years of press, commentary, reviews, and more. Enjoy.
Guns N' Roses guitarist lists house at $549,000
"Pale Divine: What have they been up to in 2009?"
"Show Review + Photos: Pale Divine at the Pageant, Tuesday, December 29"
"Unconscious, Pale Divine reunite for Pageant shows"
"Beyond The Pale"
"Q&A with Teddy Millmoor of Saivu"
"Q&A with Richard Fortus"
"A Nuclear Closing for 2008: Divine!"
"Appreciation for Love Spit Love, the Richard Fortus-Richard Butler '90s Band"
"Pale Divine To Reunite In St.Louis"
"Straight to Hello: Beloved local rockers Pale Divine reunite for a show"
"Alternative band Pale Divine reunites"
Music Notes: Pale Divine Reunion
"Pale Divine Reunion - Back To Hello"
"The Return of Pale Divine"
"There's A Constant Quest For The Perfect Tone"
"Rolling Stone: Chinese Democracy review"
"Pale Divine Launches Website, Releases Limited-Edition Boxed Set"
"Pale Divine Doing A Reunion Show, December 29 at the Pageant"
"The Spirit of St. Louis"
"Local Motion: LaPush"
"Former Stranded Lad finds himself in flamenco guitar"
"GUNS N' ROSES Guitarist To Perform At New York City Fashion Show"
"Spit & Polish"
Touring & Demos
"New Tunes: Pale Divine"
"Pale Divine: Bass Guitarist From Fairview Heights Learns The Ropes by Touring Country"
"Psychedelic Furs Wow Crowd With Finely Honed Sound"
'My Addiction' Video
A Word From The Top
"Beyond The Pale"
The Audio File: “Straight To Goodbye, Pale Divine”
"Pale Divine: Life for the band is getting ‘pretty wild’"
"Straight to Divine"
TRAX: Pale Divine "Something About Me"
"Bla, Bla, Bla…"
"Eye-catching rock 'n' roll with the Eyes"
"The Eyes Become The Living After Signing With Atlantic"
"The Eyes Enter the Land of the Living"
"Local Band The Eyes Focused On Major-Label Record Deal"
"The Eyes Have It At Last: Hello City of Angels, Goodbye St.Louis"
"The Eyes Express Views On St.Louis Area Music Scene"
"Michael Schaerer & Rich Fortus at Cicero's April 16, 1990"
Argyle Report: The Eyes
Argyle Report: The Eyes
"The Eyes still on the lookout for a record deal"
Guns N' Roses guitarist lists house at $549,000
Richard Fortus, who joined the band in 2001, is selling the Woodland Hills contemporary-style home.
LA Times, October 27, 2010 (by Lauren Beale) All rights reserved.
Richard Fortus, rhythm and lead guitarist for the rock band Guns N' Roses, has placed his Woodland Hills house on the market at $549,000.
The single-story contemporary has an open floor plan, cherry plank flooring and a flat-screen television in the living room. The kitchen features granite countertops and new stainless-steel appliances. There are three bedrooms, 13/4 bathrooms and 1,500 square feet of living space.
A swimming pool, a covered patio, a barbecue and an outdoor living room with a built-in kitchen complete the grounds.
Fortus, 43, joined Guns N' Roses in 2001. He tours with the band and played on the album "Chinese Democracy." He also has played with the Psychedelic Furs, recorded film scores and toured with artists such as Enrique Iglesias and Rihanna.
Susan Motter of Rodeo Realty's Woodland Hills office is the listing agent.
Pale Divine: What have they been up to in 2009?
Riverfront Times, December 29, 2009 (by Annie Zaleski) all rights reserved.
In this week's paper, the members of Pale Divine were kind enough to indulge questions about their favorite cover songs -- you see, their second-annual reunion show tonight at the Pageant will feature them doing two sets and tons of old covers. But the band's been quite busy in the last year since we caught up -- as you'll see below!
Guitarist Richard Fortus:
Over the last year, I toured with Rihanna. Worked on writing, producing and playing on records with Toni Halliday from Curve, Angela McCluskey, Michael Monroe, a band called Saivu from Norway, a Swedish pop singer called Sheri, another Norwegian pop artist named Anina, a country band called Country Bones, Dizzy Reed's first solo record. I also worked on the score for a few movies that will be coming out in 2010, and worked on the score for the 007 Activision game as well as doing the James Bond theme for Guitar Hero (World Tour).
I also worked with Robyn Hitchcock on the score for the movie Women In Trouble. I also began hosting a radio show on Heavy.com called Sumosonic. It's also broadcast on 80 college radio stations across the US. I've been rehearsing with Gn'R and touring with them starting in December. We will begin in Asia and then move on to Canada and then S. America in the new year. With any luck, that tour will carry on for a while.
Drummer Greg Miller:
I played some with my good friends in a band I was in, Cuncokshun. They play a lot in St Charles and my wife and I go see them now and again. They let me sit in and pretend to be a drummer again. I mainly play drums at home, work on boring stuff like rudiments and double bass. I have a bunch of electronic gear at home, samplers and drum machines and the like. I like tinkering with that stuff. Most of the time though I am at home with my family, sitting in my office on my PC.
Vocalist Michael Schaerer
In the last year, I have continued to perform live across the region full time. I have collaborated with John Holzum of the Well Hungarians in writing some killer country songs. I recorded vocals for Kim Massie's upcoming CD -- really good stuff -- and just generally enjoyed myself.
Bassist Dan Angenend:
Playing the reunion was such a great experience for me and my family. My kids, Christian, Bryn, Aidan and Ethan had a great time getting a chance to be around the show. They were pleased to have all of the backstage passes and special access that they got. My youngest, Ethan, enjoyed sound check so much that he fell asleep just two songs into the show. I think it was all a bit too much for him. Getting a chance to be with the guys again was such a blast. The biggest thing I missed from the old Pale Divine days was the fraternity I felt with Michael, Rich and Greg. I don't have any brothers, so they were the closest thing I've ever had to that. We had a fete event with all of our families, crew and management, a few days after the show that was such a great time. All of our lives have changed so much after all of these years. It was great for me to get a chance to get a view in the window into the lives of my former band mates fifteen years on. They have all done quite well for themselves and I couldn't be happier about it.
After that, it was all back to the business of my normal life. I sell artwork in the furniture industry, so I'm always busy with that, and 2009 was no different than any other. I travel about eight to ten weeks a year for my job, so that keeps me pretty busy. Michael was gracious enough to ask me to join him for a "Storytellers" show at a place called La Gra. We played many songs together at that show from all the different bands we've been in together -- Pale, Rainbow and Michael Schaerer Group. That was good fun.
Show Review + Photos: Pale Divine at the Pageant, Tuesday, December 29
Riverfront Times, December 30, 2009 (by Robin Wheeler) all rights reserved.
Fellow members of Generation X who attended the second annual Pale Divine reunion show: We are getting old. Remember snickering when our Baby Boomer parents went to cheesy Beach Boys reunion shows? We're getting close to that turf.
Richard Fortus started the show with a guitar solo -- a nod to the member who's gone furthest in the music industry (he's the current rhythm guitarist for Guns N' Roses). Fortus is a more polished showman than the rest of the band, a possible artifact of years in the music industry beyond St. Louis. Watching him, it's easy to wonder how the other three-quarters of the band would be if they'd had the same level of music-industry success. Despite being less rockstar-esque, frontman Michael Schaerer, bassist Dan Angenend and drummer Greg Miller kept up with Fortus in skill and stage dynamics. They're all well-practiced musicians, comfortable on stage and with their instruments, but with an honesty that comes from living out of the limelight.
When thanked for taking time out of his schedule, Fortus grinned and shrugged, humble and gracious, surprised at the notion that he'd miss it. Having all members at the reunion makes the difference between a real band and a nostalgia act. Fortus was vital to the cohesiveness of the group and the excitement of the crowd. Accept no substitutes for anyone in the band.
Frontman Michael Schaerer smiled more onstage than he used to. His performance didn't suffer for it. On "Burn like the Sun," Schaerer and bassist Dan Angenend engaged in tight vocal harmonies that got even better as the evening progressed.
At the beginning of "Dream," Angenend dedicated the song to his teen daughter. Fortus' mournful slide and Schaerer's gruff whispered lyrics erased any lingering '90s angst, replacing it with earnestness from people grown enough to remove the irony with comfort.
After crouching on the stage for a moment, Schaerer bounced up for a jumping, hip-shaking "My Addiction," defying the few murmurs in the crowd about the changes age brings. Let's see if any middle-aged doubters can muster half the energy he gave "Nothing Turns Me On." Many tried and are paying the price today.
Encased in fog, the band crept into its second set with Schaerer whispering into the single "Straight to Goodbye," just like the old days. The fog triggered my nostalgia. That's what I remember from 1992: dancing in the smoke and fog, the band invisible. The fog remained through the rest of the "Straight to Goodbye"-heavy set.
They shrieked into "Flow My Tears" with blasts of hot yellow light, Miller's thundering drums anchoring Fortus' blazing solos and Schaerer's howling vocals. For "Freedom in a Cage" Angenend picked a bass line that would have been at home on Nevermind, but more methodical when joined by Miller's military precision drumming and Schaerer's baritone.
The set concluded with "Something About Me." Appropriate, as there's still something about Pale Divine that's mesmerizing and entertaining. But now it's with more honesty. 1992 was a lot of fun, but it's different today. Pale Divine took its old catalog and brought it into 2009, a fine balance of maturity and nostalgia, energy and all the love and joy that should come from a heartfelt, hug-filled class reunion.
Unconscious, Pale Divine reunite for Pageant shows
St.Louis Post-Dispatch, December 25, 2009 (by Diane Toroian Keaggy) all rights reserved.
We, the aging fans of 1990s local music, better get a nap this weekend. The era's hottest bands, the Unconscious and Pale Divine, are reuniting for back-to-back shows at the Pageant.
"Certain things last because they're good," Unconscious drummer Matt Tecu said. "I think we both proved we can still play. None of us have let our instruments gather dust."
The Unconscious and Pale Divine, formerly known as the Eyes, each sold out holiday shows last year. No surprise there; nostalgia sells. The bigger revelation was how relevant both acts still sounded.
The Unconscious has built on that date's success, playing occasional shows and writing new material. It has released earlier recordings on iTunes and hopes to produce an album next year.
"With these shows, we sound better and we like each other better," Tecu said. "It's like, 'Why the hell not?' It's not like the early days where we've got to get signed. We can make a record, we can book shows, we can do whatever we want. We don't have to be the next big thing to the next wave of teenagers. That would be ridiculous. We can just get together and work up a sweat."
Tecu said the band's new sound is not so different from the old one: a manic mix of funk, punk, reggae and rock. The band still boasts its signature horn section and charismatic front man Mike Apirion.
"There's always stuff going on onstage, just a bunch of guys jumping around," Tecu said. "And Mike is so natural. I still can't decide if he is a genius or a certifiable crazy person. Could be both."
Tecu moved to Los Angeles after the band broke up in the early 1990s and makes his living touring and working as a session drummer for acts including Ted Nugent, Henry Rollins and Daniel Lanois. He also has worked with Pale Divine guitarist Rich Fortus, now rhythm guitarist for Guns N' Roses.
He was blown away by last year's Pale Divine show, the band's first since its breakup about 15 years before. Back in the day, the Unconscious and Pale Divine were friendly rivals, boasting different sounds but sharing the same audience.
Twenty years older, those fans may not have the energy or child care to attend both concerts. For those folks, Tecu has this advice:
"Go to our show and, if you don't hurt yourself, well then maybe you'll make it out to theirs."
Beyond the Pale: Pale Divine goes under cover – well, at least for its setlist – on its second Pageant reunion show
Riverfront Times, December 21, 2009 (by Annie Zaleski) all rights reserved.
Last year, beloved local rockers Pale Divine played a well-received reunion show at the Pageant. This year, the quartet is fortunate enough to be doing one again (guitarist Richard Fortus' Guns N' Roses touring schedule allowed him to travel to St. Louis). However, Pale Divine is doing two sets this year – and incorporating more of the covers fans loved to hear during its mid- to late-'80s heyday. In honor of that, B-Sides asked each member of the band (separately!) to name the two covers he enjoyed playing back in the day, whether these have held up over time — and to name a song he wished Pale Divine would cover today. The synchronous answers might surprise you. In addition, head to www.rftmusic.com to find out what the band's been up to in the past year.
Greg Miller, drummer: Cover song one for me would be "Ziggy Stardust" by David Bowie. I love that song, and I love the way we played it. I think we started messing around with that one day after we had been playing at [now-defunct club] Animal House. They used to play "Suffragette City" by Bowie on the big screen during breaks and on the radio a lot. It was something different, plus it's way cooler. All that old Bowie is just as cool now as it was then.
The second song would be "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus. We extended the end of that one for a good long bit back in the day. We used to play around a lot with reverb effects. Dave Probst, our sound guy/light guru, used to put this hellacious long reverb on my drums at the end of that. That was fun, because I sort of had a solo, but it was the anti-drum solo, in that I was seeing how slow I could play the part. [I'm] not sure if that one has held up well, [but it's] still a classic from back in the day.
If I could cover any song in Pale Divine it would be "Sober" by Tool. That song is already very much like we were back then – a dramatic, grinding tune with great dynamics. I guess that's why I like them so much!
Dan Angenend, bassist: My favorite cover to play has to be [the Beatles'] "Strawberry Fields [Forever]." We decided to try to arrange it in a way that was kind of our own, and it came off pretty well. It became a crowd favorite, so I'm sure I'm influenced by that. It felt like home playing it again last year, almost like we never stopped playing together. The next on the list would be anything by Hendrix. I really enjoy hearing Rich play Hendrix. He is such a brilliant guitarist, and he really translates Hendrix into his own style. We used to play "Foxy Lady," "Castles Made of Sand," "Fire," "All Along the Watchtower" or "Gypsy Eyes" — any of those would do.
Michael Schaerer, vocalist: Favorite cover from the old days: "Don't Fall," the Chameleons UK. It's just so definitely Pale Divine, even though we didn't write it. [It's] really fun to sing and perform — very dramatic! Richard brought this to us, as he did with most of the covers we did. He's a voracious listener of music and student (dare I say master?) of all genres. We were all pretty into English pop at the time, and this was such a showpiece. It still rocks.
My second favorite is probably "Green Heaven" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. [It has] great lyrics, lots of dynamic changes. We did a lot of Peppers at the end of sets to get everyone pumped; [you] can't beat the Peppers for inciting a crowd to dance. As far as standing up to the test of time, "Green Heaven" and a lot of the early Peppers songs are a little dated stylistically, perhaps, but still fantastic.
I'd want to cover a David Bowie song from [The Rise and Fall of] Ziggy Stardust [and the Spiders from Mars], which is still one of my all-time favorite albums. From the production to the lyric content to the performances of all involved, it's just unbeatable. We used to do the title track, but it's really been covered a lot. Maybe "Moonage Daydream"? "Five Years"? Man, I love that album.
