Billy Miles Brookes is a rocker from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who’s rocking since the early 80’s.
With his band Tragic Romance, he was a part of that crazy Los Angeles/Sunset Strip 80’s glam-metal scene! He could have been as famous as Poison if fate didn’t decide something else…
Now, he’s delivering some cool country-hard-rock not so far from the Rolling Stones!
That’s an honour for Riff Your Life to interview that gifted musician and sweetheart guy, who’s still fighting to keep rock alive in the 21st century!
#1 : Hi Billy! When and how did you start listened to music? Could you list your early influences?
My earliest memory is waking up in a shoebox in the middle of the road, and my father sending me to the factory to work 25 hours a day and then coming home, scrubbing down the road, and then getting a nice bludgeoning to put me to sleep, but when that wasn’t happening, I remember that I couldn’t wait for The Monkees T.V. show every week as a kid. That really gave me the bug to be a performer. And they were super wacky and funny, and Davy Jones always got a hot babe every episode, so of course that’s what I wanted to do. As well as The Partridge Family, they had great tunes, and Susan Dey was the hot sister on there that every young boy fantasized about, and Keith Partridge (David Cassidy) was the perfect rock star, with the perfect Rod Stewart/ Ronny Wood shag cut- I didn’t know it at the time, I was too young, but he was the perfect American POP star (with a British glam-rocker hairdoo! Oh how I longed for that perfect rock star hairdoo!) And then the Jackson 5 came out, and that hit me like a ton of bricks. That was my first record album, “Diana Ross presents The Jackson 5”, with “I Want You Back”, holy cow, that intro still gives me goosebumps! I thought I was Michael Jackson for a couple years, doing all the spins and dance moves and imitating every lick from every song. Imagine giant “elephant” bell-bottom corduroy pants with all kinds of groovy colours and patterns, a valour shirt with a zipper on the top, and maybe a suede vest for good measure. Then in my early teens I was starting groups with the neighborhood kids doing The Monkees, The Beatles and Elton John. Then one day when I was about 12, on a vacation trip with my family, we pulled into a gas station and the mechanics working in the garage had the radio turned up really loud and this amazing chugging electric snake of a song (Jumping Jack Flash- the song was already 7 years old, but for some reason I was always sheltered from The “wicked, dirty” Stones by my parents) and my life was changed in a moment. I was bitten and hypnotized and possessed all in 3 minutes, and then completely immersed myself in the Stones, and they were my favorite from then on. Every aspect of them, their history, their roots, how Mick sang and moved, how Keith and Brian and Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts all played, the wicked coolness of Keef, what gear they used, and all the incredibly insane ribald tales from the biographies from “Spanish” Tony Sanchez and the like, especially from the late 60’s and early 70’s when it was all black magic, heroin, sleeping with each other’s girlfriends, and THE BEST FUCKING ROCK N’ ROLL EVER CREATED EVER.
#2 : When did music became so important for you that you decided you wanted to become a professional musician? (first serious bands and gigs, etc)
The neighborhood gang and I, now called Billy & The Bangs (yikes!) kept trying to get a real band together year after year, and finally one summer we were asked to play at a friend’s birthday party. Imagine a hot afternoon in a backyard in suburban Albuquerque with little kids running around, a couple old folks sitting in lawn chairs, a grill with hotdogs and hamburgers cooking and smoke blowing in our faces while we tried to look like we could rock. I remember we played Roxanne, Baba O’ Reilly, and for some reason an incredibly difficult song by April Wine called “I Like to Rock”. I don’t know what we were thinking but somehow we pulled it off good enough for a backyard birthday party. When the people clapped and yelled for more, I was bit by the bug, and thought: “This is the life for me!” I soon wrote my first handful of originals; very garage-rock, but a couple that still hold up to this day, one of which is almost identical to “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion, but I don’t think they ever heard my song, which was written about 12 years before their tune. My second big wave that really motivated and excited me were the punk and new wave movement. I wasn’t a big Sex Pistols fan, but I absolutely went bonkers for The Clash, and to a lesser degree The Boomtown Rats and The Police (back then they were still considered new wave). I absolutely ate up anything they released, and my parents must have thought I was becoming a complete nutter with the sounds that were blasting out of my bedroom. It was always “TURN IT DOWN!” from my step-father. And there’s me, jumping around on my bed to “Complete Control” and flipping him off from behind closed doors! I also finally learned all about and became crazy for The Who, David Bowie, Rod & The Faces, The New York Dolls, Queen, of course (he says embarrassedly) Kiss. I ate and drank all these bands and read as many magazines and biographies I could to learn HOW THEY DID IT. I was searching for the formula, and sometimes you could find key similarities, and other times, every case was different. The key was obviously great tunes, natural talent, a great look, charisma, and stage show. And if you were somehow unique and different from everybody else, that REALLY helped. Unfortunately when I was old enough to really try to make it, all the great styles had been done, and there wasn’t anything new under the sun.
