©Elizabeth Sneed/Elizabeth A. White – Please do not reprint/reproduce without express written permission.
Being the “young gun” of the band, Brent brings a really cool perspective to UNION, and he had a ton of great information to share about the band and himself including: his musical background (guess who has a degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music), how the guys all met, the saga of borrowed drum gear, very cool details about the recording of many of the songs, and, being Canadian, hockey!
UNION Asylum (UA): Brent, thanks for taking the time to do this interview.
No problem. Is it too late for you? I know it’s like already 11:00 p.m. there.
UA: No, I’m a night owl. This is cool. I’m glad you wanted to do this so people can get to know you a little better. The ground rules are really whatever you want.
That’s totally cool, Beth. I read John’s interview a couple days ago and I thought it was cool because he was just so open and said what was on his mind.
UA: Yeah, and I knew Bruce was the kind of person who would not be involved with people who were jerks so I was expecting John to be cool, but he was even cooler than I was expecting.
Yeah, definitely. The first time I met Bruce that was my first impression from him, and then I was kind of on guard, probably like yourself, with John just a little bit because of the Mötley reputation kind of thing, like he’s a “bad boy” or he’s gonna have maybe some sort of ego or whatever. And he did not, from the first time we met he didn’t.
UA: Have you seen the webpage?
I actually have it right in front of me. I think it’s great. I do keep a close tab, me and Bruce maybe more so than the other guys, just ’cause I’m kind of the young guy and I’m a little more on fire. John’s really excited, but for me it’s very new so I like to see what all is going on. And I’ve got a lot of people up in Canada that are big supporters. I have like this whole nation of fans behind me going, “We’re rooting for you!” Yeah, I’m always checking out the website. I don’t have a computer though, that’s the thing, so when I go to Bruce’s he’ll usually say, “Hey, check out the new stuff.” He gave me, let’s see, I got “UNION News today, December 15th.” So that’s what I was looking over today, some good stuff. I see you guys have what the first track is gonna be listed and everything, which is cool ’cause we were kind of leaving it up to everybody else. I always liked “Old Man Wise,” and that was actually the first tune John, Bruce and I discussed about playing together. I think I should go back and tell you how I met Bruce.
He already did an interview with you where he kind of said…
UA: Yeah, between the interview with Bruce and the interview with John the story we’ve gotten so far is that you were kind of tried out without your knowledge so to speak. Like they kind of brought you in under the guise of just playing around in the studio and meanwhile they were checking you out.
I knew Bruce probably a good six months before we started talking about putting a band together. I met him through this girl Lenita Erickson that I was playing with up in Canada. She moved down here and did a record with producer Curt Cuomo, who eventually produced our record. He also worked on the Carnival of Souls album. He mostly worked with Paul on songs, Paul and Bruce. So, she met Bruce through Paul I guess, because Paul contributed either a song or some guitar playing to her record. She and I were friends back in Canada and she came down here and was working on stuff, though I didn’t come down here intentionally to work with her. I actually was down here doing another project and it just so happened she called me out of the blue saying, “Hey do you wanna just do some drum stuff for me? Like a percussion thing? I’m thinking about asking Bruce if he wants to do some simple acoustic gigs around town because he’s not doing the KISS thing at the moment.” Bruce was like, “Yeah, I’m cool with that.” So it just turned into me meeting Bruce over at Curt Cuomo’s house because we were gonna do this little thing with Lenita. We did a few little acoustic gigs around LA here just for fun, nothing high pressured, and then I guess John’s thing started to fall apart with Mötley. You know Bruce and Nikki are good friends actually, and they’re still good friends.
UA: It must be really weird for him to be in the position he’s in “between” John and Nikki.
And Bruce is really cool, he doesn’t like to rock the boat. He thinks they’ll keep a good friendly relationship with Nikki even though all this shit is going on with John and Mötley. I think the fans are starting to realize that there’s a good guy and a bad guy to this and that John is definitely not doing anything vindictive against those guys. He’s just being brutally honest with everything that he’s explained about the situation. So Bruce has basically kept out of it and taken the approach that he’s just happy he and John are able to work together. This thing between John and Mötley is “beneficial” in a way because we’re able to be a band now because of it. But Bruce will never say anything bad about Nikki, ’cause he says Nikki’s a great guy. He’ll always say that. He’ll never say anything negative against Nikki Sixx.
But anyway, so Bruce and I just had a friendship. Then the inevitable KISS departure happened, they officially parted their ways right during the time we were still doing these little gigs around town. And then he started hooking up with John and just working on little things I guess, bits and pieces of songs. Bruce, he’s got a lot of back catalog and a lot of riffs that he’s been working on, and him and John just started to pool their ideas and I was just his friend. I had never met John or anything. One day Bruce said, “Why don’t you come over sometime and let me bend your ear. I want you to hear some of these songs that John and I are working on.” I was like, “This is great. I’d be more than happy to check it out.” And John didn’t know who I was, he didn’t even know I was a drummer. He just knew I was a friend of Bruce’s. So I came over, I met John, and I was like, “Wow! This is great.” I had The Scream record back up in Canada, I don’t know anybody else who had it, but I was always a big fan of John even before Mötley. So when I got to meet him I was like, “Cool man, I love the Scream record and I really like the Motley record too.” But I was definitely a fan of his right from early on, not just the bandwagon thing because he was in the Crüe.
So they started working together and I was still doing this other little thing with another band. Bruce came out to see me play at the Roxy and I was actually doing a completely different style of playing so I don’t know if he got any idea of what I was all about. But I’d hang over at his place and we’d talk a little bit. I remember I gave him a hand when he moved. I was like, “Hey man, you need a hand to move or something I’m there for you.” So it began as strictly a friendship. You know we both like The Beatles, we have similar musical taste.
UA: Just hanging around.
Yeah. Just going out for lunch, just hanging at the Rainbow, go for a pizza or something. So it was really cool and I think that’s a great foundation for friendships in a band. We weren’t put together by a record company saying, “Hey, this guy is a great guitar player he would work good with this drummer.” It’s amazing when we hang out, we’re actually like musical geeks ’cause we’re all into The Beatles and Zeppelin and cool bands that we can all relate to together.
I guess John and Bruce were going to demo some songs at Curt’s place and Curt had been playing some drum machine on these tracks but they wanted to get them into a more live field. Bruce was playing bass on a lot of the stuff. Bruce is a really good bass player, he can really mimic Gene. You’d be amazed, he’s very talented that way. He just said, “Well John and I are doing this all ourselves, Curt’s just playing some drum machine ideas, so why don’t we just have you come in and play real drums on it?” And then Eric Singer became a factor because they borrowed some drums off Eric for Curt’s place. So I’m over at Curt’s and we’re demoing songs and playing on Eric’s drums. And I felt kind of weird ’cause I didn’t know Eric Singer and I thought, “Well what about Eric Singer? Is he gonna be in the band?” I didn’t even think at that point, “Hey, I wanna join this band.” I just thought Bruce is a cool guy and that John is a cool guy too, glad to know them as friends. I never thought that they’d put a band together and evolve.
UA: You were just there to help them out and play some drums for them.
Yep, it was nothing more than that. Deep down I was thinking I’m really happy to meet Bruce, because I’m a KISS fan from when Love Gun came out. That was the first album I had. I was like seven years old standing in front of the mirror as a kid mimicking KISS.
UA: Seven years old? You must be pretty close to my age then.
How old are you?
UA: I’m 27
I’m 27 too! You can relate then, huh?
UA: Yeah, I got into KISS with Rock And Roll Over. That was my first one.