Richard Fortus, guitarist: I always loved picking obscure covers that we could make our own. I think one of the ones that we really grew to own was "Don't Fall" by the Chameleons UK. I always felt like we did it better than them. We should have put that on our Atlantic debut. We also did a great version of "Strawberry Fields [Forever]" by the Beatles. I think we did a good job with that one and made it into our own song, though if I had to choose between our version or the Beatles' [version], I'm afraid I'd have to opt for the original. It's such a classic and timeless song.
I'd like for the Eyes/Pale Divine to do a cover of "Moonage Daydream" by Bowie. I think we'd do a great job with that. Michael's voice would be perfect on it. I'd also like to do a cover of "30 Days In the Hole" by Humble Pie. Michael has a great classic-rock voice. He'd kill that.
Q: Please tell me a little bit about Saivu since you will be a new band to most of the Appetite for Discussion fan forum members. Who are your members, what do they play in the band and how long have you been together?
A: Saivu originated as Paranoaidi a few years ago, the band was Teddy Millmoor, Jon Iver Eira Tellefsen and Nils Ailu Sara.
Jon Iver and Nils Ailu don't tour with the band, but occasionally work with the band. We've had great help from Matt Tecu and Michael McManus on drums in the studio, and Richard Fortus on guitars.
As of today there is no touring lineup, but I guess you could say Fortus and Tecu are the core of the Saivu sound.
Q: You've been called a Norwegian band, but you are located in Los Angeles and all members (according to Facebook) have English sounding names? Why is that? Is Kåre and Kjetil too foreign for your international audience? ;)
A: We've never been a Norwegian band, that's a misunderstanding and I don't know why people assumed it's a norwegian band either. As I said before, a couple of the guys from the Paranoaidi project were from Norway, but this time around it's only me who has any ties to Norway. But I gotta say, I'm sami (samisk) and so are Nils Ailu and Jon Iver, and I would lie if I said that I said we are norwegian. We are a Sami American rock band. Simple as that.
And as far as I'm concerned, Richard and Matt are american, atleast the last time I checked.
Q: How did you get in contact with Richard Fortus and how has this collaboration been so far?
A: We've known each other for a while, it was just one of those things bound to happen I guess. Lots of mutual friends.
The collaboration has been great, Richard is an awesome guitar player and a great guy. He's very cool to work with and he has a very interesting sound and style of playing. His parts are very unique and he added a new dimension to the music and the band. Without him the guitars would've sounded very different.
Q: When is your debut record coming out and is there possible to hear more from you than the two songs on MySpace ((http://www.myspace.com/saivumusic)? Which, by the way, are really great!
A: We're hoping to release the record this fall or late fall, that of course depends on a few things. We're not quite done recording yet, but a single should be out in a few weeks. There is some stuff out on www.thesixtyone.com/saivumuic that won't be featured on myspace. sign up and listen, and vote for us there ;)
Q: Is there any chance I may have jammed with one or more of you at a party at Steinan student campus in Trondheim some years ago (you look so familiar from your Facebook photo)?
A: I don't recall being to Steinan student campus.... But then again, who knows?
Q: What are you listening to right now on your music player?
A: Last thing was Back Round by Wolftmother. And also, Anna Ternheim, stunningly talented swedish artist, and it's been some David Bowie, A-Ha's song Mother Nature and the rock version of a new Chris Cornell song called Long Gone (rock version)
Q: Do you have plan for any concerts soon?
A: Not as of now, we're trying to finish up the album. You can follow us on twitter on www.twitter.com/saivumusic and we'll post tour dates there eventually. I imagine that we'll do a few shows in Norway this winter.
Q: "Wars do not determine who is right or wrong, only who is left", do you agree with this quote from Bertrand Russell?
A: NO, cus those who win the war get to write the story, or the history to come. As we all know, history isn't always as dead on as your History Teacher might believe.....
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your musical influences?
A: I can only speak for myself, but A-Ha is a huge influence for me. It might sound strange, but their music has ALWAYS influenced me one way or the other. Soundgarden, GNR, Ozzy, NIN, David Bowie and Mari Boine have also influenced me one way or the other.
Q: What the main barrier for a new group to "make it"? Lack of money, lack of promotion, limited experience?
A: Lack of desire and hard work.
Q: If you were to pick a single concert from history, which would you have paid most to attend?
A: Any Zeppelin concert with Jon Bonham behind the kit.
Q: Which concert did you attend last as part of the audience?
A: The Young Royals at the dragonfly a couple of weeks ago.
Q: Have we had too much indie music now?
A: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've had it with the concept of Indie for a long time!!!
Q: We are more than 6 billion humans on this planet and as a result thousands of species go extinct each year, the climate is increasing, people are dying from malnutrition, undernutrition, wars are raging, etc -- should we on a long term scale attempt to control the population growth and perhaps stabilize it at a lower number?
A: Humans will never be able to control other humans. I believe in mother nature. when she says enough is enough, she'll just shake us off her back.
Q: When did you start playing the guitar and what made you do it?
A: I started on guitar at around 12 and with great trepidation. I'd started on violin when I was about 4 and had my hands full with 4 strings and was very unsure about adding 2 more to the equation. However, I was in love with the rock and violin wasn't cutting it.
Q: What are you currently listening to on your music player?
A: Always changing, but right now the recent releases I'm listening to from....
Black Moth Super Rainbow
The Big Pink
(ok, i'll stop)
Q: What do you find more rewarding, composing music scores for TV and movies, or songwriting for albums?
A: Don't really prefer one to the other. I'm addicted to seeing my vision through and then standing back and saying "yeah, that doesn't suck". Always striving for that. I usually find it easier to spark off of something, be it visual or conceptual.
Q: What equipment did you use on Chinese Democracy?
A: Too much gear to remember or mention! I will tell you some of my favorite gear.....
Divided By 13 (ftr37 and rsa23)
My old '73 Jose-modded 100 watt Marshall (my favorite Marshall ever, and i have a lot). Voodoo Amps did an amazing job cloning this amp for me. They are incredibly meticulous. So now, I essentially have 4 of these!
Blankenship Vari-plex (even better plexi than my real plexi's!)
Tweed Gibson Explorer (beats my tweed Deluxe every time)
Tweed high power twin
Park Rock Head
Kelly Amps! They were an off-shoot of the old Selmers in the 60's. Even cooler than Selmers
GUITARS- (recent acquisitions)
'68 Gibson Trini Lopez
'73 Fender Starcaster 'white' (purchased from one of my favorite guitarists- Ted Turner of Wishbone Ash)
New Linhof tele (my favorite sounding tele I own. Even beats my '51 Nocaster!)
'60 slab board Strat
'62 white Jaguar
'71 Guild 12 string
PEDALS- oooohhhh jeez, I don't have enough time to even begin to get in to this!
Q: What do you prefer in a guitarist or musician in general, technical prowess or feel?
A: I'm impressed by technical prowess (for a minute), but I never have a desire to listen to anyone unless they are really speaking to me. Most players with incredible technical skill are more interested in showing what they can do as opposed to saying something worth listening to. You're technical ability only needs to be good enough to get your point across. I'd much rather listen to an eloquent speaker than to someone showing off his vocabulary, but if you got both, well... you're Jeff Beck!
Q: What's your favorite guitar and amplifier and why?
A: This is a tough one. Sort of like asking "what's your favorite color". I like to paint with a broad pallette! I go through phases. Right now, I'm really in to Jazzmasters and my new Starcaster, but I'll always be a sucker for a nice 335 or a Tele.
The /13 amps are truly modern classics. I am a nut about gear and tone. I love vintage gear and have a pretty good collection of amps and gtrs. I almost always favor older gear, but the /13's almost always beat out my vintage amps. I have old AC30's, Plexi's, Hiwatt, tweeds, etc.. I am pretty good with knowing which amp to go to to get the sound i hear in my head. My /13's probably get used more than any other amp i own.
Q: As a professional session musician, what makes you stand out among your colleagues?
A: I have been obsessed with music since i was really young. I breathed, ate, slept and dreamt music for as long as i can remember. I'm always searching out new music, anything that i can even get a spark of inspiration from. So I have a very good knowledge of music history and therefore, a lot to drawn upon. Plus, my tastes are very varied.
Q: What hobbies do you have outside of music?
A: I love to run. I am a long distance runner. When I'm on the road, I run 10 to 20 k a day. Keeps me grounded.
Q: If you were to pick a single concert from history, which would you have paid most to attend?
A: Hmmmm, maybe Hendrix at Winterland or one of the New Barbarian shows, or maybe Humble Pie at the Fillmore, or The Stooges at the Electric Circus!
Q: How did you like working with (great Aussie rock band) The Divinyls?
A: Chrissy is the real deal. Wow is she something. I absolutely adore her. Charley Drayton is one of my closest friends in the world and probably my favorite musician to work with. Every time i work with that cat, I learn something. He's the heaviest of heavies. Working with them was sheer magic.
Q: Have you seen Brüno, and did you like it?
A: Didn't see it yet. I don't have the opportunity to see many films in the theater since I've got two little girls. However, I think Sasha Baron-Cohen is a comic genius and have loved everything he's done.
Q: Ever waved glowsticks at a techno party?
A: I've done a lot of things at raves, but don't think I ever held a glowstick. I toured with my good friend BT for a while. Great experience. One of my favorite tours ever.
Q: Which concert did you attend last as part of the audience?
A: I saw the Wiggles this afternoon. 3rd row!!
Q: Have we had too much indie music now?
A: Indie in the states means any music not on a major label. So.... NO! I like people that make music because they have to, not to make $. I think the ratio of "indie" bands that are doing that as opposed to trying to become successful is far greater than major label bands.
Q: How do you get the guitar to make a noise when you hit it on stage? I've been trying to do it and just hurt myself xD
A: Ahhhh, it's all on tape! I'm not even plugged in!
Q: How high do you value the ability, as a guitarist, to be able to read music?
A: Depends on what kind of guitarist you want to be. It ain't necessary to read if you want to make music.
Q: What's your favorite track from Chinese Democracy; what about GNR in general?
A: Favorite track from CD is probably Chinese, but it's hard to say and changes often. As far as a favorite Gn'R track... It's one YOU haven't heard yet!
Q: We are more than 6 billion humans on this planet and as a result thousands of species go extinct each year, the climate is increasing, people are dying from malnutrition, undernutrition, wars are raging, etc -- should we on a long term scale attempt to control the population growth and perhaps stabilize it at a lower number?
A: We ARE controlling the population growth by allowing all that you mention. We always have in various ways. Human nature i suppose. I think that mother earth will stabilize the population on her own in the near future. We are in for a very bumpy ride in our immediate future I am afraid.
Q: What do you prefer to play, lead or rythm?
Q: "Wars do not determine who is right or wrong, only who is left", do you agree with this quote from Bertrand Russell?
A: Hey, I may be an American, but I'm not as greedy nor as egomaniacal as our leaders have been.
Q: My wife recently bought a violin, but she gave it up early allthough she picked it up quickly. Any specific advice for this particular instrument?
A: I hate to say this, but I really believe that you pretty much have to learn an instrument when you are young (still in school). I believe this because it is the only time in your life when you can really truly dedicate yourself to it. More importantly, you have to love the instrument more than anything else in life.
Q: Do you ever learn songs by using TAB/sheet music or always by ear?
A: I don't have a choice usually.
Q: What future projects will you be involved in?
A: Right now I'm working on a piece of music for a new Swedish movie. I'm also going to be scoring a new horror movie that I'm very excited about. I'm currently working on a record with Toni Halliday from Curve. We are still writing it. Also doing a record with Angela McCluskey that is very cool. The whole record sounds like a 60's French pop record. Think Serge Gainsborg/Francois Hardy/Sylvie Vartan/Jacques Dutronc. She has one of the greatest voices I've ever heard. Very fun stuff. Also doing a country album with a band called Country Bones and doing a record with a very cool Norwegian band called Saivu. See, I told you my tastes were varied!