#3 : I’m a big fan of your most famous band Tragic Romance, in which you were the lead singer! Could you tell the story of Tragic Romance’s career to the french audience who doesn’t know you ?
Well thank you, it’s so great to hear that someone is still listening to Tragic Romance once in a while. The history of T.R. is actually a tale in two parts. Before and after (and this relates to question # 5 as well) grunge took over the world. We’ll start at the beginning. But first, let me introduce the band:
1987 – 1993
Billy Brooke – Lead Vocals
Britt Wilson – Guitar
Phil Gibson – Bass until ’91 Steve Moroney ’91 thru ’93
Steph Takos – Drums until ’88 Mark Vernon ’88 thru ’93
“Cancel the Future” was recorded in August 1992 and was released in March of 1993.
In my teens I kept singing (I played a little guitar and bass as well, but considered myself a “lead singer” and was going to be the next Mick, Roger, Freddie, etc.) in different bands doing a mix of covers and originals and then getting into the whole new wave of British heavy metal style, which took over everything for a couple years, and just kept working at my craft. By the time I was about 20, my band Gypsy Rose (from Albuquerque, New Mexico) was one of the big bands in the state, and our hair was even bigger! My band and I had discovered Hanoi Rocks a year or two before, and they were like a dream come true. The sound of The Stones and Dolls, (and a bit rough and punky) with the most glamourous look ever! So we tried to look like them, and the british band, Girl (where Phil Lewis from L.A. Guns and Phil Collen from Def Leppard came from) and then soon Motley Crue came out with “Too Fast for Love”, and it seemed like we were part of some super awesome Zeitgeist that was destined to take over the world. Although I tried university to keep my parents happy, I knew that I was going to go to Los Angeles at the first opportunity and try to MAKE IT.
#4 : You were a part of the now mythic scene of 80’s L.A./Sunset Strip glam-metal! Would you share a few ‘epic’ stories about famous rockstars you met and/or knew back then? 🙂
I guess I’m pretty lucky, because I had an inside track to the whole thing, because my guitar player from Gypsy Rose had moved to L.A. for a while the year before and somehow got the job as the guitar tech (“roadie”) for the original lead guitar player for Poison named “Coco” (actually Matt Smith). He (Scott, my guitar player) came back to Albuquerque with the wildest stories you could possibly imagine and said we had to get out there IMMEDIATELY! So in a couple weeks we rented giant trucks, took all our belongings, including my scooter, (which I drove up the ramp and smacked into the back wall of the truck like a drunken Evel Knievel) and set off to conquer Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, and the whole world! This was May of 1985. My mind was filled with the expectations of everything he described: Sell-out hot and sweaty crowds at the Troubadour and Whisky A Go Go, mind-blowing stage shows with feather boas, confetti falling from the ceiling, non-stop action and an audience filled with the sweetest, hottest, scantily-clad babes you could imagine! It was a long, arduous 16 hour haul across the hot desert, leaving homes, girlfriends, jobs, and family behind. That long night on the road was tough, especially exhausted after not sleeping the night before, due to all the excitement and stress, and sadness, and fear, and by the time we actually pulled into Hollywood, I was frazzled to a crisp. I might gotten some sleep and turned right around and gone home if it wasn’t for the fact that our first stop was “The Poison Compound”. I don’t remember exactly where this was, somewhere in the heart of Hollywood, but it was a former corporate office complex that had been abandoned and Poison was smart enough to lease it and turned it into a practice space and living quarters not only for the band, but for all the roadies and some other friends as well. The various rooms were all partitioned by pre-fab walls they got from somewhere, and somehow it all worked, and everybody felt like family. When we pulled up about 7 PM there was nobody at the entrance, so we walked in and heard some singing, and Scott walked towards the back of the building and said “oh that’s just Bobbi in the shower”. then he walked back and announced himself, and the next minute a crazy sopping wet Bobbi Dall (actually very tall compared to us) comes running out of the shower, totally nude, grabs Scott, picks him up and spins him round and round shouting how glad he was to see him. I had no idea how much of what Scott had told me was true about Hollywood or not, so this was a super great reinforcement for me. He really DID know these guys and they really WERE the biggest band in town. How awesome! This really was the right decision after all. O.k, now I need to fast forward a bit. Although it was amazing to be part of that original “hair band” explosion, and see Guns and Roses and L.A. Guns, and Ruby Slippers (great but didn’t get a big deal for some reason) and and The Joneses and Jetboy and all those bands rock the clubs and make it, and be part of that amazing crazy wild sexy scene on the Sunset Strip, handing out flyers to all the other hot young rock n’ roll babes and dudes on the strip at night and then pasting posters all down Highland avenue into the wee hours of the morning while dodging cops, there were a thousand bands all trying to be the next Poison, and then even bigger- Guns and Roses.