Yep. I didn’t see them until I guess ’85 when they had the Animalize tour. I saw them in Winnipeg, that’s where I’m from. Not enough concerts came through that town.
UA: Was that your first concert or just your first KISS concert?
My first concert was the Van Halen 1984 tour.
UA: Nice way to start.
Yeah. I saw that and it was definitely, “Oh my God… I want that.” KISS was my band, but they didn’t come back to Winnipeg again until ’85 so that’s when I saw them and Bruce for that first time. It’s funny because Bruce went back to New York a couple of months ago and he called me says, “Hey, you know what? I got a board tape from Winnipeg from 1985 when you saw us!” I was like, “Cool! I want to hear that.” I still haven’t heard it yet, but apparently he’s got a tape of it.
UA: Nice. So you ended up just going over there to help them out and play some drums for them?
Yep. I’m just over there and it was “Old Man Wise” that we did first. I remember hearing that riff and going, “Oh this is fucking heavy! I really like this stuff.” They had actually played me some other stuff that they had, but it was literally straight, stripped down acoustic with John’s vocal. And they were great songs, some of those are on the record now, but they were very skeleton like. “Old Man Wise” was full on. Bruce was playing electric and he’s like, “You know, we want to play this heavy and we want you to get a feel for it.”
And when I started to play it I was not thinking much about it. I just went for it and came up with this really cool quirky tribal rhythm in the verses. And they were like, “That was really cool. We really dug that.” I just went for it. Like with the drum fills, whatever I played that made it to the album is what I played verbatim on that first demo! It’s literally one take the whole way through. I played it once, maybe twice, over at Curt’s and they were like, “Fuck! We just love whatever you did.” John was just flipping. I’m like, “Oh, you like that? Cool.” And he was like, “That was bad ass!”
UA: It is bad ass. It’s the first song I heard, because it’s the first song on the demo tape, and when I put the tape in that song just knocked me out! You throw those little nasty fills in all over the place and I’m thinking, “Okay, this stuff is going to be cool!”
And they’ve even gotten better. There’s that one last drum fill heading into the last chorus, that was Curt’s idea. Everything was me up until then, and Curt said, “We need something. It’s building and building and building and we want something just to kick into that last chorus.” So he came up with the idea to do one more extra fill there. So I can’t take credit for that one, but yeah the rest was me.
UA: Well, Curt might have suggested it, but you played the shit out of it.
Thanks. It worked out cool. We recorded that song and they were like, “This is great! Let’s keep going.” So I added some more drum stuff onto three or four more tunes and that was it. They were like, “Let’s just sit on these for a while.” And then we just started talking about how we kind of liked the way things were going and the fact that I play a lot of instruments besides drums too. I’m probably a better piano player really than I am a drummer. My main instrument is piano, although I don’t really practice piano the way I used to. But that was my first introduction to music. I’ve actually got diplomas up in Canada from like the Royal Conservatory of Music, I was serious into piano. But drums… hey, the thing is there was no piano player in KISS, it wasn’t cool. (Laughs)
UA: (Laughs) Yeah, you don’t see a lot of women throwing themselves at piano players!
No! Now I’m glad I played piano, and actually we all play piano. Everybody in the band is a good piano player. John can really tickle the ivories. John’s got a great song, you know that song “Friends” on the Quarternary CD that Mötley did where they all did individual songs? Every single thing on that is John.
It’s cool because that night we started doing “Old Man Wise,” there’s a piano in Curt’s house, actually it’s Bruce’s piano, and I just sort of sat down at it and played “I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney. I just love The Beatles. And they were just like, “Wow! Cool, you play piano.” We didn’t know each other really. John was cool and he sat down at the piano and then he and I just started playing things. He showed me that “Friends” tune and I was like, “You know what? I love that tune.” And he’s like, “You know that tune?” I’m like, “Fuck, it’s great!” So he’s showing me “Friends” and I’m showing him some Beatles tunes and we really hit it off. And it’s like the piano that kind of brought us together.
And I can fake my way on guitar, so I’d pick up Bruce’s guitar and start playing him a riff and he’d be like, “Wow! You play guitar.” And I was like, “I can play any KISS riff.” I probably know more riffs than he does, ’cause when you’re doing it you don’t think about it. It’s a little too close to home. So we just started like that the three of us, and Curt was like our secret fourth member who was putting all the songs together. Ironically, some of the stuff on that initial demo guitar wise is the same on the final album. Some of that stuff was done at Bruce’s studio, he had dumped the tapes over a couple of times. We just liked the vibe. I don’t know if you like “Heavy D?”
UA: It’s actually my favorite song on the album.
Cool. That was done in Bruce’s place. I think it was done in his bedroom. He recorded those ages ago. That was like some of his riff ideas and we just loved the way they sounded.
UA: John said that the only thing you guys did was that you beefed up the drums a little bit in the studio but other than that you didn’t really mess with it.
Yeah. We had to fast forward a little bit as far as the drums go, we kind of did things very unorthodox. Usually if you lay a foundation for an album you put down some rhythm tracks, drums and bass, then guitars and other melody instruments, then vocals are usually saved for last. What we did was we already had completed ideas. Even John’s vocals, we really liked some of the stuff he had done at Curt’s. No fancy mikes, nothing. It was just the vibe at the moment and as soon as they came up with lyrics and feels and melodies they were like, “Let’s get this on tape right now.” We were going for vibe, for the real heart and soul of the song. I think you can hear that in John’s voice ’cause there are imperfections all over our record. We weren’t trying to make it a slick, I hate to say Mötley record, but those guys spend so many hours editing drum tracks. John told me that for “Misunderstood” they had something like 120 tapes just for that one song! That’s ridiculous. They spent hours taping Tommy Lee with drums, ten takes per song. Then they’d put them in the computer and edit them all together.
I’m telling you, with our record, except for a few little patch ups here and there, it’s all one pass. I played the song from start to end, and I didn’t stop half way through and go, “No. I want to try something different here.” It was just “here we go!” If I botched one little thing I never went back and stuck it in a computer or something. We kept all those songs from the initial demos, the songs that actually got us the record deal with Mayhem in the first place. They really liked the vibe of those demos, but we just weren’t happy with the drums ’cause they were recorded in this little tiny room in Curt’s studio. I mean my elbows were bumping up against the walls! On the website there’s one picture of me wearing shorts and I’ve got a Beatles shirt on and I’m holding headphones?
UA: Yep. I know the picture.
Those are the demos, that’s when I’m doing the demos.
UA: Yeah, you do look a little cramped in those pictures.
I’m in the corner of a little room. And that’s Eric’s little black kit, that might have even been a KISS kit for all I know. It had these internal mikes and we just used it because it was handy. The demos from that made it onto the demo that got us the record deal. We liked the vibe of the guitars so we didn’t need to recut them. Bruce did redo some solos and he put like another track here or there just for clarity and to make the songs a bit heavier, but the drums were dumped later on, after everything was recorded. I was actually playing to a final take of the song! The weirdest thing was when we first did “Old Man Wise” we didn’t record with a click track. You know what that is?
Yeah, so the drummer’s got the metronome going in his headphones just for time consistency. But we weren’t thinking too hard at Curt’s, we were just like, “Let’s roll tape and whatever feel we come up with we won’t worry about.” So when it came time to finally re-record that with real drums we just re-cut over the demo ones. That was really tricky because I didn’t use a click track on the demo. I’m playing to my own drumming and whatever you hear on that tape just kind of moves with the flow of the song, but there’s no click track. I think the rest of the record we used one except for maybe “Let It Flow.” On “Let It Flow” if you listen later on in the song it totally speeds up. We just had a vibe going. So anyway, “Old Man Wise” was just a nightmare trying to re-cut, but I did it in like one take. If you really listen, for me I’m real self conscious cause I’ve listened to it, it sounds like a pretty tight band but man it was hard to play along to a complete song that didn’t have a click track. I always listen to the vocals anyway, John’s really strong type singer. Pretty wacky huh?