If anyone can think of a better way to end 2008 than with about 2000 of your best friends (who you haven’t seen in 15 years), listening to music that makes you feel young, you’ve got me. St. Louis’ Pageant pulled off the perfect year-end, hosting the Pale Divine Reunion, featuring the Nukes as opener. It’s a little bit of a shock to see some of our hometown musical heroes, permanently emblazoned on our memories as the young, lean rock stars whom we filled floors at Kennedy’s and Mississippi Nights to ogle and cheer for—or in the case of the Nukes, to toss a few beers at, or help along over our heads as they crowd-surfed the place. The Nukes The once-wiry Nukes’ frontman Packy Reynolds isn’t fat by regular-guy standards. But at 40 and with a receding hairline to boot, he’s just soft and average enough to make us laugh when the shirt came off this time. Packy said this show was “their last show ever.” Even though we knew it, we hated to hear the words. In any case, you know it’s gonna be a good punk-rock show when the monitors are covered in plastic. And just as if it were 1990 again, Packy Reynolds spat out the lyrics—and the beer—on a once-rabid crowd that now strained to keep up with him. There were a few weak attempts at moshpits, but… come on… with this group, it’d end up with sciatica, herniated discs, perhaps some heart palpitation. No, no, even Packy didn’t have quite the energy he used to. Instead of a crowd surf (would they have held him up? He wasn’t taking any chances), he jumped in, and sang a few bars standing from the floor. Then, in a true Spinal Tap moment, he tried to leap back to the stage, couldn’t do it, and was lifted up by Security. Outside of Packy, we’re not sure how many of the band were original members, but the guitarist was definitely the one from Johnny Bliss, the band that kicked our asses opening up for the Unconscious the previous Friday night at Lucas School House. We’re not sure of the song titles either, but the opener had a refrain of “Anywhere but Here.” By the second song, Packy was foaming at the mouth and showering the crowd, and Anywhere but Here felt like the only place to be. Dressing in the old man clothes of a white shirt, black tie, vest and sweater didn’t do a lot to help Packy look any younger than he was, but just like any Nukes show, most of it came off in a big, gaudy strip tease. The second Spinal Tap moment might have been during what sounded like a chorus of “4-6-4”, when Packy, with outstretched arms and unwavering emotion taking in the moment, suddenly thought to straighten his tie. What a weirdly inappropriate moment. When the white shirt came off and the soft white underbelly hit the stage, it was hard not to cry with laughter. The lack of grace putting the shirt back on was soon forgiven, as was the know-how of how to button it. (Just get that thing back on, please was the general consensus.) The sound was great—as if it mattered all that much. One doesn’t go to a Nukes show to catch the faint high notes and melodic texturing. Packy’s gargle with coffee grounds and glass hollers were as perfect as ever against the hard-driving beat, the cool-happy background solos, and the glittery surprise of guitar. Reynolds led the crowd into a frolic, if not a frenzy. He strutted the stage, foaming and tearing at his clothes like a rabid dog. There were no snot rockets this time, and he kept things reasonably clean. During the “I don’t fuckin’ care” line of “Going Nowhere” he checked his own pulse. The show closed with a version of “Train Kept A Rollin’ that they made their own, an over-done but still fun cover of “Wild Thing,” and a tangential moment or two of Ted Nugent’s “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” “I got geese!” Packy screamed. “I got chickens! I got ducks! I got roosters! I got dinosaurs! Mother-fuckin’ long dinosaurs! I got 1988! I got the Nukes! I got Pale Divine! I got road blocks!” What was the point of it? Who knows. Who cares. It was a blast. As every Nukes show, especially the last one, should be. Richard Fortus Pale Divine, who started as the Eyes, were perhaps the first band to make it big in St. Louis and definitely, with their mobs of passionate fans, the first band to create and sustain a scene. In their day, all four of them were gorgeous in their different ways: Michael Schaerer was the Jim Morrison-esque frontman; Dan Angenend, Jr. was the girl-beautiful, perfect bass player with angelic backing vocals; Richard Fortus the dark and mysterious maestro; and Greg Miller the percussive powerhouse. Their sound was so tight, so smooth, with smart, catchy songs full of feeling that would have been sung on for generations, had Nirvana not arrived to change the face of music. Frankly, we hadn’t expected a lot for this show musically. We were going for the memories. I mean, the band hadn’t played together in a decade and a half. After Atlantic Records dropped them, most of the guys went on to regular jobs and/or smaller, local bands, except for Richard Fortus, who went on to join Love Spit Love and is currently with Guns ‘n Roses. Would they still have the magic? Could they still work together? The answer, unbelievably, is yes—and then some. Sure, the sexpot looks are gone for Schaerer, who appears more like a chunky teenage boy than a middle-aged man. But the pipes are all there. Richard Fortus, of course, is complete rock star: lean, tattooed, dark and gorgeous. Greg Miller joined another local band that made it big after Pale Divine, Radio Iodine—but they were dropped from Universal’s Radioactive label in 1998 when the mergers had everyone cleaning house. Today, Greg’s formidable size and noble profile has him resembling “Mr. Incredible” of the Pixar flick. But he can still hit the skins like nobody’s business, and bass player Dan, who dresses more like Rivers Cuomo these days, was a better-than-respectable backbone to the songs. “We used to be a hair band,” joked Michael, noting that his chin-length hair was the longest of the bunch. At 9:20 p.m.—early for many headline acts, the show opened in fog—classic for Pale Divine. It was impossible to move in the crowd, and the bar was at least three lines deep with people. Spontaneous reunions of old friends burst out like fireworks everywhere. The band played “a lot of new, old songs” as Schaerer explained. These were the unreleased songs, recorded just before Atlantic Records dropped them. (Watch for our Pale Divine CD/DVD review, to be posted in a few days). A few of the tunes were unfamiliar to the crowd, but they seemed appreciative nonetheless. Even if he didn't have the same physical vibe, Michael Schaerer sang with the same great force of emotion he used to back in the day. As long as you didn’t look--you wouldn't have known it was however many years later. Or better yet, just look at Rich. Richard Fortus. Damn, he’s cool. To watch him posture and hit at that guitar, making those incredible, impossible sounds and combinations, is nothing short of a joy. But just because he’s cool doesn’t mean he’s an asshole. No—reliable sources tell us he’s as humble and easy-going as his sweet onstage demeanor: “About six months ago, I called up Michael,” said Richard Fortus, smiling. “I said, Hey, I think I’m gonna see my parents for Christmas. Do you wanna do a show? Do you think anyone would come?” Then he took in the sold-out crowd, and all the love they gave back to him. “This is amazing,” he said. Michael, in an effort to take the seriousness away before it got too touching, added, “And it smells a little like Kennedy’s here, too!” Schaerer also joked to Fortus, "Yeah, but can you still play?" Michael apologized to his mother for a smoke-break midway, explaining, “This is my New Years’ resolution—again.” In addition to the amazing “new old” songs like “Burn Like the Sun,” the band played all the favorites, including “Addiction,” and “Something About Me.” An encore included “One of a Kind” and a cover of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields”. The final song was a strange choice—their only song slow enough that it’s almost a ballad: “Sorrow.” Given the fact we’ll likely never see either band perform live again, it may have been a fitting close. And it was a great close to the year 2008.
“Appreciation for Love Spit Love, the Richard Fortus-Richard Butler '90s Band”
Riverfront Times Blog, Dec 29, 2008 (by Annie Zaleski) all rights reserved.
Tonight at the Pageant is the long-awaited Pale Divine reunion show. I penned a story in this week's paper about the band, its history and its new boxed set. (Hopefully, I'll get a chance to check out a bit of the show after my radio show.)
In the article, I mentioned Richard Fortus' post-PD band, Love Spit Love. Since I found its 1994 self-titled debut in a Cleveland record shop over the break, I figured now was a good time to give it some much-deserved love. LSL was fronted by Richard Butler, who's known mostly for his work with the Psychedelic Furs, and also featured his brother Tim Butler on bass and drummer Frank Ferrer.
The band is largely known for its cover of the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" (which you might know as the Charmed theme; clip after the jump). But the band's two albums, 1997's Trysome Eatone and 1994's Love Spit Love, are fantastic moodpieces. Eliminating the sparkling synths of the Furs' later albums -- and incorporating jagged guitars and majestic orchestration; Jon Brion added twinkly color and Fortus played guitar, cello and mandolin on the debut -- they're bargain bin treasure. "Change in the Weather" in hindsight reminds me a lot of the Afghan Whigs, in fact.
Rock fans must have been very busy penning letters to the portly
dude in the red suit this year, because not one, but perhaps two long shot
concerts could be coming to the St. Louis area very soon.
First up is the one-night-only reunion of Pale Divine, aka The Eyes, a mega-popular STL alt-rock act that broke through nationally in the early '90s. The original four members - vocalist Michael Schaerer, guitarist Richard Fortus, bass player Dan Angenend Jr. and drummer Greg Miller - will take The Pageant's stage at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29, after not playing together for 17 years.
Fans may know of the success of guitarist Fortus, who will be finishing up a tour with pop phenom Rihanna early in '09. Pale Divine split up after a well-received Atlantic debut album, "Straight to Goodbye," and Fortus then joined forces with Richard Butler of the post-punk/new wave act Psychedelic Furs, co-creating the band Love Spit Love.
Since, he has been an in-demand session man, including recording a new James Bond video game theme tune.
But the coming year or two with another band will keep Fortus busy and traveling, as he has been a rhythm and sometime lead guitarist with Guns N' Roses. GN'R fans will be opening up the gift of the long-awaited "Chinese Democracy" release today, and Fortus can be heard on some of the album's cuts.
A legendary story in the world of rock was birthed on July 2, 1991, when Axl Rose stormed off the stage at Riverport Amphitheater, ticked at a photog snapping pics of him in the audience. The fans there rioted, causing loads of damage to the then-new venue.
STL fans of GN'R since have known a chance of Rose's return to the Gateway City was seemingly impossible. In fact, Fortus and Rose have a little joke about it.
"There has been talk of us doing a Love tour, a tour of all the cities where there have been riots, and doing free shows," Fortus said in a recent telephone interview. "That might happen."
The guitar player would love to do a St. Louis date, so his parents don't have to drive to Chicago or Kansas City to see him on stage with Rose and Co. Regardless, he said, late March should bring the GN'R tour, which likely will last at least two years.
For now, Fortus fans can check out The Pageant gig and can buy a limited-to-1,000-edition box set with two DVDs of live concert and interview footage and a CD with unreleased tracks, some of which would have been part of Pale Divine's second Atlantic album.
" The bulk of the second DVD is the last show we did before we went to L.A. to record the record," bass player Angenend said. "It was definitely a peak of performance for us."
Pale Divine was part of a thriving St. Louis rock scene, when bands would pack no-longer-around venues such as Kennedy's and Mississippi Nights. Fortus and his mates have fond memories of their heyday in the '80s.
" It wasn't like a lot of different bands sounding the same. It was a good environment for us; we were able to play all the time," Fortus said.
Visit www.theeyes-paledivine.com/xmas08.html to order the DVD/CD set or visit www.thepageant.com for more information on the Dec. 29 concert.
Straight to Hello: Beloved local rockers Pale Divine reunite for a show. This is their story.
Riverfront Times, December 24, 2008 (by Annie Zaleski) all rights reserved.
There's nothing St. Louis loves more than reunions — especially when it involves beloved bands from the past. '90s electro-rockers Gravity Kills do an annual gig around Thanksgiving, while beloved '80s act the Unconscious is playing at Lucas School House on Friday night. But the reformation of late-'80s Landing staple Pale Divine has caused the biggest local buzz this year.
To mark the occasion, the band is releasing what guitarist Richard Fortus hopes is a "quality time capsule" of its time together: a boxed set featuring a remastered version of its debut, Freedom in a Cage, a CD of unreleased demos and two DVDs of live footage. The set comes in a lavish, book-like package full of vintage photographs and quotes from musicians, writers and DJs about the band's significance.
When it came time to look back, Fortus — who now plays with Guns 'n Roses, among other gigs — was surprised to find out how influential Pale Divine was locally.
" Basically, the one consistent thing was people said that we raised the bar as far as what was expected from a band," he says, calling from his Los Angeles home just before Thanksgiving. "That was flattering — and interesting, because I didn't really realize that at the time.
" There were so many bands, and everybody had their own thing going on. Especially when we first started, because you had bands like the Unconscious, and then you had Uncle Tupelo, and you had Chicken Truck and Stranded Lads. Everybody was doing their own thing. It wasn't until we got signed that we started noticing, 'Hey, there's a lot of bands that sort of sound like us.'"
What that sound exactly was is harder to pin down. The quartet's influences were diverse, and included the Britgoth of Gene Loves Jezebel and the Cult, the metal-funk of Red Hot Chili Peppers and the dreamy melancholy of the Psychedelic Furs.
" In terms of the industry, it was difficult for them to say, 'Well, who are they? What is this band's sound?'" says bassist Dan Angenend. "Well, it's like we're all these sounds. That's hard to market."
And while that likely contributed to why Pale Divine never became superstars, it's only part of the story.
On a frigid night in early December, three-fourths of the band – Angenend, vocalist Michael Schaerer and drummer Greg Miller — are at the new Shock City Studios in Soulard, preparing to re-learn and fine-tune its vast catalog of songs. Angenend says that things are going "better than expected" for the gig; the band is re-learning an impressive 25 to 30 songs for the night.
Pale Divine — then known as the Eyes — formed in 1984. Miller knew Fortus through a mutual friend. Even then, the latter's talent for and love of the instrument was apparent. In fact, Miller remembers Fortus answering the door at his house with a guitar slung around his neck.
" We saw how phenomenal he was," the drummer says. "And it was like, Wow, I want to jam with this guy because he's so good."
Along with bassist Steve Hanock, the pair started playing together in the basement, mostly on jazz-fusion stuff in the vein of Mahavishnu Orchestra. And then one day, Fortus mentioned he knew a vocalist he thought they should play with.
" He had tapes, and we're, like, blown away by these vocals," Miller says. "For some reason at that time, we thought he sounded just like Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull."
Schaerer, without missing a beat, says, "Because it was my favorite band." Everyone laughs loudly.
Miller continues: "We finally did get to meet Michael at a party. I remember I was in a different room, and Michael was in [another room] playing. [I said] That's Michael, that's the voice! But we had never seen him. We went into the room and Michael was sitting there — [and we're like] 'Where's the guy with the long hair?' He had really short black hair, and he had a leather jacket on. He almost looked a little bit angry."
The second-wave ska of the English Beat influenced the band's early songs. But the Eyes didn't start to gain popularity and traction until it started taking cues from bands like U2, R.E.M. and the Psychedelic Furs. And things really took off when bassist Dan Angenend, who was already playing at clubs like Kennedy's (now the Landing outpost of the Drunken Fish) with the Newsboys, defected from the band to join the Eyes.
In 1988 the band released its debut cassette, Freedom in a Cage. By now, the Eyes was becoming a popular regional draw, from big cities like Chicago and Kansas City, to college towns like Columbia, Carbondale and Lawrence, Kansas. But it was their local shows — especially at Kennedy's — that became the stuff of legend.
" It was like the Thunderdome, man," Schaerer says. "It was great. It was so packed. On the DVD, you can see there are a lot of crowd shots. And you get a sense of how exciting it was. Here we are on this ten-by-ten stage and we're surrounded — literally, in front of us, above us and behind us — there's people just loving it."
Based on enthusiastic word-of-mouth from local promoters (and the persistence of manager Peter Carson), the Eyes soon started drawing the attention of major labels. Not everybody liked the band; a rep for RCA listened to one song and promptly went to play video games for the rest of the set. But in 1990 the band inked a deal with Atlantic Records. (Fun fact: Their A&R man was Jason Flom, who also signed Skid Row and Tori Amos, and went on to be chairman and CEO of both Atlantic and Virgin records.)
In some ways, getting a record deal was the beginning of the end for the Eyes — both literally and figuratively. For starters, it had to change its name to Pale Divine to avoid conflict with another band of the same name. Second, interpersonal conflicts had started to take their toll.
" By the time we did get signed, we were pretty much over each other," Fortus says. "There was a lot of tension with the singer, with Michael and the rest of us. Animosity. It was a difficult situation." (Schaerer freely admits that today: "I like to think I prepared Rich for his experience with Axl [Rose].")
Not helping matters was the process that birthed Pale Divine's major-label debut, Straight to Goodbye. Produced by Simon Rogers (Peter Murphy, the Fall, Lightning Seeds), Goodbye sounded airless, glossy and polished in all the wrong ways. It was mastered at Abbey Road Studios without any band members present, and they weren't happy with the results. And although recorded in October 1990, Goodbye wasn't released until September 1991 — just before Nirvana exploded.
" The biggest problem for us was [that] we were a great live band; that was really our strength," Angenend says. "And that did not come off with the record. At all. For whatever reason — we picked the wrong producer, we didn't know our own strengths well enough."
Still, the band made a video for "My Addiction" and had a wonderful experience touring with the Psychedelic Furs (which is where Fortus met Furs vocalist Richard Butler, whom he later collaborated with in the excellent Love Spit Love). But things deteriorated further when Pale Divine started preparing demos for its second record. Label mergers and maneuvers meant it was moved from Atlantic to ATCO, which promptly merged with East West.
That label's president at the time, Sylvia Rhone, was more into acts like En Vogue. It was clear that Pale Divine's uncategorizable rock wasn't going to be her cup of tea. "We had one meeting with her, and it was like, This lady is never going to be into this," Angenend recalls. "And she wasn't."
The band asked to be released from its contract, and the label assented. After two final shows at Kennedy's, Pale Divine broke up.
The members of Pale Divine continued to play in much-beloved local bands after the split, including Rainbox, Radio Iodine and Great Big Everything. But marriages and fatherhood soon took precedence over music for Miller and Angenend: The former now works in IT for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and the latter works for a small company that reproduces artwork on canvas.
