed this glam metal casualty, as your label, Island Records, collapsed before the band could release their second studio album, „All Those Strangers”, what happened exactly?
What happened exactly? I have no idea. I didn't work for Island Records. What I do know is that before we were about to put All Those Strangers out, we were dropped by Island Records. There was some tension between the band and the Record company, but that's normal . I think the label just didn't know what to do with us, and didn't feel they could give the record and the band the support it needed to succeed.
Island Records shelved this album at the very last minute due to the label’s financial collapse, meaning that these songs have never officially been released, correct?
Island Records is still around and at the time they had U2, Bob Marley, Anthrax and Melissa Etheridge on their label roster. I don't think there was any "financial collapse." As far as our songs, they were never officially released. We just recently got the master recordings back, and released our own version of All Those Strangers. It sounds great. I'm really glad it's finally seeing the light of day.
Do you agree with, that the follow-up album never got a chance, as Island shelved the album after a few cassette promos were released in a management/ownership change, and the band was promptly dropped, killing any momentum you had?
Of course I agree. The record never came out, so we got no chance to follow up No Respect.
Did the label ask you to hear newer material before you entered the studio to record the album?
Yes they did, and they loved it. We always had record company execs coming by throughout pre production and the production of both No Respect and All Those Strangers. We wanted to feel like they were a part of what we were doing and we wanted to feel like we were part of a team that would together to achieve both of our goals.
What do you recall of the recording sessions of „All Those Strangers” by the way?
I recall hating the producer and his feathered hair. When we eventually got in the studio with him, it was not long before we noticed that he had a different vision for this record than we did. So there was a lot of butting heads. But I loved recording in LA, and I loved the sound of the drums in the big room at Track Studios. I also recall meeting Eddie Kramer during that session. He was working next door. That was cool. There was also lots of pool while listening to the Replacements.
How do you view, that this record while not quite as memorable as that classic debut, would definitely have been a perfect follow-up for you or is it a good follow-up to the „No Respect” album, although it might not have that same initial impact?
I thought it was a great follow up to No Respect. There are a few songs that I listen to today that I'm not really into. But over all I really like that record. And I think it would have done well. Especially songs like Planets Turning, Love Drug, It's Too Bad, Far Away and Wake Up.
Did the new tracks measure up to the fans or labels expectations?
Well the fans never had a chance to hear it unless they had bootlegged it. But from what I've heard from the fans they loved the record. And at the time the record company did as well.
Davy Vain’s voice in particular can be seen as whiney and nasally, but it is that uniqueness that has set the band apart from so many others over their long and storied career…
Is that a question? LOL!!!! Yes Davy has uniqueness in his voice, and his melodies. I think his melodies and their uniqueness and brilliance are sometimes overshadowed by the fact that he has such a unique voice. But yes both his voice and his approach to singing are big factor in setting us apart from other bands of that or any other era. Everyone had a unique approach to his instrument, so all of it mixed with Davy to create the Vain sound.
In your opinion, is „All Those Strangers” a typical Vain record, characterized by Davy’s recognizable vocals, the strong backbone of the rhythm section (Ashley Mitchell on bass and you on drums) and the twin guitars of Jamie Scott and Danny West?
Typical? We had only made one record before All Those Strangers, so I don't know that we had a formula yet. :) But yes it was very much what we always sounded like whether you saw us live or heard us rehearsing in our studio. Davy's voice and melodies, huge guitars, great solos, driving dynamic bass and drums. That was the Vain sound.
Did tracks like opener „Love Drug”, „Far Away” and „Here Comes Lonely” (of which another version is also to be found on Delanys Blaze And Ashes) still prove the potential of Vain had in the beginning of the 90s?
We never had a lack of great songs or lack of musicianship. These songs still sound great today. I'm not sure what that proves. I know we were still very much on top of our game in the early 90's. That's why songs like Planets, Far Away, and Love Drug still sound great today.
Do you think, that „All Those Strangers” has a lot of fast paced, bluesy moments too?
There are a few songs along those lines. Looking Glass for instance, is a bit of a sped up blues riff I guess.
The record was produced by Jeff Hendrickson, co-Produced by Davy Vain, how about the sound compared to „No Respect”?
No Respect had much more raw, in your face raunchiness to it. It also captured a lot of the dreaminess that Vain has in it's dynamics as a band. All Those Strangers may have some things that sound sonically fuller and technically better in some ways, but as an album I think it lacks a bit of the spirit that we captured on No Respect.
Have you ever shot videos considering the „All Those Starngers” record?