Another funny story about the “crazy old days” took place just a couple weeks later when we were invited to the annual Poison Pajama Party! It was a blast, and you can imagine all the incredible hot young babes in their tiny little “jammies” and tiny night gowns, etc., and all the cool rockers there. Unfortunately the police shut it down after a couple hours, so everybody was scrambling for a place to go. So Scott and I invited everybody back to our little apartment in Burbank. Only a few came, but one of them was Taime Downe of Faster Pussycat, and we had a great little time in our little apartment, although you could tell pretty quick that it was much too tame for someone as wild as Taime. I’ll never forget the last minutes I saw him: I was being led, very drunkenly, by a humongously overweight groupie troll into my bedroom, and he was shaking his finger at me going “no no no!”. (But I did anyway. It was very sad in the end… hee hee…) But it was always great to run into him in the years later after he got kind of famous, and his club, The Cat Club became the most popular nightclub in town, and he was always very warm to me. Even 25 years later, Faster Pussycat played Santa Fe (where I live nowadays) and he and I had a nice exchange.
Another story that really encapsulates the vibe of those crazy big hair days: It was late summer ’85, I believe, and Scott and I were still going over to the Poison compound once every week or two, and one evening we got there, and were hanging out watching some rock film or videos or something in the entertainment room, where there were giant posters of Hanoi Rocks, Van Halen, early Motley, and The N.Y Dolls completely covering the walls, and we noticed that the band had all gone into the kitchen; something was going on! On a side note, there were always super hot young babes (some of which we found out were strippers in the famous strip clubs of Hollywood) coming in and out of the house at all times. Sometimes coming in and sitting next to us wearing only skimpy t-shirts and panties. Needless to say, we weren’t really concerned about what was on the T.V. The rule with the female visitations at the compound was: To get in the door the hot babes had to bring a bag of groceries. They did, and Poison was able to keep in fit form because of it. But let me digress: The commotion in the kitchen was that Bobbi Dall was sitting on a stool next to the sink and was seriously upset- crying tears of sadness even!- because Poison had been offered a record deal! Unfortunately it was with Enigma records. Well, let me turn it over to Wikipedia here: Michaels, Rockett, Dall, and DeVille signed to independent label Enigma Records in 1986 (see 1986 in music) for approximately $30,000. Their debut album: Look What the Cat Dragged In, was released 2 August 1986. It originally included only one single, “Cry Tough”; however, Look What the Cat Dragged In became a surprise success and subsequently spawned three charting hits: “Talk Dirty to Me”, “I Want Action”, and “I Won’t Forget You”,The record became the biggest-selling-album in Enigma’s history. With heavy rotation on MTV, their debut earned the band tours with fellow glam rockers Ratt, Cinderella, and Quiet Riot, as well as a coveted slot in the Texxas Jam in Dallas. The album ultimately sold 4 million copies worldwide.
You see, the reason why Bobbi was sad is because he and the boys all thought that they would get “the million dollar deal” with Warner Bros. or Capitol, or CBS, etc. etc. and instantly be launched into the stratosphere like Zeppelin and The Stones with millions of dollars of record company money backing them. Bret, Rikki and Scott and I (C.C. wasn’t there that night) were trying to assure Bobbi that he shouldn’t be sad as Enigma was a subsidiary of Capitol Records, and that as soon as the record started selling like hotcakes, Capitol would pick the record up and really explode it. Poison was absolutely massive- with lines around the block at The Troubadour and the Whisky and Roxy, (G n’ R were just getting started at this point and nowhere close to Poison when it came to live shows and sell-outs. As most of you know, Slash actually tried out for Poison when Coco left, but didn’t get the gig) It took a while to cheer Bobbi up, but after a while he was o.k., and of course this is the part of the story where I say: “and it all happened exactly as we said, and the rest is history!”