Schaerer stuck with music, though. He teaches guitar, voice and songwriting lessons, and plays regularly around town both solo and with Amy Miller. Fortus, meanwhile, also focuses on session work, scoring films and doing music for video games. Recent highlights include touring with pop sensation Rihanna; playing on "When Nobody Loves You," the theme song to the James Bond video game, Quantum of Solace; and writing a movie score for the upcoming Women in Trouble with Robyn Hitchcock.
Looking back, Fortus feels that Pale Divine would have had a better chance at stardom had it been an upstart band today.
" At that time, there was no choice, really, for a band like us," he says. "We didn't belong at an indie label. And at that point, it wouldn't work for us. If we would have been out now with the following that we had, the grassroots following, we would have been fine — and would have done much better to carry on with an indie or a smaller label. Or doing it ourselves. We would have had far more success."
Indeed, the band certainly was mainstream enough to compete, as the unreleased Atlantic demos on the boxed set prove. "Dream" is a sprawling psychedelic-rock number that would've fit easily on the grunge-heavy Singles soundtrack. "Hunter" explodes into a heavy, almost Southern-rock-sounding tune. The catchy "Burn Like the Sun" aligns with the sunburned psych-shoegaze of acts like Ride. And highlight "Poverty Beach" is a bouncy, acoustic-guitar-driven number that's a dead ringer for a Britpop gem (i.e., Housemartins, Divine Comedy, Trashcan Sinatras).
Even though hindsight is 20-20, the members of Pale Divine don't seem burdened by regrets. The passage of time has softened any animosity — and what's left is only excitement at being able to be together onstage again.
" That was the high point of my week, every time we played," Angenend says. "It was a great feeling. It's really cool that we got to do it as long as we did. It sort of left with a little bit of a bad taste in everybody's mouth, I think. But to me, it's really exciting to be doing another gig. It's a celebration rather than a downer.
" All the stuff that we were dragging around at that time, whatever internal divides we all had with our situation — it's all gone; it's all water under the bridge. And [the reunion] can be about what we started out to do — at least for a couple of hours."
Alternative band Pale Divine reunites
St.Louis Post Dispatch, December 21, 2008 (by Diane Toroian Keaggy) all rights reserved.
Few at Franco realize tonight's entertainer almost was a rock star.
Fifteen years ago, Michael Schaerer fronted alternative act Pale Divine, which will reunite Dec. 29 at the Pageant.
He had a record deal, a devoted following and rock-star hair. The hair alone — long and black — drew fans who would swoon every time he tossed it over his bare chest as he leapt on stage or sang about some deep, personal pain. The hair came with a matching rock-star persona: demanding, mercurial, reclusive.
That was then. Before Pale Divine's nasty split. Before the string of menial jobs in restaurants and warehouses. Before the graying hair and spare tire. Before the wife and kid who care less about his could-have-been past. Before Zoloft.
Schaerer, 41, gives music lessons and works private parties, weddings and restaurant bars. Tonight, he and singer Amy Miller are playing Coldplay and Cat Stevens for a small crowd at Franco, a French restaurant in Soulard. There is no cover, and Schaerer takes requests.
"If I had to play Anne Murray all night, I would and it wouldn't bother me," said Schaerer, who grew up listening to David Bowie and the Clash. "I think a lot of people would look at what I used to do and say, 'Wow, now you do this,' but I get to sing what I love and play music of all types, including my own if people request it. I'm no longer a rock star — but I get to be one for one more night."
Pageant manager Pat Hagin expects the band to sell out just as it did 20 years ago when it was known as the Eyes at his old club, Mississippi Nights.
Since then, any number of local bands have experienced varying degrees of success — or more often — failure. But Pale Divine was the first to generate national buzz.
"That was an exciting time in local music," Hagin said. "They had everything — the sound, the look and the theatrics."
Pale Divine waited 15 years to reunite because guitarist Rich Fortus rarely gets a break from touring and recording. He currently serves as rhythm guitarist for Guns n' Roses, though he also performs with other artists. On the icy night Schaerer was playing for a smattering of fans at Franco, Fortus backed R&B superstar Rihanna at Mexico City Sports Palace, capacity 22,000. Then he was off to London, New York and Paris.
Another reason for the delay: Fortus couldn't stand Schaerer. Friends since high school, Fortus knew how to ride out Schaerer's mood swings. But by the band's last show, Schaerer favored one mood in particular — a really, really bad mood. He refused to write, rehearse or even talk to Fortus, drummer Greg Miller and bassist Dan Angenend Jr.
The band considered auditioning a replacement, but ultimately Fortus split to join Psychedelic Furs front man Richard Butler on his new project, Love Spit Love.
"Several years had to go by before I could talk to him," said Fortus, 41, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two daughters. "We dealt with Michael during some ridiculous (stuff). It was torture. He could walk into a room and suck the life out of it."
That sounds about right, Schaerer admitted. Today, he jokes that he was preparing Fortus for notorious Guns n' Roses front man Axl Rose. But back then, Schaerer says, he felt paralyzed by the pressure and politics of the recording industry.
Even performing, an act that appeared so effortless to fans, left him emotionally wasted. He would leave shows immediately, never bothering to break down equipment or mingle with fans.
"I just wanted to let my ears ring in peace, but I could never get to sleep either," Schaerer said.
He wrote about it in a song about performing called "Straight to Goodbye," the title track of the band's 1991 album for Atlantic Records: "Crush me for my chemicals, paint yourself to glow. Watch my magic fade away, so sad to see it go.'"
"That's about how people would come and get the energy from what I would do, but then they would call me a (jerk) because I wouldn't hang out," Schaerer said. He stops to laugh. "Wah, wah, wah. In retrospect it's so funny. I mean, what a privilege to be able to perform for so many people who were so appreciative. I couldn't see it then."
Two important events helped Schaerer finally to see it.
First, a boss suggested that they shared the same problem: attention deficit disorder. All of sudden, the addiction to dope, the sleeplessness, the fidgeting made sense. Ultimately, he was prescribed Zoloft, an antidepressant.
"It has made the biggest difference," Schaerer said.
Second, he met his wife, Ursula, an attractive blonde who knew nothing about Pale Divine.
The couple live in Dogtown and have a son, Lucas, 8, a gifted student who already can play "Smoke on the Water."
"I don't want to say she's not interested in my past, but it has nothing to do with our partnership," Schaerer said. "A person wants to be loved for who they are, not what they do."
After about a four-year hiatus, Schaerer waded back into music, trading in his low-slung jeans and British-sounding vocal style for overalls and folk songs. He has teamed up with Miller, 29, a redhead with a tough attitude and a gorgeous voice. Miller admires how Schaerer uses charm and self-deprecating humor to disarm the odd heckler or drunk.
"He is so much more patient than I am," she said. "Maybe some of that temper is still there, but he's been doing this for so long, and he loves his job so much, he makes that choice to be pleasant. I know a lot of people thought of him as this prima donna rock star, but to me he's just Michael."
That's the Michael who reached out to Fortus and apologized. By then, time had erased the bad feelings. But the songs remained, powerful songs with good hooks and heartfelt lyrics. The best of that work will be re-released in a CD/DVD box set featuring remastered recordings, previously unreleased demos, a photo book and footage from live performances. The retrospective will be available at the concert.
"Honestly, some songs make me cringe," Fortus said. "We could be corny and cheesy. But what we were really good at was that emotional, over-the-top stuff."
Fortus will join the rest of the band for rehearsals this week at a local studio. He won't reveal the set list, but Fortus promises that the band will play "what people expect us to play."
"It's going to have a high school reunion vibe. I can't wait to see everyone," he said. "But as far as I'm concerned, the best thing that could come out of this has already happened, and that's reconnecting. To see Michael so much more comfortable in his own skin and happy — we all can't believe how different he is."
For his part, Schaerer is ready to revisit that era. His life didn't turn out the way fans expected, but chances are neither did theirs.
"I know people were disappointed when it didn't happen for us," Schaerer said. "I was disappointed. But it ended up being the best thing for me. I didn't know how miserable I was, I just took all of those feelings and channeled them into my performance. The guys joke now that I should get off Zoloft for the show, but chances are I'll be grinning from ear-to-ear."
Music Notes: Pale Divine Reunion
Nightlife Magazine, December 11, 2008 (by Chris Wissmann) all rights reserved.
At about the time the Reform was one of the city's three most popular bands, the biggest out-of-town group to regularly play Carbondale was the Eyes. This Saint Louis amalgamation later changed their name to Pale Divine, signed a deal with Atlantic Records, and issued a CD on the major label that unfortunately went nowhere.
This moody, melodic, metallic group will reunite Monday, December 29th at the Pageant on the edge of Saint Louis and University City, and has released a limited-edition box set, To Document The Years. The box contains two full-length DVDs of vintage live and behind-the-scenes footage as well as commentary from the band, two full-length CDs (including a remastered version of teh Eyes' first independent release, Freedom In A Cage, and material for an unreleased followup to their unfortunately titled Atlantic debut Straight To Goodbye), and a sixteen page book.
Fans can order the CD from the band's website, at <http://www.theeyes-paledivine.com>, as well as Straight To Goodbye and a solo album by vocalist Michael Schaerer (who joined Rainbox with bassist Dan Angenend as Pale Divine was breaking up).
guitarist Richard Fortus (who formed Love Spit Love during Pale Divine's
final days), is a featured musician on Guns N' Roses' latest disc,
Chinese Democracy. Drummer Greg Miller is pretty much retired from
music; post-Pale Divine he played in a string of successful Saint
Louis bands, including Radio Iodine, another Saint Louis outfit with
a short halflife on a major label...
"Pale Divine Reunion - Back To Hello"
PlaybackSTL, December 9, 2008 (by Laura Hamlett) all rights reserved.
16 years since Pale Divine ruled the music scene in St. Louis. A huge part
of the local—and then national—landscape
in the late '80s (originally as The Eyes) and early '90s, the quartet (Michael
Schaerer, lead vocals/guitar; Richard Fortus, guitar/vocals; Greg Miller,
drums; and Dan Angenend Jr., bass) lorded over such local venues as Kennedy's
and Mississippi Nights, inspiring devoted followers wherever they went. They
were signed to Atlantic Records which released one pristine album, Straight
to Goodbye. Being tapped for a tour with the Psychedelic Furs led to guitarist/multi-instrumentalist
Fortus forming a side project with the Furs' Richard Butler...and leaving
Pale Divine in its wake.
For years, fans have speculated about a possible reunion show, but it never seemed to happen. For one, Fortus moved from New York to Los Angeles and began playing with Guns ‘N Roses and touring with a number of popular acts.
Now, finally, the stars are aligned for Pale Divine to play once again. On December 29, The Pageant will host this very special regrouping; tickets have already been selling at a remarkable pace.
I had a chance to sit down with Schaerer and Fortus to talk about the reunion, and the band that was.
On what led to the dissolution of Pale Divine in 1992...
RF: I'd been writing a record; I was flying back and forth. There were a lot of problems we had and basically there was something that happened where it was just...you know, it's not going to work out, I'm wasting my time. At that point, I made the decision to leave and move to New York.
On why have the Pale Divine reunion now...
I had planned on coming to St. Louis for Christmas, and it's the first time I'll come to St. Louis in a long time. Because I have a new daughter, and we're introducing her to her grandparents for the first time. I called everybody. It's been a thing, in my mind as far as wanting to do it for quite a while; until now, I hadn't been able to.
On his relentless touring schedule with Rihanna and then Guns ‘N Roses...
I get home on the 20th of December, and then get the family and go to St. Louis. And then the day after we play, I'm flying to Dubai for New Year's; they're still trying to figure out where the New Year's show is going to be. GNR's not doing anything until next year, in January.
On the whereabouts of the rest of the band...
MS: Dan has been working with an art company for the entire time since Pale Divine. Greg is in IT which is astounding to me. I never really thought of him as a technology type, but then when I think about it it's like, yeah, he was doing the drum machine and the sequencing and all that, he had a knack for it and he's done really well. He actually has continued to play; I don't think Dan has played much, but he has, in fact has sat in, I've got a full band, Michael Schaerer Group, as you know, and Greg plays. He would show up and, man, it was like, there's that big snare drum again. Man, that guy can just bang on ‘em. But I love it. He's like my favorite drummer, I mean including everybody. Even Keith Moon. You get to the point where you know what's coming, and you know some licks and how the fills are going to go, if they're going to drive or drag, or what have you, and I was jumping on the beat all the time and gesticulating to the beat. And I would know, and he would know.
On rehearsing for the big show...
MS: I was thinking we were just going to wing it. We don't need to practice. It's only been what, 15 years? [laughs] The plan is to get together a month before for a full week of rehearsals with just the three of us [everyone but Rich]. I play guitar, but I can't play Rich's parts; a lot of them are ridiculous. So we're gonna do a full month, and then when Rich gets here we'll have at least a week. You gotta figure, we've played for ten years together, several times a week, and that's just performances, and we also rehearsed... And I've known Rich since high school; we've been playing forever. Talk about riding a bicycle. It's more, "I remember this." And I still play a lot of it [in the Michael Schaerer Group].
On what the fans can expect December 29...
MS: We have an opener, The Nukes. First of all, they'll set the performance banner pretty high; they'll get the crowd going. And they're such a great, dynamic band and a great bunch of guys. We're going to do a 90-minute set, which still is a lot. It'll be solid quality then, and my old bones will not rattle too much.
On the size of The Pageant's stage...
MS: In the past, we didn't do a whole lot of big stages, either. We did on the Psychedelic Furs tour, but here, the big stuff was like Blue Note in Columbia; Mississippi Nights was like the average. Kennedy's we played so many times. Really small, and I loved that; we were packed onstage, and I learned to do a whole lot in four square feet. It looked like we were just masters of the universe, but I had four square feet. For Rich, of course, it will be a small stage for him now, having played every venue in the universe, including Wembley Stadium. The guy has really gone above and beyond. All these bands, all these records, all this music he creates; that's what he loves to do, just create music. What's so rewarding is that I have gotten back in touch with Rich and Dan on an almost daily basis.
On the double CD/DVD package available at the show...
RF: We'd been so busy with all this stuff, getting a DVD package ready. We're doing a two-disc retrospective, and there's going to be two CDs ,as well. One CD is our original first record that we put out on our own; I think we made about 1,000 copies originally, in like '89. We're also going to be including a CD of demos that we did after the Atlantic record [Straight to Goodbye] came out.
There's some great songs on there and we're excited to get those out. The demos sound great and the songs are really good. The DVD is great, it's all old footage; it was a labor of love. The guy who used to videotape us was at every show, and he edited this two-DVD set. It's a lot of material, a lot of hours of video, and it's really beautiful; he did a really great job. And the packaging is going to be great. It's costing us a lot of money; we're going way out on a limb here. I don't think we're going to break even, but I think with the show and everything including, it will probably balance it out. We really had no idea what to expect, whether anybody would come out. But I guess it's done quite well.