Again, none that anyone can see. :)
How was your connection with Island by the way? How much support, promotion did they give you?
It was great at first. Lots of foreplay, dinners, etc... LOL!!! Seriously it was really good. Then the label lost it's President, and then the label was sold, and then they lost another President. So by that time were falling through the cracks unfortunately. By the end it wasn't a great relationship. Just like I said above, they didn't know what to do with us, and we wanted this record to be huge. We weren't going to settle for the treatment we had on the No Respect era. We wanted more. We deserved more.
Was the label at the bottom of Vain failed making a name for themselves and did/could not from one the manages to get onto two?
Not sure exactly what you mean, but the label was definitely a problem. We sold out of all of our records. You literally could not find No Respect anywhere in America. The label wouldn't print anymore. They just wanted us to get in the studio and do a new album. It was so ridiculous. Then the European tour being cancelled after it was sold out. Beyond childish the way they handled that. Island USA was in fight with Island Europe. So Island Europe cancelled our tour by stopping funding for it because they two labels were pissed at each other. Almost comical if it hadn't actually happened to us.
Would you say, that they broke your career?
Broke our career? Do you mean broke up the band? If so, No. Davy took off to go play with Adler in Roadcrew. Jamie and Ash went with him. Danny and I stayed back and started our own band.
Danny West and you left the band in late 1991, what kind of reasons did lead to your departure? Did you part ways on a friendly term at the end?
What?!!! Why does everyone think that I left the band? Adler called Davy and asked if Davy would sing for his band called Roadcrew. We all talked and thought Davy should at least check it out. Jamie and Ash went with him. How was I supposed to play in Adler's band? 2 drummers? C'mon. Let me set the record straight. I NEVER LEFT VAIN.
Does it mean, that you didn’t go on tour supporting „All Those Strangers”?
No we did not. We did a few shows locally before Davy, Jamie and Ash joined Roadcrew. But that was it.
Guitarist Shawn Rorie and former Guns N Roses drummer Steven Adler joined the band, which was re-named Roadcrew, have you followed Vain’s career later on? Did you remain in touch with them at all?
Adler did not join Vain. Please get this straight. I don't mean to beat a dead horse here, but Adler had an idea for a band called Roadcrew. He asked Davy to be the singer and also asked if Davy would bring along Jamie and I think Ash. I can't remember all those details. I was never part of those conversations. They needed another guitarist so Davy reached out to our buddy Shawn. And yes we all stayed in touch. There were times it was a little strained between us. I felt a little burned at times. Thinking that the guys left me for Adler. It admittedly didn't feel great.
How would/could you sum up your musical career after Vain? A lot of ups and downs. Just like anything and any career. I did however over the past 10 to 15 years get the chance to play with some truly amazing musicians on some brilliant songs and projects. I also joined a few really great bands over that time span. Blue Sky Roadster, Single, BloodRoses, the Clarke Nova, and my own band. As well as getting the chance to work with people like Linda Perry. So now with all these other bands I've played with, the Vain family tree is just that much bigger and better.
This year was „All Those Strangers” re-released by Jackie Rainbow Records, didn’t you think about rejoining Vain again? Do still the fans have the chance to see Vain with the classic line up, I mean, Davy, Danny, Jamie, Ashley and you?
Yes, All Those Strangers was re released this year. And we sold it at our shows this past winter in Europe. Until now I never thought about joining Vain again. They had a drummer, I was busy. Davy and I were working together on other projects. So, no I honestly never thought about it until last Summer when I was asked if I would do an all original member reunion tour. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Hopefully we'll get to do more this Summer.
„No Respect” was remastered and re-released a few years ago, wasn’t it?
I hear it was, but I have no idea who did it or if it was done legally. I contacted the label and asked them a few legal questions, but I never heard back. So that leads me to believe that they did this without anyone's permission. But, yes I believe it was remastered and re released in Europe last year.
Are you proud of being the member of Vain and taking part in the ’80s scene?
Of course I am. I'm proud to have made a record that still gets listened to, and gets people to come out to see the band. I'm proud of the relationships I have with these guys. They're some of my best and longest friendships.
What are you best and worst memories with the band?
Worst memory was waking up that next day after hearing that Davy and the others were going to play with Adler. I knew that Vain was never going to be the same. That we were no longer the special little club we had. That thing that all bands strive for was gone forever. The best memory was being in the band everyday. Just knowing you were in the best band around was and is the best memory of that time.
Tommy, thanks a lot for your answers, anything to add that I forgot to mention?
Look for us this Summer. We should be hitting Europe in late August. Cheers. See you all soon.

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