Interviews

Interview: Vicky Hamilton

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One of my favorite sayings is “Life is short, but a band’s life is shorter”

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Vicky Hamilton. You might recognize her name as being Guns N Roses’ first manager and for her work with other bands such as Faster Pussycat, Poison, and countless others during the 80’s. In the next couple months, Vicky will be releasing her autobiography entitled Appetite For Dysfunction. We talked about her career and what she sees for the future of music. See what she had to say below.

B. Thank you for doing this Vicky. Let’s begin… You got your start at Licorice Pizza years ago working there?

V. Actually I worked at a record store in Indiana and managed 3 bands in Indiana as well. But made my move out here.

B. While you were in LA you worked at Licorice Pizza, you wound up meeting Nikki Sixx

V. Yeah at Licorice Pizza, yes

B.  I know you helped them out early.  What was your role early on with them?

V.  I was a management consultant.

B.  Did you have a hand in their Leather Records organization at all?

V.  They had made that record and that’s when I came on board, right when they were putting the package together for that.  I didn’t have a hand in songs or anything like that, but I did marketing for them and display, merchandising all over town, especially in all of the Licorice Pizza stores.

B.  I also know you worked with Stryper for a little while and had some differences in your beliefs and things like that. Of all the bands in the world to work with, how did you wind up working with Stryper?

V. I knew them when they were Roxx Regime and they played at Gazarri’s and I was a cocktail waitress at Gazarri’s when I first met them and then they like disappeared and I didn’t really know what happened to them.  I called Robbie Sweet when I went to work at Silver Lining Entertainment as an agent.  He said yeah we’d love to have you work with us and …… He didn’t tell me anything about their religious thing.  I went down to La Mirada to their rehearsal and I saw the Isaiah 15:35 thing and I knew that was like a religious connotation, but I didn’t really think it had anything to do with the band.  Not until I already agreed to work with them that I figured out they were like …………  Nobody did that, you would never question that.

B. What was your role with Poison and what was it genuinely like to be around them?

V.  I was their manager.  They were pretty wild and zany, charismatic, hustlers, probably the best promoters I’ve ever worked with. Self-professed glam-slam kings of noise.

V.  But I didn’t manage them with CC.  There was a different guitar player when I managed them named Matt Smith

B. I remember reading about that actually

V.  He was really good. We actually auditioned Slash and he had the job for about 10 minutes.

B.  You were the one who introduced Axl to Slash

V.  Well theoretically.  They had jammed before, but I didn’t know that. I had booked Black Sheep, which Slash was in for about 10 minutes.  When I started booking Hollywood Rose, previous to Guns N Roses, I introduced Slash to Axl that night at the… and they shook hands and acted like they were just meeting for the first time, but apparently had jammed before.

B.  As their management consultant, what was it like with them in there…. I know Axl lived at your place and was hiding from the police for a while and they all moved in, except for Duff.  I remember you mentioning a long time ago, you and your roommate locked yourselves in your room, because they had basically taken over the whole place.

V.  They were like stealing our t-shirts and things too.  Yeah, Jennifer Perry and me had to live in the bedroom, barricaded the bedroom door. The guys all lived in the living room, Axl slept on the couch.  The other guys slept in sleeping bags on the floor usually with a groupie or two.  They would double up sleeping bags and zip them together.

B.  One of the things I’ve always wanted to ask you about, everybody always asks about Axl and Slash and all that.  But what was Izzy really like?

V.  Quiet, sarcastic.  He had a really dry sense of humor but I appreciated it, you know?  He was kind of a musical genius too, but he’s just really quiet. Somber looking.

B.   A lot of people always think it was Slash behind all the music and everything like that.  Everything I always randomly heard about was that Izzy was more of less the brain and Axl of everything.

V.  Slash was the business mind, but in the creative zone it was easily the three of them.

B.  You worked with them all the way up to them getting signed to Geffen……………. When did your relationship end with them exactly?

V.  I took an A&R at Geffen and Geffen decided the band needed major management. We tried to work out a co-management deal like I had with Death Sailor, but they already had Motley Crue and they didn’t want another band that was strung out so that didn’t really come together.

B.  Besides Slash do you have a relationship with anybody still?

V.  Mmmhmmm, Steven.  When I see Duff, he’s friendly.  I haven’t seen Izzy in like say 7 years or so, but when I see him, he’s fine.  The only one I’ve never talked to again is Axl.  I would speak to him if he called me.

B.  You mentioned you worked at Geffen as an A&R rep.  While you were there, I know you worked with like Faster Pussycat.  Was that more of a managerial thing? Or did you help them get signed as well?

V.  My deal with Geffen was set up so that I could. They had first writer refusal to sign a band, but after they passed I could do whatever I wanted with the band. I managed Faster Pussycat while I was there, Darling Cruel, Lost Boys who I also got signed with the other label.  It was great.

B. With Faster Pussycat circle and things like that were you ever a frequent guest at the Cathouse? 

V.  I was, it was the best club in Hollywood when you got to that time period.  The best bands played there.  And I managed Faster Pussycat and Riki (Rachtman) and Tamie Downe (Singer of Faster Pussycat) were best friends so it was kind of hard to avoid.

B.  Later on after Geffen, you started your own label at some point and wound up releasing June Carter Cash’s album that won a Grammy.  What was it like with June Carter and did you ever get a chance to meet Johnny and have a conversation?

V.  He sang a duet on the record.  I hung out in Nashville for like a month.  I was at their house and everything.  Johnny always came. Super nice. He sang a duet on Far side Things…on June’s record.   It was probably the highlight of my career.  Two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. ……….  I have a band now called Talk Like June that recorded at the cabin where I made the record with June and turned it into a real studio they have a tracking room there now and an iso room which is twice as big as it was when I made June’s record.  John Carter (June’s son) has become sort of a major force in Nashville as a producer and I gave him his first producing job.

B. That’s amazing

V.  He co-produced June’s record with a guy named JJ Bolero, that was like the first thing they really put out. Now he has worked with Loretta Lynn and all sorts of others.

B.  Since you’ve been around the Sunset strip for so long, how do you feel about the venues closing and the fact that there’s no scene anymore?

V.  I would say there’s no Sunset Strip scene, but there is a scene in Echo Park.  Sunset Strip has become very touristy; bands don’t want to come west of Vine or Vermont even.  The Echo, The Echoplex, and some others are out there – there’s about 3 or 4 other blocks in Echo Park.  They do a thing at the Echo, called Funky Soul.  It’s off the hook.  It’s like a sort of mash-up of soul and rock.  It’s like computer nerds and like hip-hop people, indie people…. I was amazed.  I was like “wow” this is different.  New.  A lot of it doesn’t have lyrics, it’s mostly just around dance beats but it was very interesting to watch.  This has been going on a couple of years. …

B.  I never really ventured out there; I was always on Sunset and going over there always felt weird to me, like I didn’t fit there. In my teenage years, early 20’s I was always out at the Key Club, Whisky, and Roxy

V.  My early years were at the strip too, but it’s changed.  Honestly it pisses me off that they’re building all these hotels and things.  It’s like if they take down the venues, who’s going to stay in these hotels?  They’re there for the entertainment, you know?  That’s it.

B.  You also were a booker for a very long time at Bar Sinister, the club that is very predominantly more Goth type of vibe. 

V.  Then I booked at Malibu Inn, which is like the surfers; it was like such a different scene.  It’s fun.  I had fun doing Bar Sinister.  I met a lot of great bands.  One of the guys I’m working with right now was in a band called Vegas In Space that I managed that I met at Bar Sinister.

B.  I have two more questions for you.  What are your thoughts on the future of music itself seeing as thought he physical copy has dwindled out of the picture?

V. Although album sales are up.  I think it’s changing.  It will be a better music world soon because the laws are slowly changing.  We only have baby bands, dinosaur bands.  This week we lost Bowie; we lost Lemmy, Scott Weiland.  The established artists are starting to die off.  If we don’t start changing the laws, there will be no new bands because baby bands can’t afford to make a living at this business the way it is so things have got to change.  I think it will be a more Internet savvy business with bands. It has to be.  Because that’s the way everything is done now.  My hope is that the laws will change and will favor artists.

B.  The older guys are slowly dying off and the baby bands aren’t getting anywhere where they need to be.  What’s your advice for any new and up and coming band that is really just trying to get out there and do it? 

V.  Play as many gigs as you can.  Get outside of your box and play other cities.  Have a super savvy Internet person be the 5th member of the band. Go to things at the YouTube space, the creator things, meet creators, network, tour, make really cool merchandise.  We used to give away t-shirts to sell records, now we give away records to sell t-shirts.  The cooler the merchandise the better off you’re going to be.  Develop your own mailing list, you want to control your own ball in this.  Don’t do it through and other company, you want to control your own stuff.

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Interview with Black Map

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Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mark Engles and Ben Flanagan of Black Map before their show at The Wiltern as part of Chevelle’s La Gargola tour. Here’s what went down.

Thank you guys for sitting down talking and hanging out. My fiancé and I were at the Viper Room Show and even with technical difficulties, which made it punk rock, it was still a great show.

Ben:
Yeah glad it was towards the end, we had a good time, we had a good show. Last 2 songs were totally fucked, but I still left the stage thinking that was good show, even though we couldn’t play the last 2 songs.

Being that this is your first tour as Black Map, what has the crowd reaction been like and what are the ups and downs so far?

Mark:
It’s been amazing. Spoiling even. Having a headliner who’s so kind. I already had a relationship with them, from when Dredg did some touring with Chevelle. So that part is spoiling. We walk into the venue on the first show and there is no awkwardness and just start talking right away. Some tours it takes weeks to even talk to each other. On this tour we are playing great venues in front of great crowds. The crowd is very open-minded. The Chevelle crowd wants to listen to some rock n roll. And if you’re good at what you do they’re gonna accept it.

Ben:
This crowd wants to like us and the other band Highly Suspect who is great. It’s been nice getting out there. It’s warm from the get go. And it’s been our job to elevate that. Their fans are a bunch of sweethearts. It’s been great

Mark:
Nothing’s been thrown at us so that’s a great start.

The Driver EP came out earlier in the year, I bought it when it came out. My fiancé has it in her car, we both can’t stop listening to it. With everything that’s on your plate, I know you’ve been working on your full length. What is the time table on that?

Ben:
We are close to done with it and that some Tuesday in mid October we hope to release it. We have one more full song to record and some tweaks, mixing and mastering. We’re about 85% done with the whole thing.

What made you want to be in a heavier band considering that you’ve been in more of experimental/alternative melodic bands?

Mark:
We’ve been talking about it loosely for quite a while, when we’ve been out to dinner at a bar or watching a baseball game. We both know that we have the type of chops the way we play music. We know we are capable of it. I grew up listening to heavy stuff, we both did. Also, having Chris Robyn being down to do it, he’s a heavy hitter, it’s what he specializes in. So with all that, why not go back to a power trio or simple rock band. It’s just fun. When we walked in the room the first day, we said let’s just have fun. We had a 12 pack of beer and just rocked like we were 18 again.

Ben:
There is kind of a void to fill. I loved and still love the type of music the Trophy Fire is, the lighter alternative rock. I miss when I was younger, just playing the drop d brutal just kind of heavy riffs. Getting in a room and be able to do that as very cathartic, and then to still apply that sense of melody that we have in our other bands, brings out a really good feeling.

What bands really brought you together, especially in the writing?

Mark:
The obvious are our former bands. There are elements of Dredg, Far and The Trophy Fire. And other things from that era. Failure came up a couple times. Sepultura and Entomed on the guitar side of life, Helmet’s in there. I think all the stuff that influenced us in the mid nineties. Even the stuff that we looked as that was kind of underrated, like Faith No More, bands that did well, but weren’t the big pop radio hit bands.

What’s the driving factor of being a power trio? What really encapsulates your sound?

Mark:
I really like the fact that Ben is playing bass. He’s a guitar player and we really lock up on riffs and it allows us to get more intricate. I think when a trio is tight, it sounds so much tighter than that of a quartet being tight. You can really back up what you are playing. That was a fun part for us at first. Let’s write things that are very tight and intricate. It’s just simpler that way. And when you load into shows you have a lot less gear and all that other shit that goes with it too. It’s great.

While in Black Map, do you have any ideal tour mates or what’s your ideal bill?

Mark:
I think any band we enjoy that’s a loud, guitar-driven band would be great for us. Chevelle is actually one of them. Ben brought up months ago, before we were offered the tour.We’d be happy to play with any band that sounds similar or we’ve been influenced by. With my previous band, we’d over analyze things more. Like if someone offered us a tour, we’d think is this good for us. It this a good look? With this band, if the band is loud and we respect them, we’d probably say yes.

Personal Influence wise, who is the one that made you pick up the guitar and sing?

Ben:
It’s pretty simple for me and actually cliché. When I was 11, I got Nevermind. I basically wanted to be Kurt Cobain. That’s why I started playing guitar. So definitely that started it and went in a million different directions after that. I almost got a little sentimental the other day when we pulled into Seattle. We’re on this tour and it’s going great and I was kind of back to where it all started for me wanting to play guitar and be a singer.

Mark:
I gotta go with a lot of the metal from the 70’s and 80’s. I was listening to music at a young age. I had an older brother, but it wasn’t until Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Randy Rhodes, that sort of thing. That whole group of bands really made me want to start playing.

That’s really cool actually. Ok If you could pick your top 5 favorite albums and I know its one of those crazy put you on the spot questions…

Mark:
How much time do you have?

Until you need to go to sound check

Mark:
It’s tough for me, because whenever this question is asked I automatically go to certain albums like Dark Side Of The Moon and OK Computer. Then I start thinking of genres and different stages of life too. For me Pink Floyd and Radiohead, bands like that came a bit later, even Portishead. But early on it was the metal stuff. Sepultura Chaos AD is in there. Though it all becomes very convoluted in my mind. Like when I was 10 this album changed my likes, then you go through a renaissance of other styles in your 20’s and makes you listen to other things.

Ben:
We’ve talked a lot about different bands with their records that influenced us like Fantastic Planet by Failure, King For A Day Fool For A Life Time by Faith No More, The Shape Of Punk To Come by Refused. Albums like that. From start to finish they are beautifully executed and tell a story.

Mark:
I know one for you and me too. California by Mr. Bungle.

Did you get a chance to go to any of the Failure reunion shows?

Mark:
Saw them twice got to see them open for Tool and their headliner.

Ben:
Them opening for Tool was cool but their headliner with the 2 sets was fucking cool.

Oh I’d throw Tool Aenima in the mix too.

You guys mentioned that you are going release the album in October. Are you going to do a fall winter tour or wait till the next year to get out there?

Mark:
It’s all up in the air. We are trying to get anything we feel would be productive. We are definitely thinking about what we could be doing and what not. There are things in the works but nothing confirmed so I really can’t say much about it…

Ok for my one cliché type question, what’s the status of Dredg and The Trophy Fire? I know you Mark went with Dredg over to Europe recently.

Mark:
Europe was great and successful. We all agreed we have another record in us but there isn’t a rush to do it at this point.

Ben:
Same with Trophy Fire. Love the guys and we all get along, I’ve just been focusing on this and there are only so many hours in the day. Cool thing about being in a band is that there is no boss looking over your shoulder telling you to clock in.

Ben and Mark:
We’ll do it when we feel the time is right to go back to those projects.

Thank you guys for sitting with me and letting me ask you some questions and taking the time.

Ben and Mark:
Oh you are welcome, it’s our pleasure.

 

 

Interview by: Brian Lacy