MS: It has seemed to me like another lifetime; it was a long time ago, but it was a huge part of my life. I didn't go to college; I played college. And to now be able to relive it -- reminds me of what a huge accomplishment it was, what we did and how well we did it, and what an impact we had on people. People met at our shows and now have children. I get that all the time: "You were the soundtrack to my life,", and what a huge compliment. What a fantastic experience to have lived through it. The guys are great. We spent every day together for ten years. I get to sort of relive that; I get to play rock star for one night, which is plenty.
The Return of Pale Divine
For the first time in 15 years, Pale Divine (aka The Eyes) reunites Dec. 29 at the Pageant.
StlSound Magazine, December 2008 (by Bob Baker) all rights reserved.
It’s not every day you speak with an old musician pal who is squeezing in a phone call on his way to rehearse for the American Music Awards. But that’s exactly what guitarist Richard Fortus did with me last month.
He played on the AMAs this year with the pop R&B sensation Rihanna, with whom Fortus had just come off a tour of Australia and New Zealand. The award show aired Nov. 23, which was also the release date of the long-awaited Chinese Democracy, the new album from Guns N Roses, which Fortus has been a member of since 2001.
More on that later. Because this story is not about Billboard pop stars or MTV rock bands from the ‘80s. This is about the members of a legendary St.Louis band, Pale Divine (aka The Eyes), and their one-night-only reunion show at the Pageant Dec. 29. The show will mark the first time the four original members have played together in more than 15 years.
"It’s going to be like a high school reunion,” says lead vocalist/guitarist Michael Schaerer. “This will really bring people back, especially those who spent their early adulthood being in our family of listeners and fans. It’s a great opportunity for both them and us to relive those days.”
The era he refers to started in the mid 1980s – a time when a variety of “post-modern” music styles were bubbling underground, paving the way for the grunge and alternative rock explosion that came in the early 1990s. Schaerer, Fortus, and drummer Greg Miller began playing together in 1985 as The Eyes. Bassist Dan Angenend Jr joined them in 1988 and they hit the local club scene wth a sound, look and show seldom seen in St.Louis.
“A friend kept telling me to go see this band, and I finally did,” says Peter Carson, who managed the band during its heyday. “Within 30 seconds, I knew these guys were special.”
An Eyes show was a spectacle of flashing lights, atmospheric stage fog, pounding volume levels, hook-laden rock songs, and top-notch showmanship. It didn’t take long for music fans to respond in droves. Laclede’s Landing venues such as Kennedy’s, the Factory, and Mississippi Nights were soon turned into packed houses for every Eyes performance.
Fortus says, “For a lot of people from that time period, it was an important part of their lives.” Angenend agrees: “It was a magical time for us.”
The band independently released Freedom In A Cage (on cassette, mind you) in 1989. The album was produced by Dave Probst, who ran sound and lights for The Eyes and served as the band’s photographer. “David had a big influence on our sound and image,” Fortus says. “He was like a fifth member.”
As buzz about the band grew, Carson reached out to several major labels, and in 1990 Atlantic Records signed the band. The future looked bright for this promising band. But like so many stories of triumph, the path ahead was not a smooth ride.
“I was really happy… up until we got signed,” Schaerer admits. “Corporate music is tough. It’s your art and your baby, and then you have label people wanting to change things. I used to take my music and songwriting very seriously. It was personal.”
After getting signed, the band found out another act was using The Eyes. So they had to change their name and soon settled on Pale Divine. The A&R exec who had been the band’s original champion within the label left. Then came a long wait for the debut album’s release. Progress was slow and tensions grew.
The Atlantic debut, Straight To Goodbye, was finally released, and the band hit the road opening for the Psychedelic Furs. There were a few victories, including a video for the song “My Addiction,” which aired on MTV. But by major label standards, the first album didn’t fare that well. And as the band was pulled in different directions preparing songs for a second album, the Cinderella story unraveled.
“We had a difficult time at the end,” Fortus says. “The whole record company thing was frustrating.” In July of 1993, Schaerer, Fortus, Miller, and Angenend played their final show together as Pale Divine.
In the 15 years since, the members have each taken very different paths. Richard Fortus has enjoyed the most high-profile success. His Pale Divine touring experience lead to a musical partnership with Psychedelic Furs front man Richard Butler, with whom Fortus formed Love Spit Love in the ‘90s.
Over the years he’s become a sought-after guitarist. He’s hit the road with such artists as Guns N Roses, Nena, Enrique Iglesias, and Rihanna, and has shared the stage with Perry Farrell, Cyndi Lauper, Ian Astbury, and Tommy Stinson. In the studio, Fortus has contributed to albums by Fiona Apple, Ben Folds, Crystal Method, and the Divinyls. In addition, he has produced music with composer BT for films such as Zoolander, The Fast and the Furious, and Monster.
“I owe a lot of my success to those early years in St.Louis,” Fortus says. “That’s where I honed my craft.”
Drummer Greg Miller kept very busy in the years immediately following PD. He played with Suave Octopus, then Great Big Everything, then Radio Iodine (which was signed to Universal Records in 1995). But that ensemble had a similar fate with a record deal.
“When I was younger, that’s all I wanted was to get a record deal,” Miller says. “It came twice and I missed it both times. So I finally decided to hang up trying, took a break, then went back to playing for the love of music.” In recent years, he’s kept up his chops playing part-time in various cover bands, and makes a living working in the IT division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
After taking a few years off, Michael Schaerer resurfaced and now plays a steady stream of solo gigs, duo shows with singer Amy Miller, and full band stints wth his Michael Schaerer Group. Between performing live and giving music lessons, he’s a happily self-employed musician today.
“I feel so lucky and fulfilled now,” he says. “I get to play out every week, play whatever I want, and then get to pack my stuff and hang with my family. It’s the best of all worlds. And without Pale Divine, wouldn’t have had the knowledge and reputation to pull that off.”
Dan Angenend admits he’s been the least active musically. “That was a great time in my life,” he says. “But when it was over, I didn’t have a desire to pursue it any further. So in 1995, I took a job where, for the first time I had to actually get up in the morning.” He’s worked for the same art reproduction company for 13 years now. He lives in Belleville, is married, and has a 6-year-old son and three step-kids.
What the members of Pale Divine have now is a chance to spark that old musical flame – and bring together a lot of people who haven’t been shoehorned into the same room in many years.
How easy will it be to shake off the rust and play those old familiar songs?
“Pale Divine had a unique ability to pull things off,” Miller explains. “Richard and I have a keen sense of knowing what each other was thinking. It’s a special thing we all had from playing together so long. I’ve got a really good feeling about the show.”
Another thing the members are thrilled about is the release of a limited edition boxed set that goes on sale this month. The package features two DVDs of vintage live performances by The Eyes (shot by Channing Kronauge), as well as two audio CDs: one a re-mastered version of Freedom In A Cage; the other a collection of demos recorded for what would have been the second Pale Divine album for Atlantic. The whole package was designed by Kent Oberheu, who created some of the band’s early logos.
“I’m really excited to get this package out,” says Fortus, who spearheaded the effort to crate the set. “The discs come in a beautiful hardbound book, and it includes some great songs that were never released. We really wanted to get these out.”
So four days after Christmas, for one night only at the Pageant, a lot of seasoned music fans will be able to take a journey back to the pinnacle of alternative rockdom in St.Louis.
“We’re so thankful and excited to do this,” Schaerer adds. “It was such a huge part of our lives. For nearly 10 years I saw those guys pretty much every day. It was like a family. And to get back together, play those songs, and hang with each other a while… it’s priceless.”
Fortus: "There's A Constant Quest For The Perfect Tone"
ultimateguitar.com, November 26, 2008 (by Amy Kelly) all rights reserved.
Richard Fortus has somehow managed to remain under the radar in the rock world for the past few decades, but it’s very likely that he’ll be thrust into the spotlight by the end of 2008. Fortus made a name for himself in the 80s and 90s while playing with Love Spit Love and The Psychedelic Furs, and he’s been keeping busy as a session player ever since. There are very few genres he hasn’t been involved with creatively (well, except for one that has been on his mind lately), and that reputation as a Jack Of All Trades in the studio likely played a huge part in landing his current gig as Guns N’ Roses’ guitarist.
Fortus’ session experience also came in handy recently while participating in what is likely to be a cult classic: Repo! The Genetic Opera. Filled with the intriguing combo of operatic arias and industrial rock riffs, Repo! (a rock opera in which organ recipients need to pay their monthly medical bills or things get bloody) gave Fortus another opportunity to expand his artistry by dabbling in the cinematic world.
The Repo! soundtrack hit shelves back in September, and the GN'R's long-awaited Chinese Democracy album was made available exclusively at Best Buy on November 23. Fortus’ hefty schedule isn’t lightening anytime soon, but the guitarist kindly took time to talk with Ultimate-Guitar writer Amy Kelly about past session work, his addiction to gear, and working with the legendary Axl Rose.
Ultimate-Guitar: How did you originally get involved with Repo! The Genetic
Opera? Was it director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV) that originally contacted
Richard Fortus: Boy, I don’t even know if I remember! I don’t know if Darren contacted me or Yoshiki (X Japan) because I’ve worked with Yoshiki before on a bunch of projects. It might have come from Yoshiki. It just sort of aligned time-wise because I had just gotten back from Japan, where during some of the Japan shows I played an X Japan song. I had worked with Yoshiki in the past, but when I ran into him he said that he was excited to hear that I played one of the songs during the concert.
Ultimate-Guitar: Were you intrigued by the idea of playing in a rock opera?
Richard: It was one of those things where I knew it was going to be either really bad or really good! I think that you need that. People are going to love it or they’re going to hate it, but I think the music is great. When I heard who else was involved that’s when I was like, “Okay, we’re doing it.” When I heard the tracks I was blown away.
Ultimate-Guitar: Given the fact that the producers/director have a specific vision for the sound and visuals of Repo!, would they suggest specific amps or effects to use in each song?
Richard: No. With some things, yes, they were very specific and had a very clear idea of what type of thing they wanted. On other things they were like, “Well, we want something here…” That’s the stuff I love because they let you go and create noises! It was a good, creative experience. They were very into experimenting and pushing the envelope, which is great.
Ultimate-Guitar: While you were recording the soundtrack, did you have an opportunity to try out new techniques or equipment?
Richard: That’s something I really enjoy doing. I’m always trying to do new and exciting things, just to keep it interesting for myself. I’m always experimenting and always wanting to try new things out. So yes, that was definitely an opportunity.
Ultimate-Guitar: Can you recall a certain song or specific part in which some of those new techniques can be heard?
Richard: To be honest, I haven’t heard it. So I don’t have any idea! I mean, I remember the experience and I remember certain things that I was excited about, but I don’t remember specifics because it’s been a while since I’ve heard it.
Ultimate-Guitar: How long ago did you record it?
Richard: Oh, man. That’s a good question! It must have been 9 months ago.
Ultimate-Guitar: From seeing the trailer I was expecting that every song would have an industrial sound, but there is definitely a little bit of everything on the soundtrack.
Richard: I was really into it. It could have gone really badly! It could have been a complete mess! I think it’s going to be a real cult classic. The people that like it are going to love it and those that don’t are going to hate it, which is what you want for a cult movie.
Ultimate-Guitar: I read that you were classically trained as a child. Is that correct?
Richard: Yeah. I was really, really young.
Ultimate-Guitar: How long did that training take place?
Richard: I played violin and cello all through school, so all the way through college. That was my primary focus. It was the biggest part of my musical training when I was a kid. I didn’t pick up the guitar until I was about 13. I played violin and drums all the way through grade school.
Ultimate-Guitar: Did you consider it a fairly easy transition from playing the violin and drums to the guitar?
Richard: Yeah, totally. There were all these guitars around the house and they were always so intimidating to me just because there were 6 strings! My left hand was already strong, so it came very quickly.
Ultimate-Guitar: Was it around the time you picked up the guitar that you started to figure out which direction you’d like to go in musically?
Richard: Yeah. From the time I was about 9 years old, I inherited my folks’ record collection. So I got all The Beatles’ and Stones’ records. I listened to Humble Pie. That was very formative for me and probably why I started playing guitar. I used to love listening to that stuff. From there, I got really into prog rock, art rock stuff – some Crimson, Yes, early Genesis when I was 13 or 12. Then I heard The Clash and it was all over for me! It’s funny because I never took to what was popular at that time, the rock thing with like Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne. I had no interest in it. Then when I heard The Clash, that’s where I belonged! So I went from Yes and King Crimson straight into The Clash.
Ultimate-Guitar: At the time you were listening to The Clash, could you have seen yourself eventually playing with a band like The Psychedelic Furs?
Richard: I hadn’t really thought about it at the time. I did end up playing with a lot of my favorite artists from that time, like Tommy Stinson from The Replacements. The Replacements were one of my favorite bands. I remember seeing The Replacements opening for X when I was 14, and Tommy was my age. You know what’s funny is that I met Tommy on a session with Yoshiki years and years ago. After that we became like best friends.
Ultimate-Guitar: On your website, I love how you have a whole section devoted to the equipment that you use. It’s a pretty amazing arsenal, by the way!
Richard: The stuff that’s on the website is just stuff that was here at the house. I’ve amassed quite a collection!
Ultimate-Guitar: I noticed in the late 80’s and early 90’s that you often played a Strat, but more recently I’ve seen more Gibsons showing up in live photos. How much has your taste in guitars or amps changed over the years?
Richard: I do tend to lean more towards Gibson, but I like a wide, sonic spectrum. I like to work with a large palette.
Ultimate-Guitar: Is it the beefier tone or the thicker neck that you prefer on the Gibson?
Richard: I guess it’s the roundness. I go through phases, where I’m into different tones, but nothing beats their humbuckers’ sound. I also love P-90s. I have a real soft spot for P-90s, I guess. I’ve been using those for years. I love the Les Paul signature, too, which is sort of my go-to guitar. That was made in ’73 or ’74, and I go to those a lot just because the electronics or the tone is so unusual and unique.
Ultimate-Guitar: Would you consider yourself a gear junkie?
Ultimate-Guitar: So it’s safe to assume that you’re constantly collecting.
Richard: Yeah, I have a real problem, with pedals especially! It’s the same with music. I’m always looking for anything that inspires me. I’m always looking for new music because I just want to hear something that will spark something. It’s not so much ripping it off, as it is just being inspired in some way, whether I hate it or love it. Pedals also are very inspirational as far as writing. Or different guitars will bring different things out of you. It’s the same with amps! Yeah, amps are another problem I have!
Ultimate-Guitar: Are you using 1 or 2 specific amps right now?
Richard: Right now in the studio I tend to use the Divided By 13 amps. I find myself always going back to those. It’s sort of like the culmination of everything I love about all my favorite amps.
Ultimate-Guitar: Have you been playing those for the past few years of recording?
Yeah. I also use a lot of old Marshalls. I have a favorite Marshall that’s a 100-watt ’73 Jose mod that I bought from Mick Mars.
It is the greatest Marshall that I’ve ever heard. Most people agree!
Whenever I use it on sessions, the producers always want to buy it from me.
It’s an amazing-sounding Marshall. I’ve been trying to get it
cloned because I need a backup for it obviously. I also have a B rig, which
we leave for different stages. Gear will go to Australia, some will go to
Japan – that kind of deal.
I needed a duplicate, so I talked to a few different people and they’ve tried. I couldn’t find anybody to come close to it. I found this company Voodoo, and they made me a clone that is just amazing. They made me a few of them, and I even bought another 100-watt Marshall from the same month, thinking the transformer would be somewhat close. It’s not. They built me a couple from the ground out that are just spot on, actually better. Voodoo is just incredibly amazing. They’re unbelievable.
Ultimate-Guitar: Can you give us an idea of what your setup looks like for a Guns N’ Roses show?
Richard: It’s constantly evolving. There’s a constant quest for the perfect tone. My tech and I are equally obsessed, so we’re constantly looking for new stuff and trying to make it better. Recently what I’ve been using is the Divided By 13 and the Voodoos.
Ultimate-Guitar: You’re much more than a rhythm guitarist, and you have often played some unbelievable solos during the GN’R show. At this point in your career, do you have a preference of playing rhythm or lead?
Richard: I’m really just more interested in creating music than showing off. So whatever I can do to support the music, I really have no preference one way or the other.
Ultimate-Guitar: There’s a quote from Axl on the GN’R site that says, “The first thing I heard Richard play was the beginning of ‘Stray Cat Blues’ by The Stones and he did it with the right feel.” Is that memory still pretty much etched in your mind?
Richard: Yeah, I was getting the sound on my amp! It wasn’t like, “Okay, this is what I’m going to play.” I was just getting the sound, and when you play something you play a riff or whatever. You’re doing something familiar to get the sound in the amp the way you want it to sound. That’s just one of those riffs. I was just playing the beginning of it, not even thinking about it. Then Axl was like, “Whoa!” He was like, “Wow, ‘Stray Cat Blues’! That’s big points.”
Ultimate-Guitar: Was that at the initial audition for Guns N’ Roses?
Richard: Yeah. I walked in the room and it was the first time I played with them.
Ultimate-Guitar: Did you immediately know that you had a musical connection with Axl and the rest of the band?
Tommy and Brain (aka Bryan Mantia), I’ve
worked with both of them before. Buckethead was there at that time, and
I came in and was
brought in to replace Paul, who had been writing with Axl and I guess he
was a childhood friend of his. He was no longer there for whatever reason,
and they were looking for someone to fill that spot.
It’s funny because 2 years before, I had gotten a call to come in and audition for them. This was before I knew Tommy. I had gotten a call to audition, but then Buckethead got the gig before I came out. I was scheduled to come out and audition. They called and said, “Yeah, we want to fly you out this week.” I was going to be there anyway doing sessions, so I could do it at that time. They said, “Perfect.” I didn’t hear back from them, so I just figured, “Well, it must not be happening.”
I got out to do the session, and Tommy Stinson and Josh Freese were on the session that I was doing for Yoshiki, ironically enough. So I said, “Hey, I was supposed to come and audition for you guys this week.” They were like, “Yeah! You’re the guy! Well, Axl found this guy Buckethead and we just stopped doing auditions.” Axl was convinced with Buckethead, so it was no problem. No big deal. A few years later another guitar player left, so that’s when I got the call. That was in 2001.
Ultimate-Guitar: How involved were you with the writing of Chinese Democracy?
Richard: The first record, everything was written. I went in and rerecorded parts, but it was all written before I got in. It’s funny because that was a big part of why I was brought in. It was because of the writing. I think Axl, he wants a band that can write with him. That’s always put into consideration.
Ultimate-Guitar: Will there be a tour soon after Chinese Democracy is released?
Richard: The next tour will be…I don’t know if I should talk about it. I don’t think we’re going to be doing dates this year, either. I think we’re supposed to be starting back up in January. I actually have commitments till then.
Ultimate-Guitar: Do those commitments involve Repo! or The Psychedelic Furs?
Richard: No, I’m actually touring with Rihanna for a couple months.
Ultimate-Guitar: You are quite a busy guy these days.
Richard: Yeah, I’m very grateful for that. I’m just one of these guys who has to be working, otherwise I get really depressed. I always have to be doing something. Rihanna’s band is ridiculous! They are just amazing players, so I thought, “This could be fun.”
Ultimate-Guitar: Have you played with a lot of R&B bands in the past?
Richard: I’ve done a lot of sessions. I did all of the Puff Daddy stuff, from “Benjamins” on. Everything that has guitars pretty much. I did a lot of hip-hop stuff. The thing is, you don’t get credited. Not that I’m bothered by it. I did stuff with ODB, DMX. I played on stuff for Riza.
Ultimate-Guitar: That speaks to your diversity. It seems like you could pretty much play any genre out there.
Richard: I’m just a music fan. It’s funny because I’m really into country guitars! I’ve done some Nashville sessions, but I haven’t done any country yet.
Ultimate-Guitar: Have you played lap steel before?
Richard: Yeah, but not pedal steel. I love it, though. That boggles my mind, those guys. I love using a B-Bender, and I love that. It would be fun to do a really cool country gig! I haven’t done that. I’ve played in a zydeco band. That was a great learning experience.
Ultimate-Guitar: Have you put the word out that you’re interested in playing in a country band?
Richard: No. It’s a different world. In New York you get called for all different types of things because you have a reputation as a guitar player. If Puffy says, “Hey, I’m looking for a guitar player” – there are a certain amount of pros that people choose from. So I would get that call. There’s not a lot of country in New York! It’s all in Nashville.
Ultimate-Guitar: Hopefully word will now get out and you’ll get that call soon! You should be able to keep expanding your talent.
Yeah! I think so, too! (Laughs) It’s so different. I listen
to bluegrass and things like that, but I’m not a big contemporary country
fan…but love the guitar players!
Rolling Stone: Chinese Democracy review
Rolling Stone, November 10, 2008 (by David Fricke) all rights reserved.
Let's get right to it: The first Guns n' Roses album of new,
original songs since the first Bush administration is a great, audacious,
unhinged and uncompromising hard-rock record. In other words, it sounds a
lot like the Guns n' Roses you know. At times, it's the clenched-fist five
that made 1987's perfect storm, Appetite for Destruction; more often, it's
the one sprawled across the maxed-out CDs of 1991's Use Your Illusion I and
II, but here compressed into a convulsive single disc of supershred guitars,
orchestral fanfares, hip-hop electronics, metallic tabernacle choirs and
Axl Rose's still-virile, rusted-siren singing.
If Rose ever had a moment's doubt or repentance over what Chinese Democracy has cost him in time (13 years), money (14 studios are listed in the credits) and body count — including the exit of every other founding member of the band — he left no room for it in these 14 songs. "I bet you think I'm doin' this all for my health," Rose cracks through the saturation-bombing guitars in "I.R.S.," one of several glancing references on the album to what he knows a lot of people think of him: that Rose, now 46, has spent the last third of his life running off the rails, in half-light. But when he snaps, "All things are possible/I am unstoppable," in the thumper "Scraped," that's not loony hubris — just a good old rock & roll "fuck you," the kind that made him and the old band hot and famous in the first place.
Something else Rose broadcasts over and over on Chinese Democracy: Restraint is for suckers. There is plenty of familiar guitar firepower — the stabbing-dagger lick that opens the first track, "Chinese Democracy," the sand-devil fuzz in "Riad N' the Bedouins" and the looping squeals over the grand anguish of "Street of Dreams." But what Slash and Izzy Stradlin used to do with two guitars now takes a wall of 'em. On some tracks, Rose has up to five guys — Robin Finck, Buckethead, Paul Tobias, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Richard Fortus — riffing and soloing in broad, saw-toothed blurs. And that's no drag. I still think the wild, superstuffed "Oh My God" — the early Chinese Democracy track wasted on the 1999 End of Days soundtrack — beats everything on Guns n' Roses' 1993 covers album, The Spaghetti Incident?
Most of these songs also go through multiple U-turns in personality, as if Rose kept trying new approaches to a hook or a bridge and then decided, "What the hell, they're all cool." "Better" starts with what sounds like hip-hop voicemail — severely pinched guitar, drum machine and a near-falsetto Rose ("No one ever told me when/I was alone/They just thought I'd know better") — before blowing up into vintage Sunset Strip wallop. "If the World" has Buckethead plucking acoustic Spanish guitar over a blaxploitation-film groove, while Rose shows that he still holds a long-breath vowel — part torture victim, part screaming jet — like no other rock singer.
And there is so much going on in "There Was a Time" — strings and Mellotron, a full-strength choir and Rose's overdubbed sour-growl harmonies, wah-wah guitar and a false ending (more choir) — that it's easy to believe Rose spent most of the past decade on that arrangement alone. But it is never a mess, more like a loud mass of bad memories and hard lessons. In the first lines, Rose goes back to a beginning much like his own — "Broken glass and cigarettes/ Writin' on the wall/It was a bargain for the summer/An' I thought I had it all" — then piles on the wreckage along with the orchestra and guitars. By the end, it's one big melt of missing and kiss-off ("If I could go back in time . . . But I don't want to know it now"). If this is the Guns n' Roses that Rose kept hearing in his head all this time, it is obvious why two guitars, bass and drums were never going to be enough.
It is plain, too, that he thinks this Guns n' Roses is a band, as much as the one that recorded "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Used to Love Her" and "Civil War." The voluminous credits that come with Chinese Democracy certainly give detailed credit where it is due. My favorite: "Initial arrangement suggestions: Youth on 'Madagascar." Rose takes the big one — "Lyrics N' Melodies by Axl Rose" — but shares full-song bylines with other players on all but one track. Bassist Tommy Stinson plays on nearly every song, and keyboardist Dizzy Reed, the only survivor from the Illusion lineup, does the Elton John-style piano honors on "Street of Dreams."
But Rose still sings a lot about the power of sheer, solitary will even when he throws himself into a bigger fight, like "Chinese Democracy." In "Madagascar," which Rose has played live for several years now, he samples both Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and dialogue from Cool Hand Luke. And at the end of the album, on the bluntly titled "Prostitute," Rose veers from an almost conversational tenor, over a ticking-bomb shuffle, to five-guitar barrage, orchestral lightning and righteous howl: "Ask yourself/Why I would choose/To prostitute myself/To live with fortune and shame." To him, the long march to Chinese Democracy was not about paranoia and control. It was about saying "I won't" when everyone else insisted, "You must." You may debate whether any rock record is worth that extreme self-indulgence. Actually, the most rock & roll thing about Chinese Democracy is he doesn't care if you do.
Pale Divine Launches Website, Releases Limited-Edition Boxed Set
Riverfront Times Blog, October 06, 2008 (by Annie Zaleski) all rights reserved.
Speaking of Guns N' Roses, current guitarist Richard Fortus dropped me a line a few weeks ago to give an update about the Pale Divine reunion show goings-on. It's still Monday, December 29 at the Pageant. [Update, Tuesday 10/7: Tickets are on sale this Friday at 5 p.m.! $25.]
First, the band put together a very comprehensive new Website at www.theeyes-paledivine.com, which contains a comprehensive discography and history, links to audio/video and press.
Even cooler, Fortus says the band is producing a limited-edition (1000 copies) boxed set that's a veritable treasure trove of Pale Divine rarities: "It's a custom hard-bound book type of package that will contain 2 DVDs of old live footage and backstage stuff and then 2 CDs. One CD will be a rerelease of our first indie record called Freedom in a Cage. The other disc is going to be the demos that we did for the second Atlantic record that was never recorded. It will come with a stitched, 16-page book of photos."
This will be available through the Pale Divine/Eyes website and at the Pageant store. (In fact, Fortus says there's also going to be a package deal where you can get two reserved balcony tickets, the boxed set and a T-shirt for a discount price at the website/Pageant store.)
Well, here's something I didn't see coming: Fifteen years after splitting, '80s/'90s darlings Pale Divine are doing a reunion show December 29 at the Pageant, a gig confirmed by guitarist/vocalist Richard Fortus. No further details are available at this time.
For those unfamiliar, the band sounded more like it hailed from England, not St.Louis, wtih its Peter Murphy-dark vocals, shimmering goth/post-punk-tinged guitars and dramatic atmospherics. Listen to a few mp3s from the band's Straight To Goodbye cd and catch the video for the Eyes (the band's name before changing it to Pale Divine after signing with Atlantic records) after the jump.
The Spirit of St. Louis
Two of the Lou's famous rockers fill us in on their favorites of 2007 — and what the next year holds
Riverfront Times, December 26, 2007 (by Annie Zaleski) all rights reserved.
St. Louis musicians hightail it out of the city as soon as they can, with
the hope that the sunnier pastures of Los Angeles or the chillier climes
of Chicago will be more welcoming than our fair city. But save for a short
stint in New Orleans, Son Volt founder Jay Farrar has lived in south St.
Louis for the last fifteen years. And he's not going anywhere.
"St. Louis is still very much a city of immigrants and that — coupled with distinctive, historic neighborhoods — makes for a good quality of life, in my estimation," he says. "I'd rather be where the action is percolating as opposed to where the action is hyped and purported to be."
That low-key attitude informs Son Volt's latest album, The Search. Released earlier this year, the release finds jaunty horns and burbling organ adding soulful color to the band's trademark dusty alt-country and gentle twang. Farrar and a four-piece band toured heavily around that record in 2007; Son Volt also released a limited-edition, extended vinyl version of The Search (called On Chant and Strum), and recorded a version of the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye" for an ESPN commercial touting David Beckham's arrival in LA.
Farrar's 2008 calendar looks fairly busy already: a few NYC solo shows early in the year, a spring Son Volt tour and the release of another Gob Iron record. (As a matter of fact, that band's Anders Parker reminded Farrar of a 2007 album fave: PJ Harvey's White Chalk.)
Still, his packed schedule perhaps explains why Farrar goes out of his way to apologize that many of his favorite releases of 2007 weren't actually released in 2007: "It usually takes six months for a new record to get to me and then another six months of really letting it sink in, and by then it's often a different year," he says. Here are some other Farrar faves.
Beck, "Strange Apparition": It seems Beck is always good to keep things interesting. I like it when he channels songs or artists, and this time it's the Rolling Stones song "Torn and Frayed" spit back out as an idiosyncratic cautionary tale as seen through the windshield of a Mercedes-Benz.
Lee Hazlewood: Plenty of incongruous instrumentation and lyrical non-sequiturs to ponder. [Son Volt guitar tech] Jason Hutto and I spent the better part of a five-hour drive from Chicago soaking up a Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra compilation. We found out the next morning that he had died the same day we were listening.
Jimmie Rivers, Brisbane Bop: This CD was recorded live by the drummer. Is it Western swing or hillbilly jazz? I don't know, but to me it always sounds fresh and intriguing.
Richard Buckner, "Town": Richard makes good with this lyrical equilibrium-buster, fueled with a looking-back-twenty-years audio landscape.
Richard and Linda Thompson, Pour Down Like Silver: This was an "album" when it was released in 1975, and to me it represents the idea of the "perfect album." I always listen straight through, and often listen to the whole thing twice in a row. The level of musicianship on this record is a marvel. And there is an element of mystery to it, down to the Sufi garb on the front and back covers.
Richard Fortus once attended a Replacements/X double bill at the legendary venue Mississippi Nights. At the time, he and 'Mats bassist Tommy Stinson were the same age. Two or so decades later, the two men are bandmates in the current incarnation of Guns 'n Roses.
It's a just reward for Fortus, a talented guitarist who first found fame in the '80s with St. Louis darlings the Eyes (who were later known as Pale Divine during their major-label days) and later in Love Spit Love, the criminally underrated '90s act that also featured Psychedelic Furs figurehead Richard Butler.
Fortus is still an in-demand musician today: In 2007, he played on albums by the Crystal Method, Puddle of Mudd, the Divinyls and Scott McCloud (ex-Girls Against Boys); worked on the Spiderman 3 video-game score and played on releases by three new (and completely separate) artists named Kerli, Krista and Karen.
As for G n' R, Fortus hit Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and Japan with the band this year, and in 2008 he hopes to be touring in support of G n' R's long-awaited album, Chinese Democracy: "No, really."
In the meantime, here are his picks for 2007's best.
I can't stop listening to Kala by M.I.A. Great references (Pixies, Modern Lovers), love the Bollywood elements and the production is very fresh and exciting.
Sea Wolf, Leaves in the River. Great songs, feels very real to me, not contrived.
Wilco, Sky Blue Sky. I think this is my favorite Wilco record yet. Nels Cline is the most inspirational guitarist I've heard in a long time. Lyrically, the strongest Wilco record.
Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Love Britt's voice. Reminds me of Springsteen, Phil Lynott and Elvis Costello while still remaining very unique.
Radiohead, In Rainbows. This record feels so much more real and organic than anything they've done before, as well as having very solid songs. In my opinion, they are still the most important band of the last two decades.
Tacks, the Boy Disaster, Oh, Beatrice. They are an unsigned band that are unbelievable. Great arrangements, beautiful lyrics, criminally unknown.
Blonde Redhead, 23. Very different to anything they'd done previously. I know, I know, it's very Radiohead-ish, but they do it well.
Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero. I really had no intention of liking this record, but...I do.
Arcade Fire, Neon Bible. I think I like it even more than Funeral. They definitely avoided the sophomore slump.
The Shins, Wincing the Night Away. Didn't like the rest of the record nearly as much as Oh, Inverted World, and not quite as much as Chutes Too Narrow, but "Phantom Limb" is stellar.
For LaPush, it seems like Modern Blues sounds a lot like modern rock. Of course, the title of the trio's latest EP doesn't refer to the musical genre, but to the feeling of loss, heartbreak and bereavement. This can lead bands to write dreary, sad-sack mopers — or, in the case of LaPush, turn the hurt into something grand and uplifting. Singer and guitarist Thom Donovan wrote the album-opening "Closer" after the death of his father, and it's as good of a send-off as anyone could want: The spacey guitar atmospherics and the alternately sad and hopeful lyrics are enough to bring a tear to the eye of a hard-hearted cynic.
Most band-produced albums don't sound this good; the EP is slick without being overproduced, and the studio flourishes are used in tasteful moderation (though the high-pitched, power-drill guitar solo in the plodding "I'll Leave the Light On" should have been axed). The pace picks up with "Brazil," a fuzzy, stomping slice of glam-rock that gives the band a chance to unload a little bit. LaPush's penchant for the grandiose is in full bloom on the last track, the existential, weighty "All the Lost Souls." Scattered rhythms leave room in the verses, and the gaps are plugged by plinking Fender Rhodes, compliments of guest Adam Maness (the song also features some earthy cello work from St. Louis native Richard Fortus, currently of Guns N' Roses). It's a proper closing track for a band caught between the vagaries of adult life and the eternal youth of rock & roll.
“Former Stranded Lad finds himself in flamenco guitar”
Sauce Magazine, July 31, 2006 (by Thomas Crone) all rights reserved.
There was a time when Lliam Christy was one of the hottest rock guitarists in St. Louis, with a reputation as someone who was plenty versed in jazz, as well.
His notoriety in town was probably cemented with a long run as the lead guitarist in The Stranded Lads, a pop-rock group that never enjoyed a national breakthrough, despite years of reigning as one of St. Louis’ favorite concert draws. Christy added to his rep with a shorter run as fill-in guitarist for Pale Divine, joining after the rock band’s single record, with Atlantic, “Straight to Goodbye,” was released.
After a stint in Rainbox, made up of former members of The Stranded Lads and Pale Divine, and session work with all types of St. Louis or St. Louis-bred acts (Robynn Ragland, The Hot House Sessions), Christy found himself in a unique situation not quite five years ago. His father met a local flamenco player, Fritz Lerma, who was heading up the group Los Flamencos.
“He was looking for another guitarist to play with,” Christy said of the now-D.C.-based artist. “We got together and he offered to show me how to play flamenco, in exchange for putting in enough effort to accompany him. It was a strange twist.”
Los Flamencos incorporated not only the two guitarists, but also dancers, principally Beth Steinbrenner, who continues with the group today. The act found work at clubs and restaurants that were sympathetic to the flamenco sound, like Modesto, where Los Flamencos maintains a long-running Monday night gig. The group’s also been slotted at special gigs around the Midwest.
Before locking into a regular schedule with the group and a stint as a solo performer in the style, Christy had to go through a period of relearning. An excellent player and solid live performer, he had to begin the process of mastering a whole new discipline.
“It feels like a definitely different time in my life,” Christy reflected. “It’s, like, before flamenco and after flamenco. There are different markers in a person’s life, and it really has been a big change. It’s almost been like thinking differently. That sounds a little silly, but you do. You approach things with … I don’t know how to describe it, but life seems more interesting. Rock ‘n’ roll is fun; jazz is challenging. But flamenco is almost like a religion. You could say the same thing about jazz, but there’s something about when you get into it, into the zone, where you’re playing. It’s addicting, it’s very addicting. You have to acquire a certain amount of knowledge. When you do, it sucks you in.”
That’s proven by the fact that Christy’s taken workshops in Spain, the birthplace of the sound, as well as his strict insistence that he’s not looking for another gig. Though he’s been publicly playing flamenco, he still gets the occasional nibbler from a local group, looking to add some star appeal on guitar.
“Yeah, occasionally, not as much anymore,” Christy said. “Most people know I’m concentrating on flamenco guitar. But yeah, I’ve turned away situations just because I’m trying to focus my energy on what I’m doing. You have to pick your battles and focus, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve focused on this thing, aside from recording with [former Stranded Lads songwriter] Andrew John to help him complete his new CDs.”
Part of the appeal of his current work is the flexibility that it offers. “It’s nice to be a solo performer,” Christy said.
But the fact is, some of his work is done in the context of a busy restaurant. A recent Saturday night gig at Mirasol found him playing to a somewhat-empty dining room on a night when business was strangely slow. Of those who were in place, maybe only a few were listening to the song.
It’s a test that many solo acts have to regularly endure, and it requires the ability to maintain an excellent performance while playing to an unpredictable audience. “Flamenco has so many aspects to its playing,” Christy said. “You can put in a strong performance without a drummer. It has a different harmonic approach than rock or blues or jazz or bluegrass; it has more aspects of the Middle East, North Africa, a Moorish influence. To me, it’s very attractive to hear. If somebody’s real interested, they may come up and know more about it. You usually don’t hear flamenco around St. Louis, unless it’s a special show, someone coming in from out of town. People who are keen to it have a definite interest in it. For other people, it’s nice background music, which is fine, too. You can’t please everybody.
"I always try to play for at least one person,” he added. “Maybe there’s one particular person that’s tuning in and I try to perform for them, actually directing my energy to them. If you’re just background, and know that no one is listening to you in a restaurant situation, you play for yourself. I’m always working on learning new stuff, new pieces and trying to perfect technique. But if you know someone’s dialed in, it changes your level of playing, you really try to perform as well as you can. That makes a good night for me, if someone’s enjoyed their night. And it’s nice if you sell CD. It’s a nice feeling to know they like it enough to come up and buy one.”
Christy plays two weekly gigs, with rare exceptions: Mondays at Modesto, The Hill’s popular tapas restaurant, with the full Los Flamencos; and Saturdays, solo, at Mirasol in The Loop. He’s also scheduled to perform Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. at the Saint Louis Art Museum’s Art After 5 event. Other show dates and information on Christy’s CD, “Guitarra Flamenca,” are available at www.los-flamencos.com and www.myspace.com/lliamchristy.
Mention the phrase "corporate rock" to music purists, and they might decry the handful of major labels that control much of the pop-music marketplace or complain about the co-opting of hit songs for use in advertising. But for some Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, who grew up playing rock and pop music and are now in the business world, corporate rock can mean strapping on their guitars and picking up their drumsticks once again -- this time, to bring the music from the barroom to the boardroom.
musicians-turned-businesspeople are part of a surprisingly large number
of rock bands formed by corporate employees to perform at their companies'
business events and charity functions. The trend is widespread enough that
there's even an annual Battle of the Corporate Bands, sponsored by Fortune
magazine and held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Over
the past four years, the list of entrants has included dozens of in-house
bands representing businesses ranging from manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson
and Briggs & Stratton to white-collar businesses such as American Express,
consulting firm Marsh & McLennan and California software makers PeopleSoft.
The phenomenon has found its way to St. Louis, too. Enterprise Rent-A-Car is home to the E-Rockers, a band formed in the summer of 2002 that has performed a dozen times at various company functions, both at Enterprise's headquarters in Clayton and off-site.
The current group, whose members have played music professionally at various times in their lives, includes Perry Thebeau, senior financial analyst, on guitar and vocals; Greg Miller, inventory control administrator-information systems, on drums; Tom Braun, director of analytical services, on bass; Bob Baker, employee communications senior writer, on guitar and vocals; and vocalist Shauna Sconce, who works as a senior project analyst.
"Before we had our debut gig, people thought it was a bunch of wannabes and that we'd just slap something together," recalls Baker. But the music, and the reaction to it, was so well received that the E-Rockers have become a regular fixture at company gatherings such as holiday events and sales meetings.
The band plays what Baker calls "a variety of uptempo party music," ranging from golden oldies recorded by artists such as the Beatles and Aretha Franklin to newer songs from Santana and the Goo Goo Dolls. They rehearse on their own time, haul their own gear and sound system and hope eventually to perform at charitable events as well as at company parties and meetings.
A company social function also provided the initial impetus for the Pro Bono Blues Band, the resident combo at the St. Louis headquarters of Fleishman-Hillard, a public relations firm that crafts communications strategies for corporate giants such as Anheuser-Busch and SBC.
The band formed in January 2000 when a group of employees gathered to perform for one of the company's "FH Fridays" events. "Every month or two, we try to do something social," explains Paul Dusseault, the band's drummer and senior vice president and partner in the corporate issues and financial group. The company's Friday-afternoon get-togethers are typically informal, with snacks, beverages and occasional organized diversions like trivia contests, but for the "January Jam," the firm put up posters inviting anyone working at the firm who played an instrument to take part in collaborative music-making.
"Of course, we ended up with, like, twenty-one guitar players, three saxophonists, two bass players, five drummers -- and one sousaphone," recalls Dusseault. "With no rehearsal, we all just tumbled into our little meeting room and said, 'What do you know? What can we do?' To a lot of people's surprise, it sounded a lot like music. That's how we discovered that there were a lot of people here who have played in bands on the side or do so now.
"Afterward, one of the younger employees came up to me and said, 'That was great! It was even better than karaoke!' I told her, 'This is what people did before there was karaoke,'" Dusseault recounts with dry humor. "Apparently, she had not encountered a social event featuring live music before."
Since then, the January Jam has become an annual tradition, and the band has been called on to perform at other company events as well. From the initial hodgepodge of players, a core group eventually emerged that includes Dusseault, guitarists Marty Richter (vice president, corporate issues and financial group) and Dave Collett (vice president, corporate reputation group), saxophonist Vic Kreuiter (senior manager, creative/print group), bassist Jason Hillery (senior vice president, corporate reputation group) and vocalists Jack Farmer (senior vice president and partner, marketing communications group) and Denise Turner, an administrative assistant with FH's design group.
Like the E-Rockers, the Pro Bono Blues Band concentrates on covers, performing classic-rock favorites originally recorded by the likes of David Bowie ("We just nailed 'Suffragette City' a few weeks ago," says Dusseault), Steve Miller and ZZ Top, as well as rootsier tunes from the Band, Taj Mahal and Etta James. But the band's format is also loose enough to accommodate various guest vocalists and soloists drawn from the FH ranks at each performance.
GUNS N' ROSES guitarist Richard Fortus will be performing at the Michael Houghton Fashion Show in New York City on February 8. Accompanying him during the gig will be Marky Ramone on drums and Andy Hilfiger on bass. The fashion show and the subsequent live performance will take place at the legendary club Don Hill's beginning at 9:00 p.m.
"GUNS N' ROSES Guitarist To Perform At New York City Fashion Show"
heretodaygonetohell.com, August 17, 2003 (by Penelope Green) all rights reserved.
For a guy who is on the road more than he's home, Richard Fortus, now a member of Guns N' Roses (the Axl Rose version) and the Psychedelic Furs, has still gathered a little bit of moss, including 40 guitars, a couple of thousand CD's, five tattoos and two cats.
Classically trained on guitar, cello and violin, Mr. Fortus, a slight, soft-spoken man of 36, has been touring since he was 16, when his band, Pale Divine, was signed by Atlantic Records. Last year he was out of town for nearly eight months, following a typical spate of work for Guns and the Furs, as the two bands are affectionately known, as well as for Enrique Iglesias, Britney Spears and others.
When it was all over, Mr. Fortus bought his first apartment, a two-bedroom with a terrace at Seward Park, one of the complexes that makes up the Cooperative Village, the former socialist and union enclave built between the late 1930's and the 1960's on Grand Street on the Lower East Side (and featured famously in the movie `Crossing Delancey,' as the home of Amy Irving's impish bubbe.)
"This is my first home," Mr. Fortus said on a recent Wednesday morning as the sunlight tumbled through a corner window and the cats, two male shorthaired orientals named Genghis and Kublai, pounced on things that weren't there. "It's the first time I've ever owned anything."
Mr. Fortus and his girlfriend, Jennifer Teichman, a model and photographer, had been living on Park Avenue, in a "dark, dreary and tiny" rent-stabilized apartment with a view into someone else's apartment, Ms. Teichman said. She had stacked the guitars in their cases in the hall; you had to sidle by them to get out the front door.
Ms. Teichman, who is 27 and from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., felt oppressed by the darkness, and by the attention she was receiving every time she left the apartment. Elegant and lovely, Ms. Teichman hails from a state where your car is your armor.
"You're not walking everywhere, as you do here," she explained. "I'd never experienced anything like it." She felt terrorized by the catcalls, and stopped wearing makeup and skirts. During one particularly onerous period, she didn't leave the house for four days.
WHEN the lease ran out, they couldn't find an apartment fast enough, though it seemed as if they had been looking forever. Certainly they looked all over, up and downtown, and even in New Jersey. Guns N' Roses wanted Mr. Fortus to settle down in Los Angeles, where Mr. Rose lives, but Mr. Fortus, who grew up in St. Louis and moved to New York City when he was 25, demurred.
" I knew when I got here I was home," he said, echoing the sentiments of changelings everywhere. "I never felt that sort of connection before." (Mr. Fortus's first apartment in New York was just a bunk at a friend's at 75th Street and Riverside Drive. Marianne Faithfull was the third roommate. "I didn't see her a whole lot," he said, "but when I did she was always very matronly. Like a princess, but in a good way. Always very regal.")
What Ms. Teichman and Mr. Fortus finally found, he said, was the last great deal in New York: one of the reconstituted apartments on Grand Street.
These apartments, built by and for garment workers — one complex is even called Amalgamated, and you'll still find a mural of Roosevelt (F.D.R., that is) in a lobby — shed their socialist links and hit the free market three years ago (that's what "reconstituted" means), rocketing up from a cap of up to $3,000 per room to as much as $450,000 for a two-bedroom.
Mr. Fortus paid $350,000 for his apartment — nearly one-third the price of a similar Village two-bedroom. His monthly maintenance is $560.
Getting a musician through a co-op board is no joke. Getting a guitarist from a famous rock and roll band through is nearly impossible. Jacob Goldman, a broker whose entire bread and butter is the stock upward of 4,500 units of the Cooperative Village, chose Seward Park for his client, who had walked in off the street one day, because that complex's board president is a musician.
Mr. Goldman, a voluble lawyer and broker, said he was struck nearly speechless when he realized who Mr. Fortus was. "I did a Yahoo search, and I started saying, `I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy,' " recalled Mr. Goldman, who is 32 and describes himself as a "massive Guns N' Roses fan."
"Anyway, to get him in the building, we had to work against the stereotype of the rock and roll musician," Mr. Goldman continued. "You know, boa constrictors and wild parties and all. So we had his former neighbors and his super write letters about what a nice quiet guy Richard is. And for the meeting with the board, I suggested a long-sleeved shirt for those tattoos, and a suit, if he had one." As it happened, Mr. Fortus's suit was in Los Angeles, but it turned out that he and the board's president were members of the same union, Local 802.
Cooperative Village is a neighborhood unto itself, and Mr. Fortus and Ms. Teichman's tenancy represents the latest evolutionary wiggle in its history. The children of all those socialists fled the area to the suburbs in the 70's and 80's, but by the 1990's, young Orthodox Jewish families were moving in, relishing the connection to a specifically Jewish past.
Today, there's another influx, of young New Yorkers like Mr. Fortus. The other day he made friends with a man in the building's new gym, as they found themselves bonding over their tattoos. "He said, `Hey, finally there's someone in here with more ink than me!' " Mr. Fortus said.
An elderly neighbor on their floor was a bit more standoffish, Ms. Teichman said: "She said, `You're the rock and roll band that's moved in.' But then she found out we had cats, and she snuggled up to us a bit."
Ms. Teichman, who models reluctantly to pay the bills, said she garners no whistles on Delancey Street, or in nearby Chinatown.
"Having a home has completely reordered our way of thinking," said Mr. Fortus, who added that he can't even walk into a restaurant without wondering how the floor was put together.
"We're both fixated," said Ms. Teichman, who found herself captivated by a friend's dentil molding the other day. "Thank God we have the same taste." Mr. Fortus gave her a sewing machine for her birthday; recently she spent a day sewing vinyl seat covers for the stools on the terrace and watching HGTV.
Mr. Fortus and Ms. Teichman are planning a stem-to-stern renovation sometime in the fall, a canny redo that includes opening up the galley kitchen and ripping up the floors. They'll tame the CD collection by transferring it to a computer. Most of the guitars have already moved to other quarters at Mr. Fortus's studio.
They've been buying things on the weekends: Indian art, Anglo-Indian furniture and the odd religious item, like a portable reliquary. They've mapped the renovation out completely, and designed it themselves. All they need is somewhere to bunk for six weeks, and a place to park the remaining 15 guitars.
Rich Fortus joins Guns N' Roses Lineup.
Radar Station, Riverfront Times. July 13-23, 2002 (by Renee Spencer Saller) all rights reserved.
In non-Nelly news, Rich Fortus - who, if you happen to be playing Six-Degrees of Nelly, is just two degrees away, insofar as he's rumored to have played uncredited guitar on the last album from Nelly's dirties 'N Sync - has just joined Guns N' Roses. Fortus, who was a member of late '80s/early 90s local phenoms the Eyes and Pale Divine, went on to play with Love Spit Love and the Psychedelic Furs. His might not be a household name but chances are you've heard his work. One of the most prolific session players around, Fortus has colloborated with everyone from trance wunderkind BT to latin-pop superstar Enrique Eglesias. Now he's in a band with a hoosier has been a former Replacement and various alumni of Primus, Nine Inch Nails and the Replicants. If you think we're pulling the guilt-by association routine, you're wrong. We've never thought Fortus was any cooler than we think he is today. Good hustle, fella!
You've got to admire Pat Oldani for his persistence. If he counted on a huge local following and a record contract for his band Starnineteen, well, he had another thing coming. Oldani had to be that other thing himself, making music without much feedback (the response, not the reverb, kind), releasing tapes and CD EPs to a select group of critics and fans, talking up his own combo with the charisma of a medicine man.
"We're just getting together at this point," he says
of the new lineup, the latest Oldani entourage. The upcoming Starnineteen
album brings together recordings made as long as two years ago, with various
musicians like drummers Dennis Stringfield, Greg Miller (formerly of Pale
Divine) and Gota Yashiki ("the funky monk") and guitarists Tom
Brammer and Wilbur Amelung. The current live version of Starnineteen features
guitarist Jimmy Hotts and bassist Job Suriyakhm. (The drummer situation is
up in the air.) According to Oldani, Starnineteen have more than enough songs
written, so now they're focused on player cohesion. "We're not recording
things when we're practicing," he reveals. "We don't have a tape
going during rehearsal. They're like great riffs we're never going to remember.
Our problem is that we're just getting together at this point, and the songs
are going out the window."
Apparently some have climbed back in. The new CD (currently untitled, though Oldani half-jokes about calling it Stargasm) opens with "Manchester Road," a tune with just enough instrumental traffic to keep things moving. By exploiting a titular allusion, Oldani brightens the late dance-rock of Manchester, England, with a coat of local color. Most striking about Oldani's music is the way it evades the category rut. His vocals have an early-'80s Liverpool feel -- bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, like Icicle Works, are evoked -- in the way they can go from a whisper to a scream in one passionate leap. The end product is dance-rock with pop hooks and a grabby beat. And except for the drummer situation, Oldani is more than ready to play -- and grab his share of fans.
Just as quickly as Oldani announces an upcoming gig, though, he becomes bummed by his drummer problem. An upcoming live radio broadcast by the Point on Feb. 27 is "kind of like lighting a fire under my ass -- to find a drummer to play with immediately, because we have that gig. And I'm doing a show on March 11 at the Firehouse."
Ultimately every artist is his or her own salesman, and Oldani proves that hype can live up to itself. He musses up the line between promotion and music, in the process revealing that the two have always been in bed -- with promotion usually on top. But instead of letting the promotional angle fuck the music until it can't stand on its own, Oldani has taken charge. With his blend of disciplelike reverence and it's-all-a-joke cynicism, Oldani walks the fine line between serious aspiration and rock blasphemy. There's a conceptual streak in this snappy pitchman who also goes by the moniker Calvin Flash. One gets the feeling that music is just one stud on the jacket of his talent. "I've performed all my life," Oldani says. "Not always music, but I've always been a performer." Indeed, Oldani comes off as the kind of guy who, as a kid, probably sang, danced and juggled for his parents' friends.
In recent years he's done some local television commercials and such, but he prefers to not dwell on the small stuff. Still, the brushes with showbiz have groomed his sense of visual expression. In fact, Oldani thinks rock & roll should be a sight for sore eyes. "It would feel pretty righteous playing in a pair of Versace leather pants or something like that. Fashion is just as much a part of rock & roll (as anything else), especially in this day and age." His fashion ideas, though, have more in common with the Who's spectacular Tommy than the despicable Tommy Hilfiger.
" I'm trying to grow as a musician," he confides, "and, in the last few years, especially as a rock & roll performer." Performance anxiety aside, Oldani finds the Firehouse a seductive siren." It's a great venue," he opines. "I played there a couple of years ago when it first opened -- played there three or four times -- and it was cool, man, a really great place to perform. The stage was huge. It had a massive drum riser; the drum riser came up to my bellybutton." He thinks the Firehouse could help extinguish the flames of scene apathy. "I know they're getting a lot more local stuff," Oldani says. And what of the so-called scene? He flashes back to the major-label virginity of an era when playing around town was for fun, not career procreation "If Pale Divine was playing down at Kennedy's," Oldani reminisces, "people went. That was the thing to do." And though he doesn't feel that the death of Kennedy's was part of a conspiracy against local music, Oldani's creative sleuthing found the missing link (at least missing in St. Louis) between conceptual theatrics and honest songwriting. Not rock theater or a hollow, asinine sendup -- rather, pop music that springs, it would seem, from a healthy dream life.
Starnineteen speaks a language whose wavelength is one of ethereal rapture, miles away from the outgoing zip of Oldani's phone voice. And it's still rock & roll -- though it's tough to say whether Billy Joel would agree, because it's been given a brash sheen of modern angst. Either way, Oldani sees it all as a matter of musical survival. In the name of the almighty guitar, bass and drums, he makes a plea for us to not prey on our heritage. "Do we want to be the generation that makes rock & roll die?" he rallies. " Personally, I don't want to be part of the generation to see rock & roll die, so I'm going to do what I can." He means it. And that means good Samaritans can make great rock & roll.
worst lyric of the week, on the other hand, comes from some of the most
bad music ever put out by a St. Louis artist, hands-down: "Lookin'
for a high-school burnout/She's tasty and she's so young." This from
the new record by transplanted-to-NYC guitarist Richard Fortus, formerly
of Love Spit Love and Pale Divine. The band? Honky Toast. We're talking
embarrassingly bad, as evidenced by the band's debut release on 550/Sony
Records, Whatcha Gonna Do Honky? You'd think, with song titles like "High
School Burnout," "Shakin' and a Bakin'," "I Wanna Be
on Welfare" and "Hair on My Teeth Again," that the shtick
would at least be kind of funny, but it's not. The shtick? Dumbed-down
boogie rock a la Black Crowes mixed with some AC/DC, which, in and of itself,
I got no problem with. What I got a problem with is the fact that it's
so obvious that the music is nothing other than a goddamn shtick; they
might as well be Sha Na Na. The experience of listening to this music is
akin to diving for pennies; you take a deep breath, dive in the water,
hold your breath and submerge yourself along the bottom for as long as
you can, then swim back up to the surface, out of breath and a paltry 3
cents richer. What's the point? I couldn't keep my headphones on for more
than 30 seconds before I had to whisk them off, suck a deep breath, grimace
and put them back on until I ran out of breath again. To add insult to
injury, they're patently, intentionally offensive; then they don't even
have to guts to back it up, judging from the disclaimer in the liner notes: "Apologies
to anyone we have offended, offend, or will offend." Please: If you're
gonna walk the walk and talk the talk, either don't apologize for it or
just shut up.
At least one anonymous local record retailer agrees: "I never thought I'd find a record that would give Jackyl some redeeming qualities."
calling Mr.Michael, but he’s not feeling well.
His back is aching, heart is breaking, you’ve reached a private hell…
That the way the title track for Pale Divine’s first and last major-label recording began. Prophetically, the 1991 Atlantic record titled Straight To Goodbye pretty much describes the band’s career at the national level. After a brief tour with the Psychedelic Furs and a long season of playing the St.Louis region clubs to death, the band closed up shop with a weekend of farewell shows on the fourth of July, ’93.
In the late ‘80s, I wrote a piece on the emerging St.Louis scene for Billboard. At the time, club bookers and music business professionals were more excited to talk about the big three: the Unconscious, Big Fun, and the Eyes, the dark, alt/rock band that would change its name to Pale Divine. They were the bands that were filling clubs, making the case for original and alternative music in a club scene addicted to three sets a night of cover-song/party rock. The Eyes had developed an intense live show, which won them criticism of some and the praise of others, before signing the major label deal.
Michael Schaerer, the showy, often cocky frontman, together with guitarist Richard Fortus, led Pale Divine to the bring of the big league. Close, but no cigar. The band had good material; in songs like “Something About Me,” “My Addiction,” and “Universe” some of us thought we heard hits. Straight to Goodbye was produced by Simon Rogers; his work with Peter Murphy appeared to make him a smart choice. All was promise and hope but Rogers took the tapes to England for the final mixes. He delivered a good sounding album that had a lush, European feel. Everyone seems to agree that Fortus’ guitars were underplayed, buried in the mix, this at a time when America was falling in love with Seattle grunge. “Something About Me,” failed as the album’s single while the band’s interest were shifted to Atlantic from Atco as the release date arrived. No promotional plan was in place, the record floundered the band did what it knew how to do returning to play regionally, waiting for something to happen.
By the time it was clear that a new record was needed, Atlantic was ambivalent, while Schaerer and Fortus were headed in different directions. Fortus was traveling regularly to NYC for songwriting sessions with former Fur, Richard Butler. At practice sessions for Pale Divine, Schaerer was often absent. Butler and Fortus launched Love Spit Love, as Pale Divine was unraveling. Now, after a five year hiatus, Michael Schaerer has returned to music, with his locally produced and financed recording, Cross To Bear. Michael met me to talk about the new recording over coffee. Here’s how our conversation went:
BQN: Michael, what have you been up to?
MS: I’m staying busy doing lots of different kinds of gigs in several bands. I play Llewellyn’s every Saturday night. The bands do a mix of covers and some originals, playing with a bunch of different guys doing a lot of different things. It’s personally satisfying, and income, which is always nice. Friday nights at Kennealy’s in Soulard, I play over 50% original material and people come requesting it. It’s all acoustic at this point, but I’m in the process of putting together a band that’ll back the project. Karen Schulz, the cellist is locked in, and I’m also trying to get a violinist; I’m really trying to reproduce what you’re hearing on the album.
BQN: Did you write the string arrangements yourself?
MS: I did, I did all of them. Ever since I wrote ‘Love Song,’ I’ve wanted to use string players, but they’re hard to find (in the circles and budget I work in).
BQN: Plus there’s an issue of writing itself do you have the ability to actually write down the parts?
MS: Actually, I don’t. I used to sight read music when I was a in choir, and that. So, I have a good ear or eye for music. But when we started working on this record, we were working more on the spot. The string players took their cues from the piano or guitar or me singing parts. Karen Schultz is a great addition to the team, and she’s just amazing.
BQN: Is the idea of a solo work something you had brewing, or did Dave Probst your producