We asked Rags a few questions about the band’s new album “Forest Lawn”, the guests that appear on it, life in London and Toronto, as well as a few other things that should help you to know a bit more about one of the best melodic rock’n’roll bands around these days…
You released this new album (“Forest Lawn”) just one year after your debut record “The Go-To Guy”. Did you have new songs already when the first album got released?
I’m writing all the time. Whenever I get a spare moment, so I have a computer filled with demos and lyrics. I had a good number of tunes present off the top, which is why I felt strongly about pushing forward and getting a new album out. Some ideas are half formed and merge with others. A lot are fully formed. Gotta say I’m lucky to be in a band with Dan, Simon and Nick. They work fast and very creatively. Simon is quite the engine. Hard to keep up!
Next year’s album has got even more material to choose from than I did for Forest Lawn! We’ve got a “three year plan” that Dan and I kinda came up with. Dan, besides being a hell of a bass player, is the one who reminds me what the focus is in different situations when I start to slide. It’s simple really. Three years, three albums of the best material we can release and be proud of. Release one and get to work on the next! Then we’ll see where we stand.
Can you tell us about the recording of “Forest Lawn”? You have guests like Sami Yaffa, Rich Jones, and Steve Conte again on this album. How do you make it happen? Do you plan your recording sessions when they’re in London?
We are very lucky to have such illustrious company come over and hang out on our albums! Each one of those guys being involved came about very naturally.
Rich has been part of this in one way or another since the very beginning. From helping me demo songs to just good advice that I trust. Hell, he is the one who talked me into being a singer in the first place! The Loyalties album really made me realise how great we work together. He will always be on the Role Model albums. If he wants to! And we just enjoy hangin’ out and goofin’ around. A brudda!
Sami I met years ago in New York. For a time I lived above him in an apartment on Ave D and 10th Street. He was very cool and supportive of me way back then as well. We have a couple of pretty funny stories! I hadn’t seen him for a few years and ran into him at Ginger’s birthday gig where we were both playing on songs. Rich was there too and had just joined The Michael Monroe camp. I was almost done recording The Go-To Guy and we were talking about it backstage. He just said, “AND YOU DIDN’T NEED ANY BASS ON THE THING?” Hahahaha! So of course I asked him and he played on ‘Saturday Night Sailor” He Is a very warm, supportive and generous dude. I wanna be Sami when I grow up! Hahahaha! So I guess THAT hasn’t changed since I was 16. I love it when we get to hang out. A lot of laughs.
Steve Conte. Another guy I look up to soooo much. What a talent! That came about when I was booking the album release party for TGTG. He was touring Europe for his solo stuff and had some gaps he needed filled in his schedule. One of those dates was the album release. Man having him on that bill was amazing! After that I just had to ask him. I love hangin’ and talkin’ old school powerpop and stuff with him. Great guy!
We also had Chris Barry do a duet with me on “Goodbye And Hooray” He was in 39 Steps in the 80’s and their song “Slip Into The Crowd” was a huge influence on me as a teenager. And a lot of other people I know, too. One of my fave vocalists ever! If you haven’t heard that band or his band outta New York, Pillbox, do yourself a favour and get some in your ears! We got in touch as Jones and I were writing some music for a proposed album for him. Time constraints meant it couldn’t happen yet . But I saw my chance! Hahahahaha! Really he’s another one I feel very lucky to have gotten to know!
Forest Lawn is the name of the place where you grew up. Did you have the title idea from the start? How did you come up with it?
It’s the very colourful ‘hood I grew up in. A lot of immigrants and refugees from all over the world set roots down there. My parents were refugees of the Hungarian revolution in 1956. It was a part of the city that people thought was rough. I remember trying to meet girls downtown as a teenager and exchanging phone numbers. One girl saw the first three digits that indicated where I was from and threw it in the trash right in front of me hahaha! But really it was a great place to grow up.Friends I hold dear to this day. I discovered rock n roll there and began dreaming of a life in music there. Started my first band Rat Salad with my pals Rich Escobar and Jason Marchant in the garages and basements there. That feeling of excitement… “Where will this take me? What can I add to it?”. That hasn’t changed or left me since then and so thought it was an appropriate title.
Do you think your music would sound different if you were still living in Canada?
Well I always loved British/European and American stuff. But travelling around in vans touring and moving around a lot has really left a mark on me. I recommend travel and upheaval to everyone! Yeah. I bet it would have sounded a bit different. There’s nothing like actual personal experience to colour your view of the world. You know, order drinks and do laundry as far and wide as you can! Also the English and American band members leave their mark of course.
You first moved to London with a band, right?
Well, kinda. I was in a band called Madison Strays in New York. We were working on a full length with James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins and Richard Fortus from GNR. Zane Lowe got a copy of our single and began playing it on Radio One. It won Fresh Meat and before you knew it we were in the UK playing. Zane was very cool and very instrumental in getting us over. He recommended we move to the UK to capitalise on the momentum created. Many members of the band wouldn’t and I just saw that as… well what are we doing this for? Right? I was down about having to start all over again but knew it was the right decision. I quit and moved over with my British girlfriend at the time. She is my wife now and we have a wonderful family together. Now I’m talking to you about music. So, to me, things worked out pretty great.
What are the good and bad things of life in London and Toronto to you?
I enjoyed my time in all the places I lived and they all have such a giant place in my heart. The good parts of all those cities is the excitement and scores of creative people you are surrounded by that are day to day inspirations. The bad part is they are all expensive!
The kind of melodic punk rock/rock’n’roll you play is not that common to hear among new bands. Do you see it as a positive thing for you, or a negative one?
Oh, positive. But there are some great bands out there that are treading the same boards. Check out The Breakdowns for example. They are great!
You share a common sense of melody with The WILDHEARTS, and you opened for Ginger. Any chance to see you write some music together in the future?
Well that would be very nice! He gave some great advice to me over the last couple of years and I am very proud to call him a friend. He is a busy busy man but ya never know. I would be honoured.
5 albums you couldn’t live without, and what they mean to you…
Oh boy. That is hard because there are so many. But, I’ll go with the “long term relationship” albums here for ya!
Cheap Trick‘s “In Colour” That album to me represents, as a whole, a perfect rock n roll album. The songs, the sound of it, the pacing… just makes my heart beat a little stronger every time I hear it.
Tom Petty‘s “You’re Gonna Get It”. Come on! “I Need To Know” and “Listen To Heart” on one album. Yeeesh. And the opening track “When The Time Comes” is a great example of of a sound I love. Jangly and tough and romantic in equal measures.
The Clash “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” “Stay Free” and “Safe European Home” are long time pals of mine and still hang out with me regularly. Never let me down, those. That album I think is them at their best. Growing up and still snarling.
Heartbreakers “LAMF” I loved the Dolls from a very young age as I found their records in the piles of vinyl my older siblings had. The danger and reckless fun in the music grabbed a hold of me immediately. When I heard LAMF I felt the same way… with added WALTER LURE! I love that guy’s voice. Like a friend who is so cool and let’s ya in on the little secrets. And “Born To Lose” has something that I love that is so hard to capture. The feeling of ‘Down I go, but on my terms”. It may seem wrong to you, but it’s my life. Celebrating being an outsider. I’m not talking about the drug taking he is famous for. Just the feeling in the song of admitting your individuality and facing up to the darkness that can bring. And it just sounds so effortless.
The Replacements “Let It Be” When I first saw the cover I was floored that they looked just like me and my pals hangin’ out behind the 7/11. Not from LA or New York or London but a place just like mine. The album has the most beautiful vocal take I think I’ve ever heard in “Unsatisfied” as well as some of the most heart stopping “someone said it for me!” lyrics. Then it also has “Gary’s Got A Boner”! THEN a KISS cover. Doing what they wanted when they wanted. It all sounded so great to me. And makes me walk two inches taller every time I play it.
Well, these albums stuck with me over many years and are as vital in my life now as they ever were.
Any chance to see the band in Europe?
Three year plan hahaha. Let us get another album out same time next year and we’ll have a back catalogue we hope we can be proud of. Then we can start to go abroad. We will.
I just wanted to add that I am so happy to have this opportunity to talk to you! In a world of bands paying tons of cash for good reviews, interviews and press, it’s proudly independent people, magazines and blogs like you, that do things honestly and on your own terms, that keeps the essence of rock n roll alive. And that’s important. No playing fake games. Just a true love for something. We ain’t gonna buy into that other crap, right? At this point in my life I need it to be real. You are keeping that flame burnin’ man! I am humbled to be asked! Thank you for the kind review and a chance to share. Take care! and buy the CD from glunkrecords.bigcartel.com
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