An Interview with
Co-Lead Guitarist of Rough Cutt
that took place on October 26th 2016.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan
Glenn: Hiya Buddy!
Chris: How are you doing?
Glenn: Doing good. I was up at 4am, basically because you guys are 8 hours behind and I like to watch ‘The Ultimate Jam Night ’. I thought, ‘Tonight’s going to be awesome like last week was and ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ one was something special.
Chris: Right! Yeah! I actually did last week (More Cowbell!)
Glenn: I know you did. I watched it.
Chris: In fact I did the last two weeks. But yeah, last night they did the Rocky Horror thing and I heard it was pretty awesome!
Glenn: Yeah totally! I don’t know how they do it. They have 6 or 7 days to put that together.
Chris: It amazes me that Chuck (Wright) is able to do it. He’s dead on it and stays so calm. I mean, you can only imagine, your talking 20/30 musicians. I can’t imagine having to deal with something (like that). Look it’s hard enough to deal with five okay.
Glenn: You guys right? (as in Rough Cutt) But young guys? Forget it! But I think a lot of the guys and girls are mature and have been through the ranks… they’ve done it all..
Chris: Yeah. Absolutely. Most everybody is super cool to deal with. The calibre of musicians that Chuck has is really something. Some of these people are so good they are like intimidating. But everybody I’ve met so far has been really super sweet, super nice. It’s the best bunch of people. I’m looking forward to doing some more of them in the near future.
Glenn: That’s great. You were doing ‘Hair Of The Dog’ - the old Nazareth song and that was just mind-blowing.
Chris: Yeah I did that and I did ‘Born On A Bayou’ with Mitch (Perry) and I did a Kiss song – 'Dr. Love' with some other people which I thought was a lot of fun. I’ve never played any of these songs before. I just got up there. Chuck said, “Hey man, can you play this?”, I said, “Err yeah in three days, I’ll probably pull it off”. It’s cool. I dig it. Chuck’s cool. We got to know each other when I was out on the road with Stephen Pearcy. We did quite a number of shows with Quiet Riot. Chuck and I hit it off. We were acquaintances before that but we were hit it off and started talking. He said, “Hey man, you should come down and jam!” It worked out well.
Glenn: What have been the major highlights so far from Ultimate Jam Night?
Chris: The week before was the ‘Moustache’ theme and that’s the one where we did Foghat’s ‘Fool For The City’ and Rick Derringer ‘Rock And Roll Hoochie Coo’. Those were so fun to play. To me, that was the most fun really. I’ve always wanted to jam ‘Rock And Roll Hoochie Coo’. It’s such a quintessential Rock song and it’s such a hell of a lot of fun to play. I knew the parts. I can always jam the parts but I’ve never played the whole song. I put it together and let me tell you, some of that 70’s, it’s really funky stuff. It’s a different feel to 80’s Metal. A completely different feel. It’s a little challenging but it was so much fun to get out there. I grew up with those bands so that was a really a lot of fun.
Glenn: Yeah. I remember seeing the newer Foghat a few years ago in Cape Coral at Cocofest with Roger Earle. Greg Kihn was fronting the band. That was great. They were doing a meet and greet after and when Roger realised I was a fellow limey as he put it, he had me come round to their side of the signing table and have a photo with the whole band which was cool!
Chris: Absolutely! Absolutely!
Glenn: It was great. How did you become part of the whole cruise?
Chris: An interesting story actually. Back in the 80’s Wendy Dio was our Manager and back then Larry Moran was working for Wendy and working with Wendy. We knew Larry way back when he was just a kid. We stayed in touch a little bit throughout the years. We were supposed to do the cruise a couple of years ago but it was scheduling and Paul was doing ‘Raiding The Rock Vault’ in Vegas. Just at the last minute we decided we couldn’t do it.
We had to pull out. We were bummed but we were asked again this year. The timing was just right for everybody. We said, “Hell Yeah! We’re Gonna Make This Happen!” That’s really how it happened. Larry had a vision where he said, “ Look, if you guys are going to do this, I want you to do the kick-off party” and we said, “Sure! Absolutely! We’ll do the kick-off party and the cruise!”. It was also his idea to get up and perform ‘We’re Stars’.
Glenn: It’s amazing. I’ve watched that a couple of times. It’s mind-blowing! That’s gone viral all over the World on the Internet because it’s so special.
Chris: Yeah it’s amazing to me. It’s got tens of thousands of hits and it’s very cool. It was a ton of fun to resurrect that. We’re thinking we’re probably going to add that into our repertoire because people identify with it so much. In situations where we are around other performers we can invite them in to do it with us. I think it’s a really cool legacy. It’s a real cool way to acknowledge Ronnie (James Dio) and to help keep his legacy alive.
Glenn: When you do a show on a cruise, do you forget that you are on a ship and then remember during certain times in the show, ‘Oh God, we’re on a ship aren’t we?’
Chris: Well I can give you a really precise answer to that question actually. Those things are floating cities. It’s essentially what they are. They are huge and you’ve got all the amenities anywhere so it’s like a city. Here’s the deal – when you start hitting choppy seas, hen you know you’re on a ship (We laugh). It was funny because it did get a little choppy – nothing bad but it was definitely… the ship was moving and you were feeling it. They called it moderate. In that part of the ocean it’s fairly calm.
We had some moderate choppiness and on stage, I know that some of the bands, like my buddies Black ‘N’ Blue, they really felt it. It’s so funny because when you got and reach to change a pre-set on your pedal, you kind of like ‘oh oh!’ and lose your balance a little bit. It’s like ‘Oh yeah!’. The theatre itself, it’s like being in any other theatre. In fact, it’s nicer than most. It’s not so easy on those choppy seas and you think ‘Oh yeah, I’m definitely on a ship!’.
Glenn: Yeah, I had to ask because it’s a totally different ball game to being on land.
Chris: Yeah! It’s a different experience. I’d actually done one before about five years ago so knew what to expect. The thing about it is, is that it’s a big 24 hour party. I’m not a party person but I get it. There’s a lot of things to do. There’s constantly bands playing. It’s an amazing sort of venue for rock bands. A lot of these people know each other and so on. A lot of them have been on multiple cruises and it’s a great opportunity for them to get together. Then they get to meet some of their favourite band members. It’s a really cool venue. It’s a really great idea. We look forward to doing other ones soon.