Unfortunately the bigger the band got, the less we saw of them, and it just got less and less over the next years. Anyway, I know this has turned into the Poison story, sorry about that, and now back to Tragic Romance. 🙂 O.k, one more perfect 80’s glam days story:
I was working at Licorice Pizza records in North Hollywood when I first moved to L.A., and one day the representative from Warner Bros. Records, Suki, invited me to go to the big Aerosmith concert at the L.A. Forum. It was the first tour where Joe Perry and Brad Whitford came back to the band after quitting a few years back, so it was a huge occasion. (The “Done With Mirrors” Tour.) We went to the concert, and because I was with Suki, I got to hang out in the back stage area. It was part of the basketball court where The Lakers play, but behind the stage, and closed off to the public. Aerosmith were hiding in their dressing rooms, because they had become “clean and sober” (although not really, we found out later, but were “trying”) and all of the rest of us were about twenty feet away getting toasted on all kinds of free drinks and beers from the free bar. When I say “the rest of us”, it was: Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Bobbi Blotzer, (Ratt), Juan Croucier (Ratt), Frankie Banali, (Quiet Riot) and me, all hanging out in a circle, just shooting the shit. Then, everybody looked over to the entry door and who was making their way toward us but Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons! I got up first and went over to them because I embarrassedly admit, at one point when I was a kid I went through a heavy Kiss phase, and told them I was a big fan and sorry they had cancelled their show from the night before (Gene has laryngitis and couldn’t sing) and both of them were very nice and shook my hand and said something funny. I remember they were massively tall, just towering over me. They were both wearing black suits and probably very high heels. Anyway, this was all a rockers dream come true, and the concert was superb, and then afterwards Suki and her roommate (can’t remember her name) took me to this really cool old dark, hip, bar in Hollywood called The Firefly- it was wear all the really cool bands (not the big-haired ones, but more like the underground bands) hung out. We continued drinking and talking to everybody, and it was a blast, and then Suki said she had to leave for a little while but she’d be back soon. Sure enough, about 20 minutes pass and she’s back, and she comes up to me in a crowd, with the loud music blasting, and says into my ear: “here, take this” (handing me a piece of lovely origami that was shaped like a triangle) “go to the bathroom, be discreet, and do it”. I was pretty drunk by this time, and sort of got the idea that it was probably coke or speed or something, which I NEVER did, I was still a very innocent small town naive boy from Albuquerque, but for some reason, I guess because of the wild atmosphere, and spirit of the night, I went back to the toilet. I remember clearly going in the last stall of the bathroom, opening the thing up, seeing that it was probably coke, and sniffing it all up. I didn’t really consider how much of it it was, I didn’t know how much people sniffed up in a dose, or whatever. Then I threw the paper it was wrapped in in the trash and went back out. I walked back into the thick of the crowd, and started talking to somebody, or dancing or something, and Suki comes up and glares into my eyes: “where is it?” she asked, somewhat harshly. “I did it, like you said”, I replied. “What do you mean you did it?” she practically screamed in my face. “I mean I went into the bathroom, I was discreet, and I did it, just like you said.” “ALL OF IT??” she shrieked, “Well, yeah, I thought that was my portion”, I didn’t know that was for everyone”, I innocently (and most sincerely) responded. Things were starting to get a bit foggy starting right then, but I remember she was absolutely shocked and furious, because I guess the amount I put up my nose was supposed to be shared by four people, and cost them $50.00! She spat out several obscenities toward my general direction and then went to tell her roommate, who came over and joined in the tirade. I kept apologizing and stressing that I had no clue, (and no money to pay it back, I was down to my last beer) and genuinely thought that that was MY portion, I had never done coke, and didn’t know any better. By the look on their faces, it was obvious they did not believe me. The next thing I actually remember was turning away and standing at the bar looking into the mirror over all the glasses and bottles of booze and seeing my face and whole body start to get wiggly wobbly, and then I knew I had to get out of there fast because I was about to be sick. So I ran out the door and around the corner to the back of the building and proceeded to violently unleash a fountain of coke infused vomit behind a trash can. It might have saved my life, I don’t know. Or at least kept me from being wide awake and wired over the next three days. As I made my way back out onto the street Suki and her roommate were right there. They could see I was staggering and wiping my mouth, and finally I think they believed me. I got into the backseat of their car and we went to their flat in the Hollywood hills, and had some beers- or maybe a Sprite at that point (hee hee). They were much nicer at this point, and they were just lying on a sofa and a bed, and it didn’t occur to me until the next day that the way they were acting, much much much nicer, to the point of flattery (neither of them were very good looking and I was the lead singer of a very cute band) and a bit flirty, was that they were hinting that a way I could repay them for doing all their blow was to pleasure them. Again, I was fresh off the boat from podunk Albuquerque, and all this decadent Hollywood stuff was just sailing over my head; I was clueless. After a while I guess they gave up, and I was probably nodding off in a chair- it must have been about 4 in the morning at this point- and Suki said she would take me home. She was nice enough on the 20 minute drive over the hill into North Hollywood, but when we pulled up to the house she turned to me like a scary schizophrenic psycho from a horror film and lowly hissed: “Go get my money”. “Get my $50.00!” She knew I had 5 roommates, and had calculated a plan for me: If I woke them up and begged from all of them there was a chance that I might accumulate the $50.00 she was demanding. Frazzled and shocked, I told her I would try my best. I don’t think I woke them all up, but I managed (after frantically re-telling the night’s crazy events that led to this crisis) to get $27.00 scraped together between a couple of them, and I went sheepishly out to the car, and told her I tried my best but all I could get together was $27.00. She shot some daggers from her eyes, paused, and then snatched the money out of my hands. “I guess that will have to do”, she grunted and then screeched her tires as she peeled out from in front of the house. I stumbled to my bed, and was quite thankful that I had puked everything out earlier and crashed like a bag of flour into my bed and slept dead to the world until about noon the next day. When I got up a strolled out into the living room of my house where a couple of my roommates were already up watching videos or cooking in the kitchen, and to a man all of them greeted me with: “HEY, THERE HE IS, FIFTY DOLLAR BILL!” O.k. it was pretty funny, and that was my nickname for a while, but luckily not too long. Argh!
From my early days, as I mentioned, I knew- to really make it BIG- we had to be different and unique, so I tried to blend some real substance and more unexpected influences into the mix, such as The Doors, The Who, Sly & the Family Stone, a little bit of Prince, Queen, Pink Floyd, Sabbath, and Motown, but that was probably more of a hamper than a help, as so many other bands just singing about “getting laid” were getting signed right and left of us. Then we expanded that to U2, The Cure, and especially The Cult, who sort of found a way to nail all that stuff together in a modern sound. We REALLY wanted and worked hard to be THE NEXT big thing, practicing at rehearsal halls (quite expensive in L.A.) for many hours several nights a week, and playing two or three times a month at all the best L.A. clubs; not only the Sunset Strip clubs, but also the cool underground clubs. Because of our unique style, and dark streak, we were one of the few bands to be part of both worlds. We ended up opening for all kinds of amazing and various bands such as Jane’s Addiction, L.A. Guns, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Warrant at their first album record release party at the Roxy. It was really sad as the young girls were screaming and creaming their jeans for anything like Warrant, but when we started playing some of our heavier, darker songs you could tell that they DID NOT get it, like our fun-time picnic song “Dying for the 13th Time” hee hee.., I remember seeing “deer-in-the-headlight-looks” from the majority of the beautifully hair-sprayed babes in the audience.
#5 : Unfortunately Tragic Romance ended up splitting… Was this because of the grunge tidal wave? What did you do after that, did you started playing with another band or did you go solo?
This is the big question, and I’ve had it many times and I’ve thought about it many times; it’s complicated because it would be such an easy cop-out answer to rationalize the failure of Tragic Romance due to this phenomenon. But is it? What is the reality? Even I don’t know. All I know is that for a time we were VERY popular and very unique, much more than most bands at the time. I remember getting phone calls in our tiny crazy rock n’ roll house in North Hollywood getting calls from Brian Slagel from Metal Blade Records or Deb Rosner, the publicist for Poison, etc. etc. and to me it was just “another day at the office”, you see, I too, like Bobbi Dall, expected that our band would be the biggest band in the world, and get “the million dollar deal”. I remember being in an elevator at The Concrete Marketing Convention, where all the A & R agents were there to see all the hottest new bands, hearing a couple of the A & R guys who didn’t know it was me standing a few people behind them, saying, “so, what’s the buzz this year? Who’s hot? And the other guy saying: “All I’m hearing about is Tragic Romance”. That was pretty awesome. We were this weird combination of a Sunset Strip (and Valley rockers) band; SEXY BOYS, ROCKING MOVES, CATCHY TUNES, and a Hollywood Underground (Club Scream, White Trash Au Go Go, Club Lingerie, etc, etc.) band. A cross between Jane’s Addiction, U2, Led Zep, and The Cult. The Cult did it the best, still kind of Goth, but main-stream rocking. Of course, we started out with very big hair and the usual rock attire, but always sounded a bit different, but when grunge hit, and a LOT of the bands broke up, we thought we were different enough that we just needed to go even darker and heavier and weirder, and we might be o.k.
After we started doing that “darker sound and look” (this mix between old school and new school- almost Gothy, with a touch of poetic madness of The Doors and Pink Floyd) suddenly there were several other bands following our lead. I’m not saying it was a good or bad thing, it was just weird, and none of us knew if it was really going to work. The only bands from that strange genre that got big deals were “Life, Sex, and Death” (their “shtick” was that their lead singer was some crazy homeless guy” which obviously he wasn’t, but just poured a horrible smell all over himself every time they played; Stanley was his name, stink was his game!) and Kick Tracee, which I don’t have time to explain (except they were copying us, and had a lame hit with Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle”, on R.C.A. records.)
We ended up getting dropped by Deb Rosner’s publicity company after about 6 months, which was sad, but the night it happened was very memorable: We were offered a gig at this super cool underground club, “The Velvet Underground” in the basement of a super cool big, old hotel on Hollywood Blvd. A couple days before the show we found out we were opening up for one of my heroes, JOHNNY THUNDERS! We showed up to set up before the show, did our sound check, and came up in the lobby of the hotel, and there’s Johnny and his girlfriend. I was (am) a huge N.Y Dolls fan, so this was a dream come true for me. He was super nice and amiable, and I tried not to be too much of a dork, and it was super cool. The only down-side was that his girlfriend (and manager, I believe) was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and had open nasty sores all over her arms where obviously she had been shooting up. I’m sure he was too, but he seemed really together before the show. Then after we played a mind-blowing set, the power went out. Not just our building, but about 6 blocks, all down Hollywood Blvd. So we walked and walked down the street ’til we saw some lights on. It was an awesome old Italian restaurant, and we went in, and there was Deb Rosner’s two assistants sitting, looking very pretty at a booth. We joined them, and they preceded to tell us that Deb was dumping us, but they would “still try to help out if they could” (of course they weren’t really able to do anything.) Then, a bit depressed, but still super psyched that we were about to play a show with a N.Y. Doll, we went back to the hotel and hung out with Johnny and his girlfriend for a while- a super treat! The power came back on after a while, we did a blistering, mind-blowing set, there was a break, and then Johnny got up to do his set- just by himself with an acoustic guitar- but something had obviously kicked in, and he started losing it. I remember quite sadly and vividly that he was trying to get through “As Tears Go By” by the Stones, but kept forgetting the words and chords, and kept starting over, then he finally just gave up, and stopped the show after only 5 or 6 songs.
Lyrically, we were always ahead of the pack. I know this sounds totally anti-rock n’ roll and square, but I always strove to be intellectual like Jim Morrison, Roger Waters, and Jimmy Page. I devoured every classic book I could find and tried to add some of this influence into the mix. It was sexy, dammit! Our clothes got darker, our hair got darker, and our themes got darker. It was 1991 or 1992 I believe when we really reached our apex, and I thought we really were absolutely the greatest band on the planet, (no kidding) and we had songs like “Vampire Blues”, “Halo of Fire”, “The Puppet Hits the Floor”, and “Dying for the 13th Time”, and we were wicked, badass, and mad, bad and dangerous to know. Luckily our guitar player, Britt’s wife filmed just about every show on an old video camera, and although the sound is pretty bad, the performances are unbelievably awesome.
Then a strange rift happened inside the band, and Britt and Mark (our 2nd drummer) became very good friends, and I became the 3rd wheel (our 2nd bass player, Steve always remained neutral) and shared a passion for U2, of all bands, and the next thing you know, we’re getting less dark, and less kickass- in my book. I must admit, I being a fan of Abby Hoffman, Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin and Keith Moon, I was consciously or subconsciously throwing chaos into the mix every now and again, and of course it drove Britt and Mark crazy, as they were very business-minded and pragmatic. I just couldn’t imagine we could really become huge rock stars with glorious, wild tales by being straight-laced and boring.
We finally got a record deal with Century Media records, but this was only we’d almost given up and decided to record a CD on our own, with the thought that we would put it out, it would sell massive, and then a real label would scoop it up. We recorded our CD (and it also came out on cassette!) “Cancel the Future” on a sound stage where we’d performed many private showcases throughout the years for some of the top A & R people in L.A., as well as Motley Crue’s manager, Doug Thaler, and Penelope Spheeris (Film producer or The Decline of Western Civilization pts. 1 and 2, we still keep in touch via Facebook) with Peter Frampton’s new mobile recording unit. As we were about to put it out ourselves, our super-dedicated manager, Dan DeVita finally got us a record deal with Century Media Records. We’d never really heard of Century Media Records, but any deal at that point was fine with us. It turned out that they were a German label that specialized in THE HEAVIEST METAL ALBUMS ON EARTH! It turns out that they signed us as part of a new plan to break into the more commercial radio/ MTV market of good-looking guys rocking out, but heavily. It sounded like a great plan, but the problem was, the people who bought anything on Century Media records knew that whatever they bought with that label on it was going to be super heavy and super monstrous, and dark and usually with singers that sounded like The Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. Some of the bands were called Rigormortis, and Eye Hate God, and Iced Earth, etc. etc. So when our CD came out, it shipped several thousand copies in advance to record stores all over the world, but when the metal-heads got it back and put it in their CD player or cassette deck, they immediately puked up onto their black t-shirts and denim jeans, and wrote nasty letters to the record label saying “how dare they put this wimpy, lame, artsy-farsy- band on the Century Media label! You make me puke! I cannot stop puking!” So the label pulled the plug on us pretty quick. It was supposed to be a two-album deal, but they had the option of dropping us if they wanted to, and sure enough, they did straight away. We were on tour when this was all happening, so we were in the dark blissfully, ignorantly, moving ahead with our rock dreams, thinking all was hunky dory. What does “Cancel the Future” mean? It came from something one of our good friends said (and this is very poignant nowadays) at the time when he told us that he was very very depressed and decided to end it all; he just wanted to cancel the future. Our drummer Mark found the amazing iconic image from old stock photography images in a book (this was before the interwebs, kiddies) and it fit just right.
We were booked to play most of the shows between L.A. and Florida (all across the Southern U.S.) with a really heavy band (called “Concrete”? or “Cement”? or something like that) that was following in the footsteps of the ascending Pantera, and they definitely influenced Britt and Mark; to the point that when we got back to L.A., the first thing they said at our first rehearsal was that we needed to be more like “them”. That was IT for me, I didn’t want to try to change again, or try to adjust to the times, and be something we weren’t, so I left the band. They took a little time off, then came back with a new singer, new direction, and new name, The Almighty Ultrasound, utilizing the latest technology, kind of like the band Garbage, but with a male singer. I actually thought they were very good, and although they didn’t draw very big crowds (I was always the promoter for T.R. and made sure we got very good turn outs at our shows) but eventually they did get a distribution deal and eventually opened up for KISS, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and played a huge Texas Jam festival in front of 60,000 people. They lasted a few years but eventually called it quits and Britt and Mark settled down, got married and had some kids. Mark is still playing drums in San Diego with a cool garage-type band, and Britt just moved back to California and produces and engineers and has released a couple solo CDs. Steve lives in Las Vegas, NV, Phil is in L.A., and Steph is just north of L.A. We did a 25 year anniversary gig (with Jetboy) at the Whisky A Go Go two years ago with me, Phil, Steph and a good friend of ours (always our “5th” member) Bill McCleary, as Britt and Mark declined to join in the fun. So we did a lot of the early songs, (and much more fun songs) and it was super fun and really went over well, with lots of old friends. There was even a bartender that was still working after 25 years that remembered us like it was yesterday. A fabulous night! The other reason we did the show was because Tragic Romance actually has a NEW record deal, if you can believe that. A cool record label from Nashville called FnA Records (that means “Fuckin’ A’!”) has put out a compilation of all our studio sessions from back in the day called “Hollywood Daze”. It has two new recordings on it as well, two awesome songs from back in the old days that for some reason never made it on to tape. I quite prefer it to the “Cancel the Future” CD myself, especially because “Vampire Blues” is on there- my favourite T.R. song. It should have been used in “Interview with the Vampire” movie, or ANY of these many Vampire movies that are out nowadays, it is the perfect vampire song, I must say. I still don’t know why we didn’t put that on “Cancel the Future”. I’m sure I was out-voted by Britt and Mark, who probably thought it was “old hat” or something. There are a couple other gems on there as well, like at the beginning of the disc when we were still in our “big hair” days, (“All Wound Up”, “Just Couldn’t Bear It”) and then the studio version of “Awaking Slowly in November” is really amazing on this new disc. So you just never know what life is going to bring you. I never in a million years thought I would have a new record deal and play the Whisky again at this age.
#6 : We know you’re a singer and a front man, but when did you started playing guitar? On your solo album you not only play rhythm on every song, but half of the leads as well.
I was given a bass on my 12th birthday, by an uncle that was in many bands in the 60’s and even had a record out on Bell records, with the advice that “nobody wants to be the bass player, so if you get good, you can be in any band you want. You’ll always be able to find a gig. Of course I didn’t listen to him, and got bored of going thumba-dumba-dumb all the time, and didn’t realize that it would have been a million times more fun if I had just taken some lessons and played along with records. Then when it came time to play along with McCartney or Entwistle I would have realized how awesome and fun bass could be. Like an idiot I went down to the local “well-known” music store and traded my awesome Fender Music Master bass for some kind of piece-of-shit the hippy salesman talked me into that was obviously made in someone’s garage, and probably out of balsa wood. It was called “The Murph.” I spent years learning to play on the Murph. It probably took me twice as long to learn to play on The Murph than any other “regular” guitar, because it wouldn’t stay in tune and everything about it was just total crap. I wouldn’t wish that god-awful beast on the lowliest of scumbags. If anybody ever comes across a turd-brown coloured guitar made out of balsa wood and inscribed with the name “Murph”, RUN! do not walk, to the nearest exit. Or better yet, NUKE THE MOTHERFUCKER!
#7 : What are your favourite guitars and why? If you could bring only one to a desert islands, what model would it be?
Well, it would be The Murph of course. No, just kidding, I’m a Les Paul guy, or Epiphone Les Paul guy, either one. There’s something about the feel and the tones that is just right for me. I can always find everything I need in the treble, middle setting and rhythm toggle switch settings. I’m not a guitar aficionado by any means, but I’ve had Telecasters when I was really into Keith Richards and some country stuff, and a Strat or two every now and again (Clapton and Hendrix phases) but I always come back to the Les Paul. No particular year or model, or anything. I guess if I had one wish, it would be a Pete Townshend gold top- the ones that he put the numbers on. I don’t care which number, they’re all cool. As far as strings, I play a set with 11’s on the bottom, and amp-wise, I’m really lazy with dealing with all the FX boxes and all that, so when the Line 6 amps came out I was in heaven! I have a real nice, loud, kickass Spider IV 150 amp that models every amp EVER. This really comes in handy for all my different projects: The Cramps tribute act, a punk band I’m in sometimes in Albuquerque, my Stonesy glam solo project, my 70’s glam cover band where we do Bowie, T-Rex, Iggy, The Sweet, Queen, etc. etc. all in one night, so it covers everything. And after the gig is over I unplug my guitar, unplug the power, roll up the cable, and stick it in my car. I love that.
#8 : I know you released a Stones/NY Dolls influenced solo record “All Dressed… And Nowhere To Go”. Would you tell us more on this record? (songwriting, recording sessions, etc)
That was a culmination of years and years of songs building up in a very Stonesy/ Dolls/ Faces vein. I spent some time in Nashville a couple years back and had a great rhythm section, so I contacted the bass player, Paul Westbrook and sure enough, he knew just the right studio and engineer, and he and the engineer and myself all produced two separate sessions of about one week a piece, and with the monster Nashville players that Paul put together, it just flowed like magic! We only did a couple takes of each song, ’cause the energy, the feeling, EVERYTHING just rocked. The icing on the cake was the keyboardist and saxophonist Randy Leago (who’s played with some of Nashville’s top acts) who laid down some amazing Nicky Hopkins piano, Ian McLagan B-3 organ and Bobbi Keys sax. Again, in just minutes- it was surreal how he just knew exactly what to do and what I wanted. I was smiling from ear to ear every time he went to work on it. But all the players were superb. I played rhythm on all the tunes, sometimes both the electric and acoustic guitars, and half of the leads. The other half were done by the engineer/ producer Michael Saint Leon, who is FREAKING AMAZING! He knew every sound and guitar and detail from every Stones album, so his recommendations were spot on. He had a great collection of guitars from every era which he let me use at will. It sounded much better than if I used my old Epiphone Les Paul, which is nice, but not anything close to what he had. I’m still getting really cool reviews every now and again, and it sells here and there on the internet sites, but who knows how many people are really downloading it- you just can’t tell any more. If anybody wants one, just message me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you a CD for just the postage, I’ve got loads of them. But I think the coolest thing that came of releasing the CD was I made so many new friends all over the world, especially in France and Germany. There are some super cool (but small) REAL rock n’ roll fans and experts and musicians that absolutely blow my mind, in how much they know about glam, and The Stones, and garage-rock, and punk, and everything that is cool in rock n’ roll. And they can sniff out the bullshit really quick too. I think that’s how I met you, right? Through MySpace, when that was a thing, and also the band Sugaar Sugar (Lyo, Laurent & Mi), you (Sylvain) recently interviewed their new singer/ rhythm guitarist Oli Le Baron, who I am mad at because I was really hoping to get that job with Sugaar Sugar! I learned all the songs and everything- it would have been amazing! hee hee), Franck Belin, and many more in France, and a whole bunch in Germany (esp. in Berlin where I still visit for at least a month every year and do some solo pub gigs – sometimes Barcelona as well) and sometimes I sit in with some of my favourite pals, Pleasuredome who are this amazing 70’s glam cover band in Berlin. Some of the other folks in Berlin are Kevin K, Texas Terri, Rudi Protrudi (The Fuzztones), and many more. So cool!
#9 : What are your current and future musical projects?
I’ve written two musicals over the past years, one a country-themed one with all my original tunes, and the latest is the script/ story based on a very well-known glam album. I can’t talk about it too much, because I’m still awaiting approval from the original song-writer, but hopefully it will happen soon. It could be done on Broadway, or anywhere. I actually spent a month in Berlin this summer putting together an AMAZING cast and band that could put the show on in a heartbeat once we get the approval. I love Berlin, and there is a super kickass rock n’ roll community there right now. From all over the world.
I’m also going to help the singer from the unbelievably good tribute band I’m the guitar player for, THE TEENAGE WEREWOLVES (World’s best Cramps tribute band- see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RnRlthk8Ds) put together the solo CD he’s been wanting to do for years. His name is Jack Atlantis, and he’s a very well-known singer/ performer/ producer/ engineer/ designer from L.A. that is now living in Dallas. It should be superb when finished. There’s also anothernew project with a hot girl singer and one of my old guitar players now living in Las Vegas. So busy busy busy!
#10 : Could you share a tip or advice with beginners who want to start playing guitar or playing in a band?
If you’ve read the whole interview, god bless you, you have just completed the rock equivalent of a marathon race, what did you learn? DON’T BE ANOTHER GUITAR PLAYER, LEARN THE DAMN BASS!!! hee hee… just kidding, although you will get a million more gigs and have a much better chance of having a professional career in music, BUT if you still feel the urge to play guitar (although you might as well flush all your money down the toilet and invest in a straight-jacket) then you must immediately drop everything and start searching for that holy grail of all guitars to learn on….THE MURPH!!! Then after 17 years you should now be able to all four chords of “Smoke on the Water”. If you have achieved this rarified feat, then it is time to sell The Murph and get a real guitar. Anything you play after this will sound like freaking Yngwie Malmsteen. Congratulations, we’ll see you at Carnigie Hall. No, I’ll be serious for a moment: Practice practice practice. I’ve never learned any theory, I’m just a Stonesy/ glammy rocker, but I’ve actually become pretty damn good over the years, playing along to records, soloing over records, imitating my heroes, etc. etc. Me and some buddies even did a Cars tribute show for Halloween two years ago, and I was actually Elliot freaking Easton, which if you’ve heard any Cars songs, you know is an absolute monster on guitar. AND I DID IT! All because of that freaking Murph, I tell you!!! (No, don’t do it, I’m just kidding folks, always try to get a good quality guitar to start off on, it will help drastically.)
#11 : No question! You can say anything you want, this will be the ending words!
Thank you Sylvain for giving me this opportunity to unleash my autobiography on your poor unsuspecting public, and especially thank you for keeping rock alive in France and now all over the world with your awesome website. You inspire me to rock even harder nowadays!!!