UA: And I would have never known! I think the band does sound tight. And I think it’s refreshing to hear something that doesn’t sound overproduced from here to hell and back. It does sound really fresh and really honest, the music and the lyrics.
Well, I took a few pointers from Bruce because he’s got a lot of recording experience. He’s done a lot of studio stuff and he was kind of able to take the reins because this was his baby. He had as much say as everybody and then some because he just really knew what we were going for. We would do something and I would go, “I don’t know about that.” And he’d be like, “You know what, you just played really good. Don’t try to change it. You gotta trust me, you really played good.” And I would trust him, because I was kind of thinking that maybe I could do it better, but he knew you get a good take and you don’t wanna fuck with it. He was never into erasing a take and going, “Oh let’s just do another one.” ’cause then you’d just burn out.
So that’s what we did. A lot of the stuff on the CD we kind of did in steps. The first seven or eight tunes were all partly from another demo, the initial songs we recorded over at Curt’s. The three we worked up from scratch we didn’t even have finished when we went into a rehearsal place after we found James… we were so ass backwards. It was really weird because there’s this record deal, yet there’s no “band.” We’re kind of laughing going, “We don’t even have a name. We’re the nameless band.” You’ve heard how long it took us to get a name? And you know the story behind that how we just came down to the wire with the name?
UA: Yes, but let’s hear your version.
Bruce and I were over at his place going, “God we don’t want to be too ridiculous on this name thing, it’s just word association. We don’t have to come up with the most clever name.” And we weren’t coming up with it. So I came up with a name at his computer, just going through a bunch of crap on this encyclopedia software, and I wrote down like thirty names or something. I wrote down, “UNION something to do with something else.” So he calls me the next day and he goes, “You know what? You just came up with a name.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” And he goes, “UNION.” I go, “Yeah, I wrote it on the paper last night.” He says, “That’s it. That’s the name.” I don’t even remember writing it but he’s like, “No, it’s perfect.” UNION, it can mean whatever. We don’t need to linger on the fact that Bruce and John are from very established bands, but it could mean a union of two bands. Or just a union of people. We’re all from different places, I’m from Canada, so it could be the union of Canada/US, whatever. It’s just a very tough word.
We just were so backwards. We had no name, we had no bass player, we had this deal and I wasn’t, I guess I was a band member at that point, but we had no bass player. I don’t know, did Bruce tell you how we met James?
UA: I heard that you kind of “picked him up” in a club one night. Bruce said he didn’t come home with any women’s phone numbers, but he came home with a bass player so he was happy.
Yes! We picked him up. It was the scenario of the male/female thing except we were out on the prowl for a bass player but just didn’t know it. (Laughs) We actually went to a party, Bruce and I venture out together on the town, not that we’re like bar flies but if Bruce goes out I go with him. We like to hang together. So we went down to the Hollywood Athletic Club ’cause there was this private party Bruce was going to. Well there’s this band playing up on the top floor and it’s like just a party kind of cover band, they’re playing anything from Bad Company to Van Halen, whatever. And James is putting time in just for fun, you know he’s playing in this Saturday night/weekend band. And Bruce and I are like walking around spinning our heads because this place had the most beautiful girls in there, it was a real who’s who kind of place. Also a lot of stuffy people. So we were just like more into watching the band and seeing what’s going on.
I had met James at the NAMM Show, which is this trade show that the music industry has every January in Anaheim. All the music companies have this big convention every year, everybody in the music industry is in Anaheim, and they have all these bands performing. I saw James playing a bunch of Beatles covers with Gregg Bissonette from David Lee Roth’s band and a couple of other guys and I thought, “This guy looks like a rock star. He looks like he’s from another band.” He’s got like a Steven Tyler, Neil Young combination vibe… he just looked like a rock star. That’s the way he carries himself. And here I am seeing him again in this little club. So I told Bruce, “I saw that guy at the NAMM Show. This guy is hot, we gotta check him out.” So we’re watching him and he just looked like he wasn’t part of the band even though he was. He was kind of like doing his own thing and his own thing was really great! He was above and beyond this thing he was doing. So Bruce said, “We gotta talk to this guy, look at him! Who is he?” And I was like, “I don’t know. Let’s go chat with him.”
So here we are not even intending to hook up with a bass player, and there he was. We were just rapping with him and he’s like, “Yeah, I’ll come check it out.” He wasn’t really jumping at it ’cause he didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have a deal yet though we were working on it, it was in the initial process, so we couldn’t give James a, “Hey, we have a record deal. Come join our band thing.” We had, “Well, there’s this prospective deal pending… do you wanna come down and just jam?” And he was into that thank God, ’cause if he hadn’t been I don’t know how we would have persuaded him. But we just said come check out our tunes and we kind of described a little bit of Zeppelin influence and he was in to that. We were kind of thinking that this guy plays like John Paul Jones from Zeppelin and just loved it. So he came down to Curt’s studio and we worked on some of the tunes, just jammed and put some stuff on tape. And we knew, “This is the guy.” We had tried like five or six other guys. We even had a guy come down from Canada who was kind of a known guy. Actually he played on a Rod Stewart CD with us. Have you heard that version of “Maggie Mae” we did?
UA: I haven’t.
It’s on that Rod Stewart CD that should be out real soon.
UA: Right, the tribute disc.
Yeah. We did “Maggie Mae” and “Gasoline Alley.” That was the first thing on record that John, Bruce and I played on together. But that’s a different bass player. He was the first guy to actually play with us as a band, but this guy was just unfortunately not the guy for us. When we met James, John immediately was like, “This guy is unbelievable!” John was calling me the next day going, “This is the guy.” We all just knew. I didn’t even know his last name for awhile, I just knew him as James, that was it. I nicknamed him Jaco James, like Jaco Pastorius. He’s the sweetest guy.
UA: You guys just really seem to work well together in all aspects, personality wise, music wise, it just really seems like everything is falling into place for you.
We are all passionate toward music. To be honest with you, yes money is nice and we all need it to survive, but a lot of times, and I’ve heard John say it, you just do it for the love of the music. And some of the guys that Bruce and John have worked with are possibly a little more business oriented and so the music lacks. We just went for an honest, genuine approach to the record. If people buy it we’re gonna be so proud and happy about it, but we’re not gonna be stuck up like, “See! We sold ten million records, ha ha ha.” We’re just happy that we were able to do the record in the first place. Bruce and John have, I guess, something to prove because they were in the shadow of established people and I feel that a lot of people are gonna say, “Wow! I didn’t realize Bruce was such a good guitar player.” And that’s no disrespect to the fact that he played in KISS, all it means is he was somewhat musically sheltered in his situation.
And for John, Mötley Crüe was a great band to put him in the spotlight. And I loved that record, I thought it was a great record. But I don’t think it was a good Mötley Crüe record because it was so different from the norm. I think the first couple of Mötley records are great, and I think Dr. Feelgood is a great record, but if you compare now that they have Generation Swine out you can see that the direction they were going wasn’t John’s fault. That new record’s not really burning up the charts the way it could have, and it just shows that John definitely was not the reason for what happened with Mötley ’94. Who’s to say what the reason was that there is lack of sales for that record, but it was 1994……. who was big? Grunge. Soundgarden. Nirvana. All that was at its peak. I think in 1994 I was kind of going, “Hey, this is cool. I like the grunge stuff.” I loved Soundgarden. And the Mötley record was great, but how do you compete when that new flavor of sound is out there? Mötley’s kind of a heavy record and people don’t know what to think.
So with what we’re doing now I think people are gonna be happy to hear John sing, ’cause he screamed on that record, on the Mötley record. They pushed him to the limit and then you get people saying he couldn’t sing. John can sing, and if I need to steal quote from Spinal Tap, (said with English accent) “He’s got pipes we haven’t even heard yet.” He’s got some Chris Cornell in him where he’s very, very melodic and soulful. I think that our songs have catchy melodies that hopefully stick with you. A lot of people are like, “You know that’s a really cool song.” But we didn’t try to contrive songs to go, “Hey, this is gonna be a hit on the radio.” It’s just the way it came out. We’re all fans of good melody music like The Beatles.
UA: And you can hear that influence on the record in various places with the harmonies, like in the chorus of “October Morning Wind.”
What a cool tune huh?
UA: It’s an incredible tune! That song definitely gave me a Beatles type vibe, and even in a song like “Get Off My Cloud,” which is definitely the “attitude” song on the album, even that’s got some really cool harmonies in the bridge.
Here’s something funny about that song. We didn’t really have that part defined. When I first heard the tune, I think it started out with the verse kind of the riff (sings melody), and I loved that middle section with the “Now you’re falling” and I remember saying, “We gotta start the song like that.” ‘Cause it was really trippy. So we arranged it so that part started the tune, then kicked into the more heavy part, but my favorite part of the song is that bridge section you mentioned. It could be a Beatles thing. I mean it’s not derivative of Beatles, other than the fact that it’s got that very flowing, trippy, feel that what’s being said reflects the way it’s being sung… or vice versa! We tried to not sing something and have it have no relevancy to what we’re singing. That tune again drum wise, that’s one take. I think I did sometimes four songs a day in the studio, I was a very fast. I think it took me maybe five or six days tops to do all the drums. You know, like a couple tunes here or there, take a break, listen back. Well, with “Get Off My Cloud” everybody was in another room at the studio and Curt, when he gets in his mode it’s just, “Let’s roll, let’s keep the vibe going.”
So everybody had taken off, but Bruce kind of wanted to be around just to enjoy it all. If a good take happened he wanted to be there to enjoy it. So of course on that one everybody had left, Curt and the engineer were the only guys in there, and I was like, “Okay, let’s roll this one.” And when I did it Curt was like, “That’s the take, I love it.” There’s not an edit on that song. So Bruce comes back in and was like, “Okay, I’m ready. Are you ready to do your take?” And I’m like, “It’s done man.” He’s like, “Aagghhh! I missed it!” We all wanted to participate, we were all down at the studio. Whenever John was doing his vocals we didn’t want to be like all sitting in the room staring at him like, “Okay, make it great.” He wanted to have some space and just get a feel for it so we gave that to him. We did the album in two parts. We had a couple of weeks booked or something initially, and then we saved “Let It Flow,” Pain Behind Your Eyes” and “Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)” for later, they were done last. I think we also did another song which isn’t on the record but will probably show up somewhere at that same time, it’s cover of “Oh Darling,” I know John told you about it, and it’s killer.
UA: I really hope that shows up as a B-side or a bonus or something.
It’s great! John kicks the shit out of it. He’s so cool with that stuff. We were looking around, playing with big smiles on our faces like, “Okay, this is fun!” We had to record it. It was one of those tunes where when we were in rehearsals we just jammed songs, and James is this guy who you just start a tune and he’s right there, he knows every song known to man. So anyway, we would jam that tune and John just said, “I’ve always loved this tune, it’s one of my favorites. I always wanted to record it.” So we did. But we actually saved those tunes “Let It Flow,” “Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)” and “Pain Behind Your Eyes” for later. They weren’t even complete, they were just sketches of riffs with some skeletons.
I remember we had recorded some stuff and then we still had three or four tunes and just said we’ll get to them later. So we rehearsed and did all these tunes, then we had to go back and rehearse these other three. We kind of had six or seven months to work on the other tunes and then we just banged these other three or four tunes off. I remember when they came up with “Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)” they were writing it over at Curt’s place and I could hear it from outside. I came up to the front door and they had the front screen open and I could hear them working on it. You could hear them talking and doing the riff and I remember running in and going, “Cool tune! What are you guys playing?” They were like, “Oh, we just kind of whipped this thing together.” And it took literally like five minutes for those guys to come up with that whole song, lyrics and everything. Curt’s great with collaborating with John on lyrical ideas and it was a five minute tune. I was like, “We gotta record that one.”
Then “Pain Behind Your Eyes,” I loved the initial guitar riff. I guess if you could say it has an evil kind of feel. It’s a very dark song, it’s not a happy feel, but it just grabbed me right off from the start. I had no concept for what kind of drums we were gonna do and so we just went in and rehearsed it and I kind of changed a few things right on the spot in the studio. I thought it had more of an angry feel so I knew I needed to not think about playing like a controlled, schooled drummer. I just want to bash the thing out and it just it worked. I think “Pain Behind Your Eyes” is my secret favorite tune. I remember when we were mixing it everyone in the room was like, “Man this tune’s really kicking!” Even the guy who mixed it, Jim Mitchell, he had goose bumps. He was like, “Man I really dig this tune, there’s something about it.” We all felt really good about certain spots on the record and hopefully other people will agree.
UA: I certainly think so. If this album doesn’t do real well for you guys it’s just gonna be because the timing was just bizarre or something, because this has got every reason in the world it should do well. It really does.
You’ve got four guys who love music and there’s nobody that’s terribly butt-ugly thank God (laugh). When we went down to the photo session we had so many clothes. We were all swapping going, “Hey, try this! This would be cool.” We were just totally having fun with it. We’re all into dressing cool and looking good, we like to feel good. We don’t want to come across angry like we’re not happy to play music. We’re excited and we get excited to go out. Actually tonight Bruce and I are going out. Eric Singer called me ’cause he’s playing at the Baked Potato, and him and Gilby Clarke and a bunch of guys are getting together tonight and it’s just gonna be a jam. And Eric called me and said, “Hey, why don’t you come down?”
It’s cool ’cause Eric and I are like best friends now. Eric went out and played with Gilby Clarke for the last month and a half and he was panicking because he needed someone to look after his place and he didn’t have anyone. So he called Bruce because Bruce and Eric are best friends too, which is really great. So he called Bruce saying, “Do you know anybody?” And Bruce said, “Why don’t you call Brent.” I live in apartments and I could go look after his place so I literally moved into Eric’s house for two months. It was really cool. And Eric lent every single piece of drum gear you hear on our record.
UA: Everything you played with?
Everything! Right down to most of the symbols. I also borrowed symbols from friends. There wasn’t a piece of gear on that album that I owned. I came down from Canada with nothing.
UA: That’s interesting because I was going to ask you, for the drummers out there, the standard gear questions: what do you prefer to play drum wise, symbol wise, stick wise and so on ’cause they really do wanna know that sort of thing.
I know. And to be brutally honest, I’m not into gear. I’m into “less is more.” I play a four piece kit. I always liked the way Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts and John Bonham had these simple kits and they did so much with it. When I was growing up I went through a bit of a RUSH phase where I was into lots of fills. I’d come home after school and all I did was practice how many fills I could do. And I experimented with double bass but as I grew older I was just like, I’m not cut out for this. I could never play double bass the way I wanted to, and I just always dug drummers who just played for the song. So for as long as I can remember I’ve always played a four piece kit.
I think even when I first came into play with the guys they had the four piece kit of Eric’s set up and they were like, “Well, all we have is this four piece kit right now.” I’m like, “This is what I need, I don’t need anymore.” They were like, “Oh are you sure? You don’t wanna add anything?” I’m like, “No man, I don’t need anymore. I don’t need china symbols. I need two crashes, I need a ride, I need my simple kit.” So that’s my story. It was funny ’cause Eric was more excited than I was. He was like, “Hey, come over I gotta show you this thing.” And Eric’s got this really wicked drum collection at his place. He’s got this massive room that he’s got a kit set up all the time and it was cool cause some of KISS kits were set up there. He’s got so many beautiful kits in there. He had like a really cool old Rogers kit which was his first kit that he ever had, his dad gave it to him or something when he was really young. And he was like, “Take care of this, this is my baby.” So I felt that was pretty cool that he gave me a kit that meant a lot to him. Eric and I have a really cool friendship now.
I always feel drummers are able to really connect without a competitive edge. Eric can play the shit out of stuff that I can’t even do, and maybe there’s something I can do better than him, but we don’t look at each other like, “I can do this better than you.” We more less shoot the shit about sports and stuff, we’re like totally into sports. But the whole record was done on borrowed gear. Most of it was from Eric. He’s been really cool too in that he plays Pearl drums and I’ve always played Pearl too so he’s like, “Hey, if you wanna speak to the Pearl people I’m there for you.” I think that’s really cool ’cause I come from Canada and I don’t have the connections that everybody else has. On the album everybody credits their thank yous to all the companies that were helping us out and my only thank you is to Eric ’cause I didn’t get any drum companies. I got Eric Singer to help me out.
UA: Eric Singer was your drum company for this album.
Yeah, and I’m forever in debt to him for that. It was pretty cool. He’d be on the road with Gilby and he’d be checking in with me, “How are the kits working out?” So we just started this friendship. He let me live in his house so obviously we have a good trusting relationship.
UA: Is this the first time you’ve lived in the States?
Oh, total fish out of water.
UA: You came down for the first time right around the time you started working with Bruce and John?
I’d never been here before that. I have played across Canada numerous times in a lot of bands and I guess I was the big fish in a little pond. I had exhausted all the things I wanted to accomplish in Canada. I played with a band who had a lot of success in the late 70’s early 80’s, they were called Street Heart, they had probably seven or eight records, platinum records in Canada, big huge Canadian band. Two of the guys later became Loverboy, you remember Loverboy?
UA: Of course.
The singer and guitar player moved on and formed Loverboy and became huge. They were like multi-million sellers and that was back in the early 80’s. So the band that I played with was the band that they had moved on from. And while nobody would know of them down here, in Canada people are like, “Sure, I know Street Heart.” I came from Canada playing with that band, and they were way past their prime. We were just kind of doing a nostalgic tour thing. I joined them when I was probably 23 and I played with them for about three years. It was great because we’d do these big gigs and people would come up to me and go, “I remember you from 1978!” And I’d be like, “No, you don’t. I was eight years old!” (Laughs) It was hilarious. I was obviously playing with older guys.
I’ve always kind of been the young person in bands, I’ve always gravitated toward people who are older than me. When I played with people my own age it always seems like they’re catching up to what I know. I’ve always been aware of important bands like The Beatles and Zeppelin and all these note worthy bands that are so monumental and a lot of people, they’re not even there yet. They’re like, “I don’t like the Beatles.” I remember Mötley Crüe covered “Helter Skelter” and unfortunately for a lot of people that’s their only education on The Beatles. Bruce is older than me and so is John, but I like that. I like the fact that they are more experienced and I can learn more faster. I like to absorb all their knowledge, ’cause you know Bruce and John have been in around the world a few thousand times. It’s funny ’cause Bruce has played big shows like Wembley and all these things and he’s more nervous about playing than I am! That’s what’s really cool, that he’s so grounded that way.
I remember telling him that first day I met him over with Lenita and Curt, “Don’t mind me but I’m genuinely kind of star struck. I’m really happy to meet you and I’m just letting you know it, this is really cool.” He totally down played it like, “Oh God, if you only knew.” And that’s not what I expected because I thought maybe he’d blow me off like, “Whatever, another KISS fan.” But he’s got the time of day for everybody. I’ve seen Bruce at these KISS conventions he’ll talk until you tell him to shut up. He’s so genuine that way.
UA: That’s cool.
Yeah. I met Gene and Paul when we went to Gene’s birthday party in August and I would definitely say that there wasn’t any sparks flying from my meeting them. I mean, I’ve always looked up to them as a successful band but they always say when you meet your idols it’s always a let down. Bruce, as a person, impressed me of all those guys. And I’m not saying that cause I work with him but because it’s true. He’s just really a nice person to hang with. I haven’t met any of the Mötley guys, and I don’t think I ever will, but we’ll see.
UA: Speaking of Gene’s birthday party, Bruce said to ask you about posing for a picture with someone at the party and then your reaction when you saw it on the internet.
Yeah! This is all new to me, this whole seeing my face somewhere. Bruce first showed me the pictures and I was like, “Wow! My face is on your computer!” I didn’t know what to say, it was just really weird. My face was right beside Bruce’s and John’s… it was a real gratifying feeling. We had gone to the party and I met a guy who was really impressed to meet me, he’s like, “Wow, you’re working with Bruce, I can’t wait to hear the band.” I was so happy to meet the guy and just chat with him, I talked the guy’s ear off! So finally he’s like, “Hey, can I take your picture?” I’m like, “Yeah, of course! Let’s do it.” And the only thing is the next day the pictures end up on the web, the guy’s got like a website or something. And Bruce calls me the next day he’s like, “Who were you talking to and posing with ’cause this guy’s got your picture like twenty times all over the net?!” I’m like, “Oh my God. I didn’t even know.” It kind of spooked me. Bruce just said, “Hey, you know anything you do and you say is kind of…”
UA: Fair game at this point?
Fair game. It’s noteworthy. He wasn’t saying it was bad, he was just kind of chuckling ’cause I’m more new to it. So I was kind of thrilled, but then kinda scared at the same time. I didn’t know what to think. But again, the four of us take it all in stride. I talked to John today about everything and I guess he went to see Aerosmith the other day and he was rapping with Steven Tyler, and believe me John is a big Steven Tyler fan. And I’m sure he was like thrilled to be hanging there. John isn’t going there going, “Hey man, I’m John. I was in Mötley Crüe.” He’s not like that at all.
UA: He was probably more like, “Hey, I’m John. I’m a huge Steven Tyler fan and this is cool for me.”
Yeah, exactly. And that’s what’s cool, we’re all still just into it.
UA: You’re still just fans of music.
Yeah totally. We would love to tour with Aerosmith, we would love to tour with any big band that’s noteworthy for their music. There’s going to be a lot of great records coming out in ’98 we’re gonna be up against.
UA: I think the Van Halen album comes out on the same days you guy do.
Oh yeah, there’s gonna be a lot of great stuff coming out. The cool thing is that I think ’98’s going to be a very interesting year because we’ve kind of had this resurgence of hard rock. Yes, it never really died but it did kind of take a break, and our record is not heavy metal, it’s just a rock record. I don’t see why something from it couldn’t be played on the radio. “Jungle” from KISS was their biggest charting song in years on the radio, and that’s amazing for a record that came out without any hoopla or any tour, nothing. It’s great. I think I remember Bruce and Curt were at the studio and I brought in this Billboard magazine and told them, “You guys are at number eight on the main stream rock charts.” They were like flipping, they were like, “Holy shit! That’s cool.” They were just blown away by the whole thing.
I think it’s cool that Mötley’s back together, and I think it’s cool that Megadeth is selling records. I went and saw Pantera a couple of weeks ago and I was blown away. I was up in the VIP area and I’m rubbing shoulders with Marilyn Manson, Billy Corgan, the guys from White Zombie… they were all there in support of Pantera, just out having a good time. It was very cool, and all these people were at the Rainbow later. The Rainbow’s considered this place where, well it has this history of being this hangout place for ’80’s bands. Like in the heyday of Guns ‘n Roses it was the place, and if all these cutting edge artist like Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson hang out there then I think hard rock is alive and well! That’s a good thing.
It’s good to see that Metal Edge is covering everything on a regular basis. Gerri Miller has a lot to do with helping keep that kind of music viable, she’s been very cool. If you notice, even before there was any sort of record deal Bruce and John were being mentioned as to what they’re up to or not and it’s all because of Gerri, we owe a lot to her. Bruce and Gerri go back to the KISS days, they’re good friends, and it’s important to have friends that way. We really value all these people that are supporting us, you included.
UA: Yeah, well you guys do already have a sizable fan base that’s just rabidly waiting for whatever they can do to help. Paula is gonna set them loose on the record stores and the radio stations!
Paula’s the coolest! Because I’m so new to all this, having a record company and all these people that take care of you, I couldn’t imagine in a million years asking for a more better qualified person. We all phone her just to say, “Hey, how are things?” Or she phones us all personally just to say, “Hey, we’re doing this or we’re doing that.” It’s a really good team. She’s our engine. We’ve done the album work and we’re ready for the next phase of getting it out to everybody, getting them to listen to it and getting their feedback.
I’m so impressed by the web and how people have been able to connect because for me, I’m pretty far away from home and I can’t just speak to people. I have a lot of friends down here, but I also have a lot of friends up in Canada all across the country and they’re all asking me, “What are you doing?” And I tell them, “I’m wasting time telling you, if you wanna see it check the net!” It’s so up to date on everything it’s unbelievable. I’ll call my mom and I’ll want to tell her everything and she’s like, “I know what you’re doing, I can read it on the net, don’t worry.”
UA: Your mom checks out the Internet?
Yeah! My mom is the biggest fan. I think she signed up for the fan club the first day it was posted!
UA: That’s so cool.
Yeah. They’re all ready for their free stickers at home. (laughs)
UA: (Laughs) That’s great! You know, we get E-mails from people saying all sorts of things, and then at the end they’ll say, “By the way, I’m from Winnipeg, home of Brent Fitz!!!” We’ve actually gotten a couple of E-mails like that. They’re very proud of you.
Well that’s cool. You’re in a small place right? You know what it’s like when you’re not in LA or these big cities, when you’re isolated from a lot of things on the outside looking in. Canada’s always one of those, you’re always looking into the States all the time at all the big American bands. Canada’s actually got a lot of good music out there right now. Where I come from there’s been some great bands like The Guess Who and Neil Young, they’re from Winnipeg. Actually some friends of mine that I went to high school with, the Crash Test Dummies, they sold like four million records a couple of years ago in the States. But all my friends at home are so thrilled. I was always the one who was the biggest music fan. When we would work on songs or if I was playing covers in a bar band or something, even though I was the drummer I was always showing the guitar player how to play the guitar solo or putting the harmonies together for the vocals. I’m kind of like this arranger, I love to do stuff like that. And now my friends are coming back to me and patting me on the back saying, “We always knew you were gonna fulfill your dreams.”
And it’s true. I just decided I gotta get away from what I’m doing in Canada. Not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that I want more. I wanted to get to the next level and play something on a world class level, it’s what I’ve always been building up to do. And it’s very ironic, I always thought to myself it’d be great to play in a band like KISS. That didn’t mean I wanted to play in KISS, because I would never want to play in KISS. Playing with this band is better than being in KISS because it’s not KISS, I wouldn’t want the pressure. I mean I respect Bruce for being in Ace’s shadow all those years, and Bruce is a far superior musician and guitar player than Ace, but Ace is really the guy who was there initially. So to pull that off all those years… I mean Bruce was in the band longer than Ace was, but people will still associate the make-up and the whole “initial thing” as being KISS, and Bruce is cool with that. He’s like, “Hey man, I was a good band member.” I think he’s owed a lot of credit for keeping KISS alive musically throughout the 80’s ’cause they had a different direction.
This is better than playing in KISS because now I can still be a KISS fan. I’m a little too close for comfort sometimes as far as being close to the KISS thing. I still respect them as a band but now knowing them more so as people, not that I know them, but I know what they’re like from Bruce. And he doesn’t tell me bad stories, he has nothing bad to say about those guys at all, it’s just that like any friends you talk about situations, and now I realize that I’m glad I never played in KISS. (Laughs) Even though that would have been my child hood dream. I used to sit in front of the mirror with my little toy drum kit with smoke and the lights flashing in my basement playing to Alive II thinking I was Peter Criss! But now I can honestly say I would never want to be in KISS. I mean, I went to see them on the Reunion tour and I loved it as I’m sure you did.
UA: Sure did.
I totally had a blast! But halfway through the concert I was going, “Well, this is nostalgic now. I’m enjoying this, but I’m a little more I’m grown up and I’m in the business in the same sense that I’m competing for the same thing.” I want to be on that same level, and I never will be because they’ve achieved so much. We’re not looking to sell a million records, and I don’t know that we’re looking for lunch boxes and dolls fashioned after ourselves, but…
UA: Well, John seems pretty dedicated to wanting some UNION condoms.
That I’m into! (Laughs) Safe sex is good. I don’t think any of us want any little UNIONites yet, though I will say John’s kid Ian is a cool little kid. I’m sure John was talking about him.
UA: Oh yeah. And it sounds like he’s got a little gonzo drummer in the making there.
I guess if didn’t join the band they always could have put the pressure on Ian cause he’s a damn good little drummer. He and I have been meaning to get together. I wanna show him some stuff. He’s really eager and he’s really a great drummer.
UA: He’s got a kit too. You can borrow his kit!
Yeah, Tommy Lee gave him a kit. And I’m used to borrowing so I’ll borrow off of Ian next.
UA: Well, I know you play keyboards and guitar in addition to drums, so I guess the next question is do you do much writing?
Well yeah, I’m like a self contained musician. You know how Dave Grohl did the Nirvana thing, which was like amazing, and then he goes and pulls this, “I’m gonna play guitar and bass and sing.” I’m not gonna compare myself to Dave Grohl, but that’s kinda the way I am too. I’m more into guitar playing than drums. I don’t practice drums. I don’t sit at home going, “I’m gonna try fill number 545 from this book.” I don’t do that. I look at myself like more of just a musician period. People ask me, “Are you a drummer?” Well, yeah I do I play drums in a band, but I’m a musician. We all are. Bruce can tickle the ivories just as good as I can, and we’re all just musicians.
Yeah I write songs, but I don’t feel that I’m confident enough to say, “Here’s my song, I wanna sing.” But I am definitely capable of contributing. This album is about John and Bruce, those guys need to shine. We all had our little part, but these guys knew what they wanted and I have the utmost respect for them. I am not gonna come in and say, “I don’t like the melody. I don’t like this and that” because I’m not the singer in the band. If I want to contribute some guitar riffs and stuff I will. We all sort of told each other what we were thinking. Even Bruce, he knows what kind of drum rhythms he likes and he’ll tell me. And I’ll say to him, “Hey, I like that guitar thing you did.” And I could even show my ideas to him if I wanted. We’re all capable of doing that.
I think on the next record it will be nice. James has got some great song ideas, and I think of all of us having little bits and pieces can collaborate together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all saying that I’m not happy because I didn’t write something on this record. There was no reason for me to say, “Hey, I wanna write something” because John and Bruce had so many great songs that were already there, the record was ready to go. There wasn’t any need. Maybe on the next record. John and Bruce are really cool, they’ve never said to me, “We don’t want your ideas.” They have never, ever said that. If anything they were saying, “Hey, if you have some riffs let’s hear them!” Bruce has always got a tape recorder rolling, and if someone is jamming on the guitar he’ll tape your riff and say, “Hey, that was cool. We like that.” KISS used to do that. It didn’t matter where the riff came from, as long as the idea was there.
UA: Whatever works.
Right, just put something on tape. So I guess the answer to your question of do I write songs is, “Yeah.” Have I written any for UNION? No, I’ve never contributed anything to UNION in the form of a full song. I’ve got lots of ideas, but now that I’m in this band I’m gonna write a song that works for the four of us. We wrote songs so fast it’s all kind of a blur. I’m still sitting here going, “Wow! We’re done recording.” It’s great because we now we’re ready to play. James is the biggest fan of playing live, he’s so much better live. I can’t wait for people to see him play because he’s so ready. Like tonight, we’re going to jam ’cause we’re all antsy to play! John’s a real big person on saying, “I don’t wanna have a lot of down time.” He’s looking forward to, “Let’s go tour, let’s go work this album, then let’s go back and record a bunch of songs.” He had too much time off from Mötley. We’re just happy to be playing.
We haven’t officially done any gigs as UNION for any public performance. We played for the record company, they flew in. We had rehearsed a couple of weeks and they loved it. And at that point we still didn’t really know each other. James was the last to join, but not that he was any less part of it. But we were all just feeling things out. Even though we had done that demo in the studio, I didn’t know what it was gonna be like to play full on with Bruce and John because we were kinda playing between glass in the studio. It was great to see John standing there with his Les Paul slung really low, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, just going up to the mike. It was like, “Cool! This is gonna rock!” John’s just got a great presence about him, and he’s gonna be a band member, he’s not gonna be the front man who’s running the show where he’s “just” the front man. John’s just like one of the guys in the band. It’s gonna be cool, there’s gonna be no showboating from anyone. I think John likes that too. I think John’s gonna be happy to be just one of the guys. And he plays great guitar. He played on the whole record, every song. He and Bruce both shared parts, and they played complimentary parts together.
Actually, I got to give you a quick run down just to show you the opposites of John and Bruce. By the way, are we ok for time? I know it’s really late where you are.
UA: No, we can keep going, that’s fine for me. I was just thinking you might have to go soon since you said you were going out and meeting up with everybody.
Not until I get a beep on my phone from Bruce. ‘Cause actually I think him and John are together right now because we just got advance copies of the CD today.
UA: Cool. Complete packaging?
Yeah. The label is great! They’re so fast with everything. They ship stuff out to us and we check it out and they want our opinion right away. So Bruce went over to John’s to say, “Here, check this out. What do you think?” We’re gonna use a really cool logo thing on the cover.
UA: The four diamonds on black?
Yeah, and it’s gonna be cool metal foil! It’ll really be flashy. We don’t need to have our four faces on the cover for people to go, “Who’s in the band?” It’s on the back. You get the idea of the name and the logo first, then people will go, “Oh cool! Who’s in the band?” We don’t want people to have any preconceived notions of who’s in the band cause we’re just UNION. We’re not “former members of KISS and Mötley.” That will be addressed probably forever in the band, but nobody in the band is saying, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m from…” But it’s gonna be inevitable.
But I want to give you the opposites of John and Bruce as far as recording ’cause they’re just so different. John, when we first rehearsed, he decided to change his strings after a couple of years. He’s just one of those guys who doesn’t like to mess with his guitar. He doesn’t even know how to change his strings, Bruce will change them for him! He broke one string, and we had clipped all ends off his strings, so when he replaced it he had this one string that he replaced and the end stuck out of it. Well the whole album was recorded with his guitar having this damn string with the end sticking out! Every time I saw it I was like, “I gotta clip that damn thing!” He’s just that kind of guy. Only once in a blue moon does he like to mess with his gear. He always has this great, fat sound but it’s just his thing, he’s not into gear.
Now Bruce is very meticulous. Bruce is very good with guitar sounds, and he knows how to dial in a great sound. He knows what guitars to use and he’s more of the knowledgeable, studio guy. But it’s just funny, ’cause I don’t think Bruce would play John’s guitar, or vice versa. They’re two different guys. And James is like that too. James has this old bass that’s just a piece of shit, and it plays great, but it just didn’t sound good on the record so he got this brand new ESP that’s just awesome! And it sounded good, but I’m sure James didn’t feel as comfortable with it as his old one. It’s like a part of your body as far as instruments go. Me, I didn’t care! I was just happy to have drums.
UA: Right. As long as you’ve got some drums in front of you you’re good to go huh?
Oh god, like a week before the sessions I still had no gear! I mean, I knew that Eric was gonna lend me stuff, but I wasn’t guaranteed of it. I was thinking, “Shit, what am I gonna do? These guys are come at me and go, ‘Where’s your fucking drums?’ Did you come to the studio with nothing?'” But, of course I’d never do that!
UA: Bruce has said that you and Jamie both are good vocalists. Did you guys end up recording any of the backgrounds on this album?
That’s John and me on “Old Man Wise.” It’s just John and me in the chorus. Jamie did some on “Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore),” as well as another two or three songs. He wasn’t even expecting it, we just told him, “Hey you got a great voice. We need you to sing.” We just wanted the colors of everybody’s voice on tape. Bruce sang all over the record too. We’re not all gonna say, “Hey, we’re great singers,” but we get the job done. John has that character voice that’s just so distinctive. So yeah, we put everybody’s voice on tape. Even Curt might be on some of the tapes! I don’t know, I can’t remember. There’s even gonna be a tune, it will probably be a B-side, where Bruce had a song that he demoed and sang on.
UA: “For You?”
Yeah. I think we were gonna have John sing it just to try but John was like, “No man, I like the way Bruce had some flavor on it.” And I think Bruce is happy about it too because he did “I Walk Alone” on Carnival of Souls. I like “I Walk Alone” because it’s a very different song, it doesn’t sound like a typical KISS tune. It’s too bad that it had to be the swan song for the album. Who knows, maybe the reason they let him sing was because they knew they weren’t gonna care about the record anyway. Who knows and who cares?
UA: As far as the fans are concerned, it’s on the album and that’s all we care about, motivation aside.
Right. And I’m happy that he wanted to do the “For You” thing because that says a lot that he’s saying, “Hey, I want to sing a song too!” I mean, I don’t want to sing a song, I’m chicken shit. I don’t want to hear my voice as a lead instrument.
UA: No ambitions at all to sing a lead?
I don’t know… we’ll see. I’m a fan of John’s. I like his voice, I could listen to him for days. Yeah we sit around, and when we were demoing we’d sit out in the backyard at Curt’s and John would be playing the acoustic and we’d sing Beatles tunes. Now live, we’re all gonna sing. We don’t want to do this record and have people get let down because we couldn’t play something live like they wanted us to. And there’s nothing on the record that can’t be duplicated. We didn’t have stuff that was further than our means. There’s not a whole bunch of extra guitar stuff that John and Bruce couldn’t cover. They both just played their parts and that’s what they’re gonna play live. We weren’t trying to sing too hard. If you listen to the record it’s pretty raw and genuine, there’s not a bunch of gang vocals on there. Like on “Old Man Wise,” actually we recorded that and we weren’t sure what we were gonna do for the chorus, like for the melody. They just threw me in and said, “Ok, try something.” We just rolled the tape and, again, that’s like one take on the chorus. I like to have some kind of cool counter-melody. It’s doesn’t step on John’s voice, but it’s interesting enough. But we never really sat down and analyzed anything.
UA: That’s really cool, and that vocal is a great compliment. They work well together, but you can definitely distinguish and pick them out.
Yeah. They work well together. When we had some down time at the studio getting sound and stuff for some of the tracks I would sit in the room where the grand piano was and I was figuring out our all songs on piano. I was thinking about MTV Unplugged, and I always like when a band is able to take their songs and just strip them down to a voice, a piano, and some acoustics. I figured something out for all the tunes, just for my own sake. I’d sit down and play them on piano and it sounded cool. It was a different version, but if you can play it on piano and acoustic obviously the song’s got “enough” there to make it a song, it’s not just a bunch of guitar riffs.
Another good thing was Bruce wasn’t trying to come out like, “Hey, I’m free from KISS, let me play a bunch of solos!” He played less on this than maybe even we would have suggested. He was like, “Nah, I don’t want a solo there. Why do we need a solo? I just wanna chug along with the song.” And that was cool. And John is definitely not into soloing, though he can solo, he’s a good guitar player. But he was just meat and potatoes, “I gonna sing, and I just wanna strum along.” I’m rambling aren’t I?
UA: Not at all! John asked me the same thing and my answer to that is always going to be, “No!” As long as you guys want to share, the fans want to hear what you have to say. I know that because I am a fan too, and I definitely want you hear what you have to say. Especially you and Jamie because, let’s face it, up until this point you guys have been the “Mystery Men” of UNION.
People are always going, “Is that Chris Robinson of the Black Crows? Is he drumming for the band?” I get that once a day, “You know you look like Chris Robinson.” I don’t know if the pictures do justice. I’m the only guy in the band who doesn’t have black hair! I’ve got this skunked hair do, I just had to go for something different. Actually I’ve had it for a long time now, even before Steven Tyler had it! He’s got that blond streak going now too.
UA: Right. Well, why don’t we talk about a few non-music related things for a bit. Being from Canada I guess I can assume you’re a hockey fan?
Oh, the biggest! Nobody knows hockey here! Well, it’s not that they don’t know it, it’s just that they don’t have the passion for it that I do. Actually Eric Singer and I are big sports fans. Eric said he was the only sports fan in KISS. I’m a HUGE hockey fan!! I will drop the sticks at any given moment to go play hockey. We have hockey games up in Canada where all the musicians get together Sunday nights, we’re all gigging during the week, so on Sundays all the long hairs would get together and hit the ice.
Up in Canada it’s funny because if you’re playing in a club or somewhere and hockey’s on, they don’t let the bands play until the games are over. It’s such an insult to play while the games are on. I can remember if we were playing somewhere during the playoffs, I’d be playing and watching the TV as I was playing if there was a TV in the place. My mom knows more about hockey than I do! It just goes with the territory. I lost my hockey team to Phoenix, that hurt. And I’m trying to like the LA Kings, I’m really trying. But I’ve been to a few games down here and people don’t go to the game because they’re into it.
UA: They go to be seen at the game rather than to see the game.
You know it! And I just can’t find anyone to go to the game with me who really understands it, understands it the same way I do. I’m gonna drag Ian, John’s kid. Ian loves hockey. I don’t think John’s been to an actual hockey game, and he’s the one who’s expressed, “Hey man I really want to go.” We are gonna try and go see a Flyers games since he’s from Philly. I keep threatening Bruce, and I will hold to this, when we tour Canada I’m gonna put Bruce on skates! I’m putting a stick in his hands and I’m putting him on skates.
UA: And you will bring a video camera along, right?
Oh, you know it! I know he’s scared shitless of it! I keep bugging him about it. It just goes with the territory. I have these Canadian friends down here – oh, this is funny… When we were doing that tribute record, we went down, just Bruce and I played on this track “Liar,” and the engineer was from Canada and the guys from the record label, the owners of it were from Montreal, they were all Canadian. So there was five Canadians… and Bruce. We all started, “Hey, from Canada!” We were all dorking out like Canadians, “Hey, what’s your favorite hockey team?” Typical stupid questions that Canadians ask. And we started talking hockey and, this is hilarious, Bruce fell asleep in the studio!! He fell asleep he was so bored from us talking hockey for like an hour. He fell asleep, I couldn’t believe it!
Yeah, when Canadians get together the hockey subject just comes up. I mean, when you see those Bob & Doug McKenzie things unfortunately, yes, I relate to that. I don’t find it funny (laughs)! Too close to home! But I don’t say “eh.”
UA: That’s true. We’ve been on the phone quite awhile now and you haven’t said it once.
No. I don’t think I say it too much here, but you kinda can’t help it when you’re at home. When I speak to my parents they’re like, “How’s it going down there, eh?” But I’m a little more aware of it here ’cause it just gives me away. Now when I say “out” and “about” that’s blatant, I’m sure you picked up on that. Those are my only words that give me away.
UA: It’s funny though, because after like 5 minutes I wasn’t noticing it anymore. And I’m sure I sound Southern to you.
UA: Everyone’s got something, you just roll with it.
Yep. And John has a very East coast kind of thing. When he says “choice” you really hear it. And Bruce has a New York thing. And James, actually James is the only guy from California. I think he’s from Pasadena. It’s funny because none of us are from the same place, we’re all from completely different places, yet we all relate together ’cause it’s music that brings us all on the same level. That’s the cool thing about a town like LA, it brings all these different walks of life together. People come down here to succeed and fulfill their dreams, but a lot of people die fast down here. I talk to people everyday who ask how the band’s doing, and some of my friends are like, “How the Hell in one year did you get from being from Canada not knowing anybody down here, you just up and left, and then you get hooked up with guys you’ve always known and respected?” It was kinda like one of those, “Ooh, it was meant to be,” kinda things.
And I’m still on this mellow thing about it. I’m just happy to see that we were able to make a record. And if someone goes to the store to buy the record, cool, I’ll be blown away! They went to a store ’cause they were looking for our record. I think that’s very cool! That’s so flattering.
UA: I’ve heard the whole album, and I think it’s something people can connect with and something that they will connect with. I think it’s really gonna do good things for you guys.
I really appreciate the kind words.
UA: Open mic here Brent, anything else you want to say to the people who are gonna read this?
Actually, I’m all spent. (laughs)
UA: (laughs) Alright, well I’ll let you go get charged back up before you go night crawling with Bruce and the guys.
Yeah. Bruce is gonna pick me up and we’re all gonna go jam. We’re not gonna jam UNION stuff, just gonna go hang with all the boys. It’s a great scene in LA. Who knows who will be there tonight, maybe some of the Guns ‘n Roses guys. It’s just a cool thing where everyone is supportive of everyone else’s band and nobody’s out to be vindictive. I’m looking forward to it.
UA: Have a blast. Brent, thank you so much for taking the time.
– UNION: Do Your Own Thing Live DVD Promo Clip –
Note: This interview was originally posted on the website UNION Asylum, which I was co-owner/content manager of from 1997-2002. ©Elizabeth Sneed/Elizabeth A. White