Glenn: It’s almost like ‘Ultimate Jam Night’ on a ship! (We laugh)
Chris: Absolutely man! That’s right! That’s right!
Glenn: Did you do quite a bit of rehearsal beforehand doing that big show?
Chris: Yeah! Here’s the deal. Rough Cutt haven’t toured in 30 years. We did one show about 15 years ago in the Viper Room – a reunion thing with 250-300 people there. No-one really knew about it. That was back in the early 2000’s. That was really the only time we’ve played together since the late 80’s especially the guitar players. We haven’t played those songs and you forget them. It was huge ramp up especially for Amir and myself.
We had to get together several times and say, “What the hell did we do there? Who was playing what?” We were putting on ‘YouTubes’ and panning between the channels. “Did you play that note or did I play that?” That kind of stuff and eventually we figured it all out and went to rehearsal. We did a lot. There were a lot of textures. We did some double leads and harmony leads. There was a lot going on the Rough Cutt records so it was a definite ramp up.
There was a lot of personal rehearsal on our time for guitar players and everybody’s. I know Paul really had to step up. Even though he’d been singing a lot with his other stuff, he wasn’t singing Rough Cutt stuff and hitting some of those notes. We all had to work. When we started rehearsals it came together pretty quickly. It actually came together but I think that was because we all put our individual time into it but we did a number of rehearsals. We really did. We really wanted to give the fans the experience of the records. In fact, Amir and I bought all new effects gear. We used different guitars. We used completely new stuff because we wanted to be able to recreate what we had done back then.
Glenn: When you were watching the old footage of YouTube was it very surreal to look at yourselves back then and to hear what you were doing back then? What was actually going through your mind when you were actually watching that footage?
Chris: (Laughs) Well it depends what video it is. (We laugh). I tell you, the one that really brings it back the most is Super Rock ’85 in Japan. Watching those clips, it really brings me right back to the moment. I remember because that was an amazing festival to be part of in the first place. It was the first time we had been to Japan for the whole experience. We went on at 4 in the morning. You can see that when you watch it again that it’s dark, then it begins getting lighter and it starts raining while we’re up there. It is a bit surreal. You look back on that. I remember it quite well. It’s really something to look back on. So yeah man, we did that and it was pretty cool.
Glenn: I guess as well, when you see yourselves on that stage, are you thinking, ‘Oh I remember what I did after that show and then I did this and I shouldn’t have really done that!’ and your mind and memory starts to go forwards as well into what you did after that time.
Chris: Well sure. The thing with Rough Cutt, we were very fortunate in a number of ways and not so fortunate in others. First of all, getting a deal on Warner Brothers was great, having Wendy Dio and having Ronnie as our mentor. Ronnie produced our first demo. Let me just say that working Ronnie was an amazing thing to do on so many levels. Wendy was a great Manager to have. We got treated well and even before we were signed we were doing things that no other unsigned bands were doing. It was very cool. There were some problems. What happened was basically the record company. We lost our original A&R person and we wound up getting somebody new.
Ted Templeman (of Van Halen fame) was actually going to produce our first record (Rough Cutt) and Ted was instrumental on signing us. But Ted got busy with Van Halen and David Lee Roth this time, so we waited. We waited nine months because we really wanted Ted Templeman as our Producer. I think that was detrimental for us because in the tome period things changed a little bit in terms of what was getting played on MTV. We wound up working with Thom Allom of Judas Priest fame who was an amazing Producer. We were completely awestruck by this guy because we were all Judas Priest fans. It was an amazing experience and he did a great job on the record but the timing was so good.
By the time the second record came out (Wants You!), we did that with Jack Douglas, who was another amazingly talented Producer. He’d done all the Aerosmith records and worked with John Lennon and on and on and on. These were great things but unfortunately the time for us wasn’t good. By the time the second record came out, Warner didn’t know what to do with us. That contributed to us not being as commercially successful as we could have been because we toured… we were so lucky to be able to tour for almost a year with Ronnie.
Then toured with Accept, toured with Krokus and do all these great shows. We were doing all the right things in that respect but it was just the timing, the lack of promotion and then things conspired against us. Well look back on that. We’ve all talked about that a lot of course. The way I look at it is, hey we had a great run and we got to do some amazing things.
We were over in England on a number of occasions and we did some other European countries. We really got to live the life and then it was over. What’s cool is kind of resurrecting it again now. We didn’t really know if we’d ever do that. There was a point in my career where I didn’t play for years. I went on and got involved in other ventures.
Glenn: Yeah! I noticed.
Chris: Yeah! There was a 20 year period where I went to work in a studio for a while and did some producing and engineering. Then I went into a different direction. I went into computers, started a company and did all that. I decided it was time to make some money, buy a house and all that stuff. I did that for a number of years and really only did sporadic music projects for about a 20 year period. I really didn’t know that I would be doing this again. About four years ago, Stephen (Pearcy) and I were hanging out and I was asked to join his solo band. I think that took me all of about a minute to say, “Yeah! I’ll do that!”. That’s been a great run. That’s a whole other episode there and then getting these offers with Rough Cutt, it’s been really cool and unexpected for me actually.
Glenn: Nice! You mentioned Jack Douglas and this sounds crazy but I actually met Jack Douglas. It was back in November 2009.
Chris: Wow really?
Glenn: And guess where I met him?
Glenn: The Avalon Theatre where you had your pre-cruise gig!
Glenn: Seriously yeah!
Chris: Did you recognise him?
Glenn: Yeah it was LA Music awards that Al Bowman does. He was walking past and I said ‘Congratulations Jack’ on receiving his award and he said “Thanks Man!” and shook my hand. Then the next guy said exactly the same to him and Jack said, “Yeah whatever”, so I got lucky! (We laugh)
Glenn: Yeah! That was my cool little moment with Jack Douglas!
Chris: Right! Right! From what I understand from a friend of mine Jack lives here in L.A. now and I guess he’s still sporadically doing projects. Working with him and Jay Messina, the Engineer. These are the guys that did albums like Aerosmith’s ‘Rocks’. It was exciting to work with these guys. They were talented and you learn so much of being around Producers like Jack Douglas and Thom Allom. It’s such an invaluable experience watching these guys work and learning from them. I hope we get an opportunity to do some more work with those guys or guys like them. Thom engineered the first Black Sabbath album and maybe others too.
