måndag 4 april 2011

Intervju med Davy Vain!

För en tid sedan hade jag det stora nöjet att ringa upp den extremt pratglade Davy Vain. Hans gamla band är back in business och spelar i Sverige nästa vecka.
Klockan var efter midnatt i San Francisco, men Davy pratade på om Christina Aguilera, Death Angel, första banden och gigen, Kirk Hammet, Don Was, galna upptåg med The Vue och mycket mer.

Hey, this is Niclas from Sweden!

Davy Vain: Hey, how ya´doing?

I´m good! How are you?

DV: Not too bad, man!

What time is it over there?

DV: Uuuhhh, it´s about 1 am.

Oh man!

DV: Yeah, I´m a little tired, but it´s not bad. I just got back from the studio. I did some vocals and stuff.

Right to it! This Swedsih tour, how did that come about?

DV: Well, we´ve been touring the last two years and last time we played, the closest we got was Copenhagen and we wanted to do some shows in Sweden, but it didn´t just come together with the money and you know, whatever, and all that kind of stuff that I don´t really deal with. I usually don´t do any of that, but the people that booked the tours for us were coming all the way from the States and they guys we´ve been working with the last couple of years put us in places that make sure that we´re gonna get there ok and it´s all gonna be good. I´m really jacked because I´ve wanted to play there a lot. Actually, I had a friend who lived in Malmö and after the last tour I went and hung out there for a couple of days.

Well, you´re gonna like Stockholm! It´s a great city and I´m looking forward to catching you live here.

DV: Yeah, and it´s right around my birthday, April 14, so it´s gonna be fun. I´m looking forward to seeing Stockholm. We had a Swedish guitar player on our last tour and he was telling us that “You gotta see Stockholm!”. I called him when I was in Malmö and he said “That´s not Sweden!”. (laughs) He was like “What are you doing there? Get the hell out of there!”. (laughs)

True. Not that far away from where I´m from actually. If we go back in time. How did you end up with Kirk Hammet producing your demo back in the day

DV: Oh yeah, man that was a long time ago. Well, the manager I was working with at the time… when I first started I was a singer and then I kind of switched to guitar for a couple of years and jamming with some people on guitar and thought that was kind of interesting for a while, but I always had the hankering of getting back into singing and song writing, but I just thought I wanted to get a little more experience because I was young and hadn´t played a lot. My first band was basically just a bunch of kids and we played with this older guitar player who was totally stoned out on drugs and had all these songs and couldn´t find anybody to play with and he found these three kids, like me, I was a singer and my buddies were a bass player and a drummer, so he finally had a band and we kept showing up and we were totally enthusiastic like “Wow, we´re in a band!” (laughs) and he was like “Alright, we gotta get really high before we play!”. It was a great experience for me as my first musical experience because he´d write all these songs and he would go to me and I´d go “What do you want me to do?” and he said “Just make shit up!” and I said “Ok!”. He didn´t want to play any covers. Usually when you´re young, you play a bunch of covers and it sometimes really shapes your style. You get a bunch of guys that all want to be one band and you can tell later, even when they get fine, they sound like the band they wanted to be like. So I always made stuff up and he encouraged me. One thing that was funny… one day I came to practice and he was working on some love song and he was sucking on this gigantic joint and he goes “I´m writing this really bad ass love song and your voice is gonna sound great on it!” and I was like “Cool man, maybe I should write the lyrics?” and he looks at me and goes “Have you had a chick take your heart and rip it out of your chest and stomp all over it and you´re up crying all night like a little fucking baby for a week?” and I was sort of young and tried to sound macho “That sounds lame man!” (laughs), but he´s serious and looks at me totally serious and takes a huge puff on the joint and goes “You can´t write no fucking love song!” and I thought of those words the first time I got my heart broken and I remembered him. (laughs). But anyway, it was a gas and my first couple of performances as a singer felt right and it didn´t work out with these guys because we were so young and I wanted revenge on my buddies and I was running around at home singing and going “I´m gonna show them!” and I practiced guitar because it seemed like an easier way to get practice and more people were looking for guitar players and I didn´t want to join somebody else´s band. I just thought “I just wanna play some guitar and get on the stage a little bit more!”. So I did that for a bit and then I was working on these songs, because I´ve always written songs and I never gave them to the guys that I was playing with, so my friend who´s been my manager for all this time, she was friends with Kirk Hammet and knew some people who were in the business, so I did this recording and she goes “Oh, this sounds really cool! You don´t sound like anybody!” and “That´s really hard to do and your voice is really unusual.”, so she played it for him and he´s like “Wow, I really dig this!” and he goes “I´m getting into producing and I want to do some songs with him.”. So I got a drummer and we got this older bass player guy that was like a pro musician at the time and the drummer that I was jamming with with this other band, who I was playing guitar with and… that´s how we got kicked out of that band by the way. We showed up for practice and went “Hey, we can´t make it next week because we´re gonna do this thing!” and they were like “If you guys aren´t here, then you´re kicked out!” and I was like “Ok, fuck it! See ya!”. The studio was way out in the middle of nowhere, like in wine country right, and the guy that owned it was completely out of his mind and completely high on coke and he had this metal grid, like at the turn of the century and there was a way that you could sneak into the studio, so he had it electrified and would always hit it with poles and sparks would fly and he goes “Man, if anyone touches this, they´ll fucking die!” and I was like “Man, this is a fucking crazy scene!”. So we got a little make shift band together and we had like three songs. I remember one of them was called “Out for number one” and it had a really big chorus, so we thought “Let´s get everybody we know in a band come in!”. I remember one day at the studio, every musician we knew were out there, like 30 people going “Out for number one” and we´re all stoned. That´s how we did it and one thing I remember is Kirk Hammet saying “Your voice kind of reminds me of a guitar when you bend it, like a whammy bar, you know!” and I go “Oh, cool man!”, but he wasn´t really that interested in producing after that. I got one of my first tapes there and had a really cool picture on the cover, probably a better picture on the cover than the content, to be honest with you. (laughs) The cover was like… people were going “I gotta check this out!”. But I was in a couple of other bands and I could see the experience of like “Hey, it´s really hard to deal with all these different people and all their different ideas and everybody´s trying to get this one painting across and god, it´s just gonna be impossible to make it. What if we got any kind of success, then there´s really gonna be friction!”. I had all these ideas I wanted to do and I wanted to be really over the top at that time and they were trying to hold me back “Dude, that´s too crazy!” and I was like, I wanna shock people and shit! So I thought “Ok, this is what I gotta do!” and I didn´t want a band because they would do so much coke they didn´t know what the fuck was going on. They would play like two songs and then stop and get really high. They really sucked from doing all that coke and I had all these ideas for a band and I wrote all these rules down and called them “The rules of rock” and stuff that I just don´t want to have and I kept making these notes, like if I was going to a gig to see this band that was supposed to be this hot band and they´re like just hanging out at the bar and talking to chicks and I´d go “Where´s the band?” and someone would go “They´re over there!”, “Well, aren´t they gonna play soon?” and I just thought it was fucking lame. I said “Well, I went to see Aerosmith last week and I didn´t see them doing that!”. They would go “It´s only a club!”. “Well, you can´t think that it´s only a club, it´s a fucking concert!”. So I wrote that down for my “Rules of rock” and I said “Ok, when I get a band, my own band, no one´s gonna have to compromise because I´m not gonna let anybody in the band that doesn´t totally agree with everything I wanna do. We´ll all have the same goal.”. So that´s how it got started. After I did that thing with Kirk Hammet, then I slowly found all the guys in Vain and we were all kind of from the same home town. Get the coolest guys that were great players too. Like my first guitar player, I remember he worked at some record store and I walked into the store to talk to him and I see this really hot chick and there was a section which was like the country section and I was like “Why do they have a country section? Do hot chicks dig country music or something?” and then I realized the only reason they´re in there is to get a better view of him and get eye contact with him and he was just there relaxing doing nothing so I thought “Ok, this guy could be good!”.

Have you met Kirk Hammet lately?

DV: I haven´t seen him in a while, but I´ve seen him many times since then. The funny thing was that when they were doing the “Black album”, they were recording that at One on One studios in LA and it was just a weird coincidence that we were doing our second album “All those strangers” and we were mixing it and were there at the same time. I just saw him and it was like “Hey, what are you doing man?” and they were just running around. It was the biggest studio and they were totally preoccupied in their own fucking world so I didn´t really get a chance to go “Dude, isn´t this crazy? I´m here now and you just knew me like some kid and now I´m doing a major record at the place you´re recording?”. But we didn´t even get to that, because what they were doing at the time, which was really funny, I think it was the bass player at the time and he had this hat and it was really stupid looking, so what they did was that they took the hat and they took pictures with it. Everybody they knew wearing the hat and of course everybody looked stupid and they did this giant photo collage and they were gonna put it on an amp, so when he came back in for the next day, he would just see like 30 people with his hat and they´re all making dumb faces and shit, so that´s what they were doing. But they just looked like they´d been locked away for months recording and I think that was the first time they did a record like that, where it was like everything perfect and Bob Rock and so on. But he lives around the area and I would see him at other gigs. But I kind of know Lars a liitle bit better than those guys. I don´t really hang out with him, but I bump into him all the time around where I live. I just saw him twice in the last month at some pizza place and another time I was just sitting out drinking coffee and it was like “Hey, what are you doing?” and it wasn´t even about music or something. We were just trying to blend into the real world. When I was living in Germany last year, or in 2009, they were playing there and I got hold of him and got into the show and stuff. Once in a while I see Hetfield.

I´m reading about you and the stuff you´ve done and the music is just so diverse. You produced Death Angel and then you worked with Christina Aguilera and the song “Beautiful” and you worked with Vue, which is a really cool band. I do some dj´ing at a radio station here and when Vue came out we played them all the time.

DV: Which album? Do you remember?

Well, there was an EP and then the first album.

DV: Yeah, there was a lot of Sub Pop records. As a producer, that was like my band. We started from the total scratch. I remember the first time that I worked with them and their drummer… they ended up getting another one, but I remember walking up to him and going “Hey, did you ever think about getting like a metronome?” and he goes “you know what? I have really thought about it!” and he was totally serious and I´m listening to the guy and “Are you fucking out of your mind? You´re the fucking drummer! You´re playing the fucking tracks like where on a fucking rollercoaster!” and even the guys in the band thought it was funny. They were the coolest band with the coolest vibe and attitude and we were really close and we made a lot of really cool records together. First we did all the Sub Pop ones and then when they got with RCA, they could´ve tried and pushed me aside like “Oh, we want the biggest producer!” and the record company was really nervous about me first doing it because they thought I was some crazy rock guy. They were like “We´ve got this crazy band and this other crazy rock guy and they´re just gonna be going fucking nuts all the time!”. I don´t know how the band existed, but they love each other so much. Half the band was complete fucking drug addicts and the other half were complete vegans. They didn´t even drink or eat a fucking burger and the other guys would just like kill a fucking cat, roast it and milk its liver for heroine. But they were just together and it worked. It was really strange. (laughs) But that whole RCA thing was just completely the wrong thing and they would even call me and go “Hey, you really need to write more commercial stuff and we´ve heard some of your stuff and since you´re in there, you should use your friendship and kind of convince them to write a song with them and you could make more money!” and I would tell the guys because the record company of course thought I would agree and say “That´s a good idea!”, but they didn´t realize that I totally respected these guys as artists and there was no way I was gonna fuck them over, you know. Don Was actually produced that EP with me and he was a huge producer at the time and when we got him, he ended up being just crazier than all of us. How he did it was he goes “How about I produce two songs and you engineer them for me and then you produce two songs?”. So we shared it and did it like that, so I was engineer and co-producer on a couple so we kind of worked together on it. It was crazy because me and Rex, the singer, would go “Hey, let´s see if Don will do just whatever we want?”. One day we get to work and he´s firing up the stuff and drinking coffee and I go “Hey Don, you know what?”, and we´re totally behind schedule and everything, “It just doesn´t feel right today.” And he goes “Oh, really?” and I go “Yeah, you know what we´re thinking about doing? Just try and get us much money as we can and get some really fucking good pot or coke or something and get a bunch of hookers or go to a strip club where chicks will suck your cock in the back room. You know, just getting away from the fucking music.” And he goes like “Well alright, do you guys need some money?”. (laughs) And we were just laughing and then going “Well, we changed our mind, let´s record!”. And Don goes “Sure, but it was a good idea!”. Then they were gonna record the full length album after we did the EP at the Chalice studios. We saw some pictures and it was this big open beautiful studio, but it didn´t really have a lot of vibe, but Rex goes “I´m gonna see if Don will go for this!”. Don goes “That studio where you wanna record is really beautiful and I love that fascility!” but Rex goes “Yeah, but it´s kind of boring and I don´t know if I wanna be in there making a whole fucking record! I´m from the city and shit! Do you know what I think it needs? I think it needs fire! Is there anywhere we´re we could have a lot of fire going on? So when I walk in I wanna see flames and shit!” and Don is like “Of course! We´ll call some people and get some fire all over the place!”. (laughs) It was great! Of course we did get behind schedule and Don had to go back to LA and work on Hootie and the Blowfish´s album. So he´s down there doing that, but we still need to do some shit, so me and Rex go down to LA to finish vocals. We go down there and Don goes “Hey, listen! This is what we´re gonna do man. Since the budget is completely gone, we´ll just use Hootie and the Blowfish´s fucking studio time, so you guys just come in at like 12. We´ll probably wrap it up at midnight or 1 pm.”. He´s been there the whole fucking day and we´re like hanging in the lounge drinking coffee and shit and all of the sudden the Hootie guys would come out “Hey, what´s up man?” and “Oh, so you´re friends with Don, cool, right on man!” and as soon as they split we´d go in there, set the mikes up and there´s an engineer in there who´s been there the whole day “Man, I can keep going man!” and he´s trying to make a name for himself. So we did a bunch of tracks until we burned out at 3 am and then we split, “See you tomorrow at 12!”. We did this for a few days and eventually Hootie would go “Hey, you guys again! What´s up?” and we´d go “Ah, we´re just hanging with Don.”. “Yeah, he´s been looking a little tired. I think you guys have been keeping him up.” And we would go “man, this place is great! We´d love to record here some time.” And as soon as they walked out the door it was “Yeah, like in 15 seconds!”. (laughs). So that was a really cool experience making that EP, but when we went on to make the full album, Don couldn´t do it because they didn´t want to pay him some crazy rate and at that time Don didn´t want to lower his rate. But I loved those guys. I actually just used Jeremy and Rex from The Vue on this track… have you ever heard this band called Little Fish?

I´ve heard of them, yeah!

DV: Yeah, kind of a garage band. The singer, I produced him for this indie movie, so Rex is playing guitar and Jeremy is on bass and the drummer from Vain is on the drums and then this chick came out from London and she´s like a rocky Patti Smith version, so it´s really cool. It turned out that she didn´t know I was getting these musicians. I just told her I´d track the song and she works with Linda Perry too, so it was kind of a connection with my manager and Linda Perry´s manager. Then when she showed up and found out about the guys she went “I´m a fan of The Vue. I´ve been to their shows.”. It was really cool.

As an engineer and working on that Christina Aguilera track, what is it an engineer does? Is it fixing the sound or what?

DV: Well, if you´re producing something, you´re like the director of the movie. Some producers also engineer. Engineering is like the technical… getting the tones and the sounds and the microphones and setting stuff up and stuff like that. How that all came about is… Linda Perry, as you know, wrote that song and before Linda started doing the song writing thing, she was just trying to get her career going and I had my studio that I have now and she didn´t have her own place yet. She came up there and did some demos for her new record and one of them was “Beautiful” and that´s actually really her own song. Her original version is really cool, so she sang on that and then she did a couple of other songs and then she also recorded “Get the party started” (Pink) and then when she moved back to LA with this demo, some friends of her was hanging out with Pink and she found out that Pink was like a gigantic fan of hers. Pink said “You girls should come over and party!” and she asks “What have you been working on?” and Linda played her that song and when Pink heard “Get the party started” she said “I really wanna do that song!” and Linda said “Sure, but I´ll produce it!”. Then that got going and it was a smash and the Christina wanted to see what songs Linda had and she heard “Beautiful” and goes “Wow, I really wanna do that!”, so then Linda called me and went “Hey, you wanna work on this with me?” and I knew Christina because my manager had managed her and I hung out with her a lot when she first started. We hung out and partied when she was really young, before “Genie in the bottle” even and we had dinner, so she knew who was and Linda didn´t know her and she liked my engineering, so we were all friends. First we sat around and drank wine for 45 minutes and just kind of chatted and stuff, so it was cool even though I was engineering. Linda and I did it together and I got to comment on stuff. The vocal take that was used, Christina didn´t like. Me and Linda really had to push on her. The one that she wanted to have was like way more busy and that was one of the first takes she did and she just kind of had Linda´s guide vocals in her mind and it was more the melody than the song, but then when she really got warmed up it was (sings really high) and we were all like “No, no, no!” and it was actually a big hassle in the studio and it looked like she was just gonna storm out of there and when she split we thought like “She doesn´t even wanna do it now maybe!” and Linda was all like “It doesn´t matter if she doesn´t wanna do it! We´ll get that Canadian bitch in here tomorrow!” and I was like “Who?” and Linda goes “You know, the Canadian one. This is a hit!”. I said “Celine Dion?” and she goes “Yeah!”. It was funny too, because she was late so many times for the sessions. She kept being late and we had everything prepared and I even hired… Do you know who Eric Martin from Mr Big is?

Oh yeah! I interviewed him for an hour about a month ago.

DV: Yeah, I actually worked with him too on a track that he did at my studio and we´ve known each other forever. Well, I was looking for a string section for the Christina session, so a buddy of mine who played with Alice Cooper and Winger, Paul Taylor, I called him and he said “Hey, these guys are really good!” so I call them and say “I´m doing this session with Christina Aguilera and she sounds great and she´s got a great voice.” And they go “We´re way up north at a place and doing this commercial with this guy Eric Martin for Japan.” And I go “That´s where I´m at right now! It´s right next door to me.” And it was just a weird coincidence, so I just said “See you guys at the session!” and every time I bump into those guys the go “Dude, thanks for that gig!”, so that´s kind of what being an engineer is. It´s funny because the way we originally recorded it, it sounded a lot more like a cool Beatles track, but then they kind of mixed a little of it out. We usd vintage mikes and vintage gear and old pianos and weird fucking compressors that only studio geeks like me and Linda care about. It cost 20 grand and are just the best ones and we tried to make it more of a work of art and not just your typical pop music. I also mix and mixing is the final process and taking all the tracks and making the final edit of everything and I´ve gotten to do some pretty big people lately like Neal Schon and Sammy Hagar for a track and that was really cool and I actually just recorded Neal Schon about a year and a half ago. A track I did for this movie with Linda Perry on vocals and the Vain guitar player on rhythm and Vain´s drummer and Steppenwolf´s old bass player who´s in his 60´s now. Neal Schon doing solos and Linda Perry singing on “Ain´t talking about love” and I´m doing backgrounds. Her voice is just bad ass! Really cool! On my last couple of records I pretty much did everything and right now I´m in the studio all by myself, doing vocals and checking out different amps and once in a while I get a little lonely, but I can experiment a little bit more.

Cool! I guess you saw Christina at the Super Bowl?

DV: Oh yeah! (laughs) That was too bad and I felt bad for her. You know where she lives? She actually lives at Ozzy´s house now.

Yeah, I read about that!

DV: The one that was on “The Osbournes”. My manager was there and she said that every door knob on the house has a cross and she´s just left them all. (laughs) She used to be so hot though! I haven´t seen her in a long time, but if you saw her in person she was fucking sexy, real naughty, you know!

What about a new Vain album then? Are you guys working on something?

DV: Yeah, we´re working on it right now and hopefully we´ll have some there at the shows. To let everybody that comes to see us have the first ones, since we´re more of an indie band now. It´s really coming out good. I´m trying to experiment. I´ve mixed the last couple of records and now I´m just like “Fuck it!”, I´ll record it, write it, produce it and I´m kind of experimenting with having different people mix it and see if I really dig it and as soon as we get that sorted out, then they can be mixing the tracks that are done, because I´m still doing vocals and we´re still doing guitars and my guitar player lives in Nashville so that makes it a little tough, but it´s coming out really ripping1 It´s pretty rocking and I´m pretty happy!

Nice! Would you ever produce something like Death Angel again? The more aggressive music?

DV: Yeah definitely! I´ve done stuff that no one´s heard of, just as a job. That´s what I do, I mean, I don´t have a real job, so when I´m not doing Vain, that´s what I do. I´ve done bands that are heavy and I´m still really good at getting heavy guitars and cranking the shit up. Mark from Death Angel lives right around the corner from me so I bump into him all the time, but we´ve really never joined forces because there was kind of a falling out with them and their original manager, so things were kind of weird for a while and they´ve gone their own path. But I´ve always thought that “Oh man, that would be fun if we all got together again to produce something!”, but it never ended up being that way. I´m not against it, but I´ve never had anybody really ask me, you know. It was a cool record and it was real music.

Alright! Well, I´m really looking forward to seeing you guys here in Sweden! Excellent talking to you!

DV: You too, man!