‘Defenders Of The Faith’ – that was the record out at the time. The most recent record Thom had done. We were such huge fans of that record. It was such a hug sounding record. The production to this day is just amazing. The guitars – they sound like the strings are an inch thick.
Glenn: I agree. (We laugh)
Chris: We tried to tell him that. When we first met Thom, we were like little kids. We were like little fanboys. “Thom you know, Thom, how do you get those guitar tones on Judas Priest’s Man?” and he said to us, “I can’t tell!” and we said, “Oh man!!!”, “I can’t tell you!”. He was cool but we were definitely enamoured with the guy. It was like here’s the guy that was producing records that were just everything to us. It was pretty hip. Those are the kinds of things that you really look back on and say, “Wow! How fortunate was that?”.
Glenn: Yeah! Definitely! What is like working Stephen Pearcy again?
Chris: I guess you know some of the history with me and him?
Glenn: Yeah I read his autobiography a few months ago when he talks about Mickey Ratt and them forming Ratt and stuff like that!
Chris: Well we were two guys from San Diego. I was born in San Diego but I moved away for a number of years, I moved back and my best friend was playing guitar. I said, “Dude, we’ve got to start a band!”. He was doing this jam. He would go and jam at keg parties. I said “Dude, I’ve already been in a few bands”. This was 1976. I’m really dating myself! Anyway I said, “Look, do you any singers?” because I didn’t know anybody”. He said, “Well I met this guy, Stephen down at The Boardwalk. I said, “Alright cool, lets him over here”.
I remember the first day meeting Stephen, getting dropped off and we’d got this band and we were rehearsing in the garage. We were only playing covers at that point. Stephen comes in and he’s kind of this trippy guy. He was in the corner with the mic. and we couldn’t really hear him that well so we couldn’t really tell what he sounded like too much but he looked cooler than sh*t!
What I remember the most is Stephen asked me for a ride home and I said, “Sure”. So I’m giving him a ride home, I’d just met him and he waves this wrap on me, he said, “Hey man look – this can be done!” and I said, “What?”. He said, “No man, this could be done! We can do this!”. I’d never really heard anybody talk like that. He had this whole vision and he and I became best friends. We became friends really quickly and started hanging out. This first band was called ‘Crystal Pystal’. It lasted about a year or a year and a half.
Then Stephen and I broke off and formed Mickey Ratt together and started doing shows. In 1980, Stephen comes to me one days and says, “Hey man, we’ve got to move to L.A.”. He’d lived up there before. I said “Really? Why?” He said, “No we’ve got to move to L.A. to make this happen!” I was a little bit.. you know Fenny was my hometown but he convinced me. He and I moved upto L.A. in January of 1980 to make it big.
We moved up and we had everything we owned in this truck. This drummer came with us and he moved in with this lady that he knew that had this garage. It was converted into a room from a garage. We slept, we ate, we partied, we rehearsed, we had our gear in there and we started playing up here in L.A. We started getting gigs as Mickey Ratt. We were doing Gazzarris at the time and the other clubs around. About a year later we just dropped the Mickey and went with Ratt.
Then we decided that we were going to go our separate ways. There was a little bit of a point where it was like, I don’t know where this is going to go! Short-sighted on my part probably right but… (We laugh) …but we remained the best of friends. I did this other band called ‘Sarge’ and he kept going through different iterations of musicians in Ratt and you probably know some of that story. There’s quite a lot there.
Glenn: Yeah there’s a big revolving door!
Chris: Well yeah! Actually I’m going to be writing a book and I'm going to go over some of this in detail because the connection between San Diego and L.A. and all the musicians that came up. It’s a very interesting story and I think it needs to be told. I was playing with Matt Thorr at the time who was in Sarge with me. We went on to do Rough Cutt and of course, Ratt got huge.
During that period Stephen and I best of friends. He bought this patch up in Coldwater in the Hills in L.A. I was touring Rough Cutt, I’d come off and I wouldn’t have anywhere to go. He said, “Hey Man, come pull in here”. I’d stay with him and it was just a big party. It was an amazing time. It was really cool. He was working on records.
We did some stuff together in the early 90’s. I actually moved in with him. He and I did some demos together, wrote together and actually some of that stuff got released. It’s out there. It’s just demo stuff but there are some kind of cool songs we wrote together. I wrote a song that made it on the Japanese release of his ‘Arcade’ record. Then I moved back to San Diego for a while after that. We kept in touch. We’d go a year or two without really talking.
Anyway, we started talking a little bit more and when he asked me in 2012, “Hey man, we lost our guitar player”, Eric Ferentinos was playing guitar at the time and Ratt it’s really a 2 guitar kind thing. Eric does a great job but it gets better with two guitars. That’s when I said “Yes!” It was really cool to rejoin Stephen.
The first thing Stephen and I did was to figure out what we were going to wear. He had this amazing closet full of clothes. We went out looking for clothes. It was actually very cool. We started doing shows together. This year it’s 40 years we’ve know each other and it was a pretty good thing. I was grateful for the opportunity. It really has been a great run with Stephen.
Glenn: Nice. Was it just like going back to riding a bike or a duck to water as in it all fell into place like it used to be?
Chris: Oh yeah! Absolutely. I had to learn these songs because I had never really played any of the Ratt songs. We weren’t playing those songs back then (in Mickey Ratt). Those songs hadn’t been written. There was one song called ‘You Got It’ that we did with Mickey Ratt that we were playing live. But the iconic Ratt songs hadn’t been written yet so I had a month to learn all those songs and be able to get up and rock ‘em on stage after not having played for years and years and years. That was definitely a challenge. But once we got on stage it just felt like we’d never skipped a beat.
Glenn: It must have been pretty interesting to play those future new but old songs if you know what I mean?
Chris: Yeah! Absolutely! Those are iconic songs. Those songs are just timeless rock songs. That’s part of the great thing about playing with Stephen. Just getting out there and just seeing the look on peoples faces when you get to the first chorus of ‘Wanted Man’. They are so excited or ‘Lay It Down’ or any of them. This is it – that’s part of the whole thing and it’s very, very cool. A very cool thing.
Glenn: What would you say your favourite songs are with regard to the Ratt songs and why those particular songs?
Chris: Good question! I’m going to say ‘Wanted Man’ first of all because it’s so… the chord progressions are iconic and just those first power chords and the crowd response. The crowd just goes nuts because it’s such an iconic progression. ‘Back For More’ – you hit those first hits and people were just excited and they’re fun to play. ‘Slip Of The Lip’ is a fun song because it’s an easy song to play. You can just rock out on it and it’s got such an infectious groove to it.
There’s one that is a lesser known Ratt song that is ‘Dangerous But Worth The Risk’. That’s one of my favourites to play. Also, ‘Drive Me Crazy’. Those are fun songs and because they are so high energy. They are so high energy from beginning to the end. The riffs are so fun to play and of course ‘Round And Round’.
Glenn: It goes without saying doesn’t it?
Chris: It’s not my favourite song to play but it’s definitely the song! When you hit the first chords to that it just lights people up. It’s just that energy feedback that you are getting from the people. You are up there playing this iconic song with the original guy who wrote and recorded it. It’s an amazing experience.
Glenn: When you first joined Stephen again, were you getting fans coming up to you blown away that you had joined? Did you ever get fans that remembered you from the Mickey Ratt days and saw you back in the day with Stephen?
Chris: Well a few but I’ll tell you, mostly Rough Cutt fan. When you go out to middle America people really don’t know Mickey Ratt. When we played locally that’s where you get some of that, especially when we go down to San Diego or L.A. or around the surrounding area here, you get some of that and it’s like ‘Wow!’ – down here definitely. But when you are out playing other places what really struck me more was the number of people that would show up with Rough Cutt stuff.
All the old records – singles and all this paraphernalia. It’s like ‘Wow!’ After a while there was quite a few people and that’s what surprised me the most actually. The word kind of got out after a while. It’s always really cool when people are coming to see me. They are obviously coming to see Stephen Pearcy and hear Ratt songs but that’s real nice. It’s great to reconnect with all those people and sign all their stuff. Some of the stuff people were bringing me I hadn’t seen. I’d never even seen a few of those things. I was saying to them, “Where the hell did you get that?”
Glenn: What things were they that really blew your mind that they’d brought for you to sign?
Chris: I tell you, there were some tour jackets, some shirts that I’d forgot about, record flats, we’d get the ‘Hear ‘N’ Aid’ stuff sometimes. Obviously I knew about that. There were some promo shots that I didn’t even remember. Maybe they’d been taken and they were re-done for some other venue or something. It’s like, “Jesus, where the hell did you find that?” which is always really cool. I would say, “Listen..” and of course they want to get a picture and I said, “Listen, let me get a picture of you with all this stuff!” (We laugh) “Do you mind?” (We laugh)
Glenn: I guess sometimes you get your wallet out and say, “How many dollars do you want for that? I want that myself, I’ve never seen it!”
Chris: Right? Yeah! I did that a few times. I think they got a kick out of it.
Glenn: (I laugh) It’s nice though isn’t it when it’s like that.
Glenn: I remember meeting Stephen. It was 2008 when Ratt played Corporation in Sheffield. He’s such a nice guy. Such a down to earth guy. It was a Saturday night and he said, “What are you doing tomorrow? I’ll put you on the list, it’d be nice to see you come out for the Nottingham show!”. I said, “Dude, I wish I could, I’ve got to go to my mates wedding". So all I remember really about my mates wedding was not being able to go to the f*ck*ng Ratt show!
Chris: Oh that’s very cool.
Glenn: Yeah. So I had to turn down a Ratt show for a wedding. I was gutted. I really fancied going as well. There you go!
Chris: Wow! Yeah how cool! How cool is that?
Glenn: I know but great guy. You said earlier that you’d bought all brand new gear. My friend down in Cape Coral Florida, Mike Grossi, he was asking about the gear and saying it sounded amazing at the pre-cruise party. He was asking what sort of gear you’d got right now and why you decided to use that gear?
Chris: Back in the day we pioneered this sound, Amir and I. What we were doing is that we were both running stereo and we were using Lexicon PCM41 digital delays and Furman Pre-amps to split up he signals. As we went along we added more and more rack gear along with that. But these days… and that was part of the Rough Cutt signature sound. We had a lot of modulation happening on the guitars. That was just starting.
You can really hear it in the leads and you can hear it in some of the rhythms where you can it it. It’s hardly coursing, it’s more modulation – just PCM modulation. It gives you a really cool, just a really fat stereo separated sound. We were both doing that but these days things have changed. Unless you’re at a much higher level, you can’t be taking a bunch of rack gear out with you. So what I was looking for was ‘How can I reproduce what we did in the studio using a pedal-board so what I found was that Eventide makes a pedal called the H9. I found it very cool which is way better than what we were using because it’s midi-controllable. You can set up all these pre-sets and then get a midi-controller and you can call whatever preset you want.
Not only can we get this stereo modulation but we can do long delays, we can do flanges, we can do these big reverbs, we can do these little octave dividing type of effects. They can do everything. We’re both actually using the same gear right now. We both put our heads together and we found a PC pedal for an overdrive medal that is also mini-programmable. With a combination of those two pedals you can do a hell of a lot. What we needed was something compact we could put in our suitcases so we devised that up. We both did a lot of research and we both found different components. We tried out different midi controller pedals and things to see what would work the best.
We both actually wound up using the same stuff. It works because we’ve got our own algorithms and programs in each one so it works really well. We’re not doing exactly the same thing. It’s enough different. It’s a very cool doubling type of blend. Also, Amir’s tone, he has a little bit more emphasis on the bass and the low mid. My emphasis is a little bit more on the high mid. What you get is like being in the studio and doubling the guitar part using a slightly different tone on one amp. What you end up with is this huge sounding wall of guitars. So yeah, that’s what we’re doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if we add a little bit to that as we go along. But really these days, keeping it as simple as possible is good because things aren’t what they used to be.
Glenn: I know.
Chris: We don’t have a road crew and people setting up all our stuff for us. It’s the same going out with Stephen. When I was going out with Stephen it was the very simply stuff that I could actually fit. I was using Line 6 stuff for that – very compact stuff you can still get a great sound out of. Technology has progressed and that’s good because the state of the industry of changed.
Glenn: Just a bit. Some say what music business? What industry?
Chris: Somebody just said that to me yesterday. It’s pretty unrecognisable. It really is.
Glenn: Have you found you have created a few new fans for yourself, for Rough Cutt or for the work with Stephen Pearcy through playing Ultimate Jam Night the last few times?
Chris: I think so yeah. Certainly.. I can tell you this, I’ve certainly met some new players that I’ve never met. Just some really great guys. Doing Ultimate Jam, first of all it’s just a great event and I think that it is a good vehicle to expand your fan-base a little bit. People who necessarily didn’t know who you were get to see you and then if they like your playing become fans and so on and say, “Oh wow! This guy..” or “Oh wow! Look at this band, this other band” or “He’s played with so-and –so”. So yeah, it’s a very cool vehicle for that too and Chuck has done such a really cool job with it.
Glenn: Who would you say that you’ve not heard of before or not played with before that really grabbed your attention? Any particular people?
Chris: Joe Retta.
Glenn: Yeah! What a voice!
Chris: I actually jammed with him on both nights. I did one with Stephen about six month ago. We went up and did a Judas Priest song together. That was the first time but these last two weeks I jammed with Joe and the guy just blew me away. He just blew me away! We did a picture together that’s up on Facebook. A nice guy! A great guy too! A super great guy.
Glenn: Yeah! I’ve seen it!
Chris: I mean, this guy – he’s just amazing. He’s just an amazing singer. Guys like that! Getting to be with those background singers and so on like Maureen Davis and Kevin Robinson. These people are the real deal (laughs). Of course, Matt Starr and some of the others. Getting to play with Mitch!
Glenn: Yeah, he’s amazing isn’t he?
Chris: Oh yeah!
Glenn: Such a nice guy!
Chris: Yeah he’s a great guy and he’s such a quintessential player. We have done some jams. We have known each other since the 80’s. We jammed a few times back in the late 80’s. There was this one jam night that we did. It was Paul Shortino, Mitch and Sean (McNabb) and a bunch of us. It was at the Captain’s Cabin.
Glenn: Yeah! Sean was on about that the other week.
Chris: Yeah I think it was every Sunday. This is back in the late 80’s or early 90’s. I went out there on a number of times. What was cool is that it was guys like Sean and Mitch were there and I know you just interviewed Sean. He was there and what was really cool when we did The Avalon and did the ‘We’re Stars’ thing, all of a sudden I look over, I get tapped on the shoulder and there’s Sean McNabb just grinning at me ear to ear. I said to him, “What the hell are you doing up here brother? This is great!”.
I contacted a lot of people. I didn’t know who was going to show up. There’s Janet Gardner, there’s Simon Daniels – we’re good friends. He’s grabbing me and I’m saying, “Oh hell – this is great!” Getting to play with those guys again is a lot of fun I’ve got to say. I think you’re going to see an Ultimate Jam Night with Paul Shortino and I getting up and doing a few things. That should be a lot of fun too.
Glenn: Yeah, originally you and I were going to do an e-mail Q‘N’A but I am glad we did a proper interview because we get to bounce ideas off each other and you end up asking about other things that come up.
Chris: Yeah, I’m so glad we got to do it this way instead because Q’N’A’s with a list of questions can so sterile.
Glenn: Yeah, I avoid them at all costs. This is way better. I’ve got to know so many cool people through the list of folk that play Ultimate Jam and all the people involved in it like Lisa!
Chris: Yeah! She is another person through Ultimate Jam. She’s just great. She’s super-sweet, super helpful and she’s a great girl. It was really cool getting to know her too.
Glenn: Cutting a long story short, you get to know so many people through knowing one or two people in the industry. Some things are just meant to happen. From meeting people maybe 15 or 8 or 10 year ago you get to this point.
Glenn: Yeah it’s pretty amazing.
Chris: it really is, it really is and of course the World has become so much smaller and inter-connected. Let’s face it, the whole rock culture, it’s a relatively small world. It is very cool that we get to meet people we would never otherwise meet.
Glenn: I know. I think the internet has been such a marvellous tool for the communication side.
Chris: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah! Look from my perspective it has its positives and negatives. The positives are for example, you and I can message each other and hook up. Within a minute of me posting something you can see it and likewise vice-versa. So those are real cool, positive aspects. The other thing I think is that with the huge paradigm change in the music industry where records just basically don’t sell anymore, it’s sort of balanced out by the fact that you can do things. You can stream things like Ultimate Jam Night. You’ve got these other venues and you’ve got ways of connecting with the artist and the artist connecting with the fan that really helps mitigate that sort of negativity that’s happened in the industry.
Glenn: Now people are connecting more, it seems healthier.
Chris: Yeah! Really the biggest downside to the changes after what’s happened in the industry, and this is for a lot of reasons but Number 1, artists really can’t unless you’re up in the very top echelons, you really can’t make any money selling your music anymore. Even multi-platinum selling acts in the 80’s, they’re lucky to sell 30,000 records.
Glenn: Yeah it’s nothing.
Chris: Then with streaming, what you get from having your songs streamed is just a miniscule amount of money. You have 4 million streams and you make 70 bucks or something.
Glenn: It’s crazy isn’t it? (We laugh)
Chris: Those are the negatives. Then a lot of kids these days just expect their music for free. They don’t want to play for it. I understand how that’s evolved but obviously artists have to make a living which is why things like ‘The Monsters Of Rock’ and all the great festivals have emerged that weren’t necessarily around 20-30 years ago. You’ve got ‘M3’ and ‘Rocking The Rivers’ is really cool as well as the stuff you guys have over there. Those are definitely a positive so artists can go out and make some money performing live and selling merchandise.
Glenn: Awesome! What made you decide to form your PC Smart business? Were you interested in that or something that occurred and you thought, ‘Oh, I’ll give this a go’?
Chris: When I moved out to Portland, Oregon in 1993, a good friend of mine, Jeff Warner, the Guitar Player from Black ‘N’ Blue had bought a studio there. We had actually had a band together and written a lot of stuff together after Black ‘N’ Blue and Rough Cutt were pretty much over with. We became really good friends and he said, “Look, I’ve got this studio, I need you to come up here and help me run it”. Things had stagnated in L.A. so I said, “Sure” and I did it. I went up there and computers wre really emerging at the time as a buyable medium for making music. You had things like Pro-Tools that had recently come out and other programs where people were starting to use computers to make music and to make Rock music.
I’m a geek at heart to be honest with you. I’ve always been in to electronics. I’ve always been in to modifying electronics and all that. I was introduced to computers around ’93 and I fell in love with them. I thought, ‘Oh man! This is amazing!’ It was a new world for me and I realised very quickly what the potential was to marry music and computers. The first computer I got, my Dad gave to me. It was his old computer and I had the thing modified. I put in a real high-end soundcard, these high-end disk drives and all this stuff, brought it into the studio and we started assembling records in the studio.
We would record while we were using digital. We were using ADATs at the time. We’d record them and then we’d lay them over onto the hard drive in the computer. Then we would do the assemblies and we’d add effects and stuff like that into the records and charge extra for doing that. You were able to do things that you couldn’t necessarily do just assembling a record the old fashioned way. That’s what really got me into it but, but let’s face it, I wasn’t making a ton of money doing that. I in a point in my life where I was over being the broke musician guy and I was ready to make some real money now. You know, we did okay in Rough Cutt for a while but that didn’t last for too long.
I realised I could actually make money by working on other people’s computers. I taught myself to do it, got some certifications and I started a business up there. Then I moved back to San Diego in ’97, started a corporation and actually hired a few people to work for me. I ran it out of my house, started getting clients and did pretty well with it. As time went on I got burnt out on it. Just being in the IT business, it’s just a constant, very time-consuming and can be frustrating.
After a while it lost its appeal to me. I realised that there were other things that I wanted to do and music was one of them, working as a coach and so on. I sold the business, sold the house and moved back up to L.A. But the computer business was good to me. I did quite well with it. I had some success with it for a while. I looked well and I’m not sorry I did it but now I just use computers as a tool. When mine breaks down I take it to someone else. I’m like the people that were my own clients, “Just make it work okay!”
Glenn: Yeah! (We laugh) Cool! Where did the interest in coaching come from and what did you enjoy about that?
Chris: Well I want to put it out there that I’m a sober performer and I was involved very heavily with the excess of the 80’s and that whole time and partying. I was one of those people who just couldn’t stop basically. It became a big problem in my life. The 80’s was all jack Daniels and cocaine and everybody had a blast. But, after Rough Cutt lost the deal and so on, I really sank down into a degraded (way of life) and started using heavy stuff. I realised in the early 90’s.. I was doing this.. I was a functional guy but I had a problem. I got myself cleaned up. I did the rehab thing back in ’93 and kind of started over.
That’s when I got out of the industry for a while because I felt that I needed to for a while. While doing that I became involved in A.A. and N.A. and I really wanted to stay clean and I did. I realised that I was actually good at helping other people. I did get some training in that. I realised I could be affective in helping other people who were struggling too. I got this idea a few years which was why not see if I can maybe help a few people – fellow entertainers who were struggling. Obviously in this industry we have what I like to call access to excess.
Glenn: Yeah Sean said something similar that it goes ‘Hand in Hand’.
Chris: Yeah it really does. Actually ‘Sober’ has become a hip cool thing now whereas it wasn’t so much back then. There’s quite a number of people who are clean and sober that I know or are well known players and so on. A lot of keep stay anonymous about that and that’s part of the AA tradition that you do that. I decided that what I was going to be a little bit more vocal about it because I just really wanted to put it out there. You can go out and you can really go out and you can play, you can rock and you can have a blast. If you choose not to, you don’t have to do it. Man, I get just as high on stage. The high I get from being on stage is every bit as intense as any high without doing anything else.
I thought, maybe if I can help some other folks who want it, obviously, not everybody does and that’s fine, that would be something that would be satisfying for me and really add some kind of fulfilment in my own life. I do that and it’s part of my day job right now. I’ve got a handful of folks that I work with that either come over and we work on the phone. The thing about it is that they know that I understand their experience because I’ve been there. I think that’s uniquely qualifies me to reach out and offer help to those people who want it who may be struggling. There’s a lot of us out there. Where I’m coming from, I just say, “I’m just you. I get it man! I get all the temptation that’s out there. I see it”. Believe me, I’m out there and people offer me shots and, “Hey do you want to step into the bathroom for a second?”
Glenn: Yeah, I’ve been to place where you know stuff goes off and I’m not naming names either. Crazy sh*t!
Chris: Absolutely. It’s so funny because to this day every now and again, I’ll go to the Rainbow and I’ll walk back to that bathroom at the back of the kitchen. It just brings me right back. I think, “Jesus man, the quantity of drugs that I have consumed in that little bit’ and it looks exactly the same. (Laughs). But I can go there and it brings me right back. Anyway, that’s what I’m doing and I my message is , “Look man, doing this and being a solo performer is really an amazing experience.” For one thing I remember it right?
Chris: I forgot half the sh*t I did back then. I tend to remember things a little bit better now.
Glenn: Yeah! That’s what gets me about some of these autobiographies that people bring out. I think, ‘You were so f*ck*d up, how do you remember any of this stuff?’ They must have asked loads of people and just made out it was them that remembered it all.
Chris: Oh yeah! I forgot half the stuff we did. Half the shows. I get people coming up to me to this day right and say, “Hey man, remember the time blah, blah, blah..” and I say, “No actually I don’t and actually I don’t remember you either” (We laugh) Then every now and again Glenn, somebody will come up to me and they’ll say, “Hey remember the time you did that?” and I’ll go. “Ughhh!! Ughhh!! Oh my God”. I’ll remember it right on the spot and I haven’t had that memory since it happened I’ll say, “Oh Jesus Christ! Yes!”.
Glenn: Yeah! The old other you.
Chris: And don’t get me wrong, there were some great times. I really wouldn’t change it because it’s made me who I am and there were some crazy, crazy great times back in the day. I do have some really treasured memories. The ones that I can remember.
Glenn: I guess someone’s treasured memories that are the bad sides, you can’t exactly tell when you are trying to coach people not to do it. Like “No, No No”.
Chris; Typically they’ve had them but my message to them is, “Hey look, you can build some really great memories. Listen we all have our addictions. Just because you decide to stop doing drugs and alcohol, there’s plenty of other addictions out there you can indulge in”. (Laughs)
Glenn: Yeah you can go golfing, play tennis or go walking in the canyons or something instead. They are nice addictions to have aren’t they?
Glenn: More healthier!
Chris: Absolutely. I mean, I could talk to you about this for hours. It’s just a natural adrenaline from doing a stage show is…. There’s nothing that compares with that. Oh man, it maybe sucks, I don’t know. (Laughs)
Glenn: I mean, if you hadn’t had gone through that, you wouldn’t have able to coach people about the wrong doings, bad and dangerous sides of that because you wouldn’t have gone through all that yourself in the first place.
Chris: Well absolutely man and here’s the deal – here’s the bottom line, I’m fortunate to be alive, okay?
Chris: Some of the crazy sh*t that I did and Stephen Pearcy can vouch for this. Just some of this crazy sh*t that he and I did. I’ll tell you one story, I think it’s in his book actually. Man, we were so high on LSD on night and I think we were going to go and see Boston. We popped some acid and were drinking and everything too. I’m driving and we were too high to go into the concert. So we’re trying to drive back home and I’m driving over dividers and sh*t like that. That was just one instance. I tell you Glenn, if I got what I deserve, I’d be dead. That’s the bottom line. I’ve just been lucky!
Glenn: Yeah! I mean look at Robbin Crosby!
Chris: Robbin. That’s sad.
Chris: That is such a tragic story. Obviously I knew Robbin very well and I used to party with Robbin. I also watched towards the end when he was in hospice, I visited him and spent a lot of time with him and I was already clean at that point. I tried to inspire him but he was too far gone and it was such a tragedy. God I was just talking about this with somebody the other day. He had such a huge heart. The guy had everything. He was this big looking, great handsome guy – he was the epitome of a Rock Star. He had a Playboy Centrefold wife. A house with a panoramic view of L.A., a Ferrari in the drive – all the trappings really.
Addiction though – he couldn’t get past his addiction and it took him down. It was just tragic. It was just tragic. Frankly, I’ve seen this happen. Stephen and I have lost a half-dozen friends and band mates just in the last few years either directly or indirectly from addiction. I’m just so glad that both of us are survivors. He’s doing really well now and it’s just a gift!
Glenn: Agreed. What sorts of things have you got coming up in the next few months and into next year? What’s on the agenda right now?
Chris: A lot actually. Stephen’s actually going to be doing some stuff with the Ratt guys this coming year. I think that’s his plan and I really wish them well because it’s great to see those guys – Warren, Juan and Carlos. It’s really great to see those guys up there. Those guys should be playing together – they really should. I am hoping that goes well in this whole name thing and all that. I am hoping all these legalities go in their favour and so on.
As far as I go, first of all, Rough Cutt is actually.. we’ve got an agent and we’re actually in the process of booking shows. We’re actually going to be playing on 25th November and we’re doing Vamp’d in Vegas the night after – those are our first two shows. I don’t know if we’ll do much until early next year but I thin our goal is to actually get out there and do festivals – probably multi-artist events – things like that. Weekend fly-outs maybe once a month. I think that would be great. I can’t really picture us touring per-se and if anybody actually wants to do that but definitely going out and doing fly-outs and that sort of thing. I think that’s in our future. As far as a record goes, we were actually offered a deal with a label.
Chris: Yeah! We haven’t decided quite what we’re going to do about that but I can say this: You can probably expect some new music from Rough Cutt in 2017.
Glenn: That’s cool! Nice One!
Chris: Yeah man! So that’s an exciting prospect for me. Paul Shortino and I have been talking about it. We’ve already started palling a few ideas. It’s early stage but we’re actually super excited about the prospect of doing that!
Glenn: Awesome! That’s great! You’ve got it all going again and you’re going to release some new music! Cool!
Chris: It really is. We were actually offered a deal about four or five years ago. We thought about doing it and tried but we really couldn’t. Amir was doing other things and we weren’t a band. We thought about it, we really thought long and hard about it but we turned it down. We couldn’t do the Monsters Cruise but I think as they say, “The stars have aligned”. I think it’s the right time personally for all of us that it makes sense now that we can do this. I think the timing overall is good as well.
Glenn: That’s cool.
Chris: There’s a definite resurgence of our era music as you well know. We’re gonna do it and we’re gonna do it now!
Glenn: Awesome! (We laugh) Before you get too old to do that! I’m kidding! (We laugh)
Chris: Yeah! We’re not getting any younger that’s for damn certain (We laugh)
Glenn: Yeah none of us are. 10 years just disappears. It’s like, “Where did that go?” Crazy!
Chris: Oh yeah, yeah! You know it! Going out and playing shows, you know, in your 50’s is a lot different and playing shows in your 20’s right?
Glenn: Yeah! (We laugh) Well you’re sober for a start which is a goods thing. I can’t go out and party like I did years ago. It’s impossible. You wear out as you get older.
Chris: Right. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! It’s just the travel alone. It’s so much harder on you.
Glenn: You had so many different things over the years and I’m a big fan of 'American Pickers' and I’m wondering if there is a certain item or items that you’ve got that means a lot to you of all the time in your career and why that item?
Chris: Oh wow! A certain item! Well the truth is, I don’t really have much of anything that I had – the guitars and amp-wise and all of that stuff and believe me I had a lot. I don’t have any of that stuff anymore. My Rough Cutt guitars all belong to collectors. The same for Amir. I had some amazing vintage Marshall Amps and greatthings like that. All that stuff is long gone to be honest with you.
I do have one thing that I will mention and this is a bass that Grover Jackson.. In fact, I just went and met with Grover yesterday which was amazing. I hadn’t seen Grover in 25 years. He was at our show. I actually went and met him. Amir joined us later. Grover and I sat down and it was just the most wonderful thing to sit down with him.
He was so generous with us back in the day. He gave me a bass guitar and it’s a prototype neck through body Jackson bass – a serial number like 00001. I still have that and I wouldn’t sell it for anything. In fact, I’ll probably be using that to do some demos. Other than that, I do have a lot of memorabilia, pictures and old contracts and a lot of promotional stuff.
Stephen and I did a record – we did just a single for Mickey Ratt and I’ve got a copy of that. That was 1980/81. I’ve got some old Mickey Ratt business cards with the old logo on them and flyers. I’ve got some amazing pictures of Stephen and I playing together back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Chris: Some of that stuff is near and dear to my heart.
Glenn: Will we see any of that on the internet since you have that thing in America called ‘Throwback Thursday’? Will we ever see any pictures like that appearing on your Facebook page or are you keeping them just for your private book and everything else?
Chris: There’s a couple up there. In fact, there’s a few, but you know what, I think I’m going to be posting and releasing that stuff more as we go along. By the way, Paul and I had a great reunion meeting with Wendy Dio last month. We stopped by there.
Chris: Wendy gave us a box full of Rough Cutt memorabilia which was really sweet of her. It was so great to sit down with Wendy again. She’s just doing amazing by the way!
Chris: She really good enough to give us this box. Some of the stuff I had but there was some pictures and stuff from Japan and things like that that I’m going to be posting that I think Rough Cutt fans will really get a kick out of.
Glenn: That’s quality that!
Chris: Also, I’m going to be doing the 'Bowling For Ronnie Event' next week. I’ll be there and I’m really looking forward to that. I look forward to being involved in some more for charities and of the Ronnie stuff in the next year. These are some of the things I’m looking forward to.
Glenn: Cool! Would you say there are certain things you are really, really proud of in your career or just as a person so far?
Chris: Of course, the Rough Cutt records. There was some great stuff on them. There were some great moments on those records. There were all sorts of things on those records that I’m not necessarily super proud of. Also, there are some other recordings that I’ve done. One of the first records I did with this band Sarge that I mentioned to you with this Producer called Brad Aaron. He had engineered and produced Kansas and some of the notable bands. Me and Matt Thorr on drums, Khurt Maier from the band, Salty Dog and Rob Lamothe from Riverdogs. It was the first professional recording that we did. We were given a spec deal and it’s a great recording. It’s online – it’s on Demon Doll Records.
Chris: They’re just demos. There’s a recording I did with Brad. Brad also produced a couple of Rough Cutt songs that are on our 'Anthology' record. There’s a recording I did with Jeff Warren from Black ‘N’ Blue. It’s just a demo. You can’t get it anywhere but it’s an amazing recording – an amazing demo. In terms of recording-wise, those are some of the highlights.
Chris: Another in my life is surviving the whole thing, coming out ahead and being able to have a second chance at it. I’m super grateful for that. Not everybody gets that chance. I’m a super grateful, fortunate guy and I try to reflect that in everything I do.
Glenn: It makes a lot of sense that. We’ve talked about so much stuff in this interview. I’ve really enjoyed it. Is there anything you’d like to mention that we’ve not touched on at all?
Chris: I just want to re-iterate that I’m really grateful for all the great people that I’ve been so blessed and fortunate to get to work with Wendy Dio, Ronnie Dio and all the great musicians. Not only the ones I’ve been in bands with but the guys that I see in other bands. There’s just some great people I know – Frankie Banali, Sean McNabb, Mitch Perry and Chuck Wright – people like that!
Also, there’s Greg D’Angelo, Stephen’s Drummer and the former drummer for White Lion. A great player. It’s been such a privilege playing with Greg. Greg actually got up and did ‘Stars’ with us at the Avalon. It was really cool.
I’m just blessed to have been associated with those people. We don’t even know what the future will bring but even if it were over today, I’ve been a super fortunate guy. It’s just amazing so I’m super grateful and fortunate for all that. I want to say that I’m looking forward to creating some new music.
Glenn: Awesome. All the fans are as well. We’re all looking forward to that. After seeing you on the Ultimate Jam I thought, ‘Holy Hell! What A Guy! What a guitarist!’ It made me so more looking forward to talking to you after that. I gave me a real buzz.
Chris: Oh man! Thank you so much. I think it’s very, very possible that we can come over to Europe. I think Japan is also a possibility.
Glenn: When it comes to certain songs at the 'Ultimate Jam Night', what certain songs would you like to play there and with which guys?
Chris: I actually learned a couple of G ‘N’ R songs because Chuck said. “We actually need you on these songs!”, so I thought, ‘I’d better learn them’ and I started playing. I’d never really learned any G ‘N’ R songs. Of course, everybody’s been hearing them forever right?
Chris: But I sat down and started learning them and I went, ‘Wow!’ It just gave me a new appreciation for them that I thought, ‘That would really be fun and get up and jam some G’N’R stuff. Maybe some Judas Priest would be great. AC/DC – I’d probably get up and rock ‘Highway To Hell’ – that kind of stuff is so much fun. ‘Back In Black’ – Man, I can crush that. Get up there – obviously Mitch, Sean – that would be a lot of fun, Joe Retta and some of the other guys that I’m meeting there. There’s so many that are great but those right off the top of my head.
Glenn: That’s great!
Chris: Yeah man! Of course, playing with Chuck. Chuck’s an amazing player – getting up and playing with him. I’m looking forward to hopefully doing a lot more of that.
Glenn: Are you doing NAMM this coming year?
Chris: I don’t know. I haven’t been forever to be honest with you. I think it’s likely actually. I haven’t done it in so long. NAMM is like for me – I can take it in small dosages. (Laughs) NAMM is sensory. It’s like going to a three day festival where it’s just kind of sensory overload after a while. Well man, it’s been super great talking to you.
Glenn: You too brother.
Chris: Thanks so much.
Glenn: Well it has really been an absolute pleasure talking to you.
Chris: You asked some great questions and you’re a great interviewer.
Glenn: Thanks Brother. I appreciate it.
Chris: Alright Brother.
A big thank you to Lisa Morton Woodard for arranging the Interview and of course Chris Hager himself for a marvellous honest insight into his life of Rock 'N' Roll & Beyond!
Big thanks to Chris Hager & Ron Lyon for the recent photographs used throughout the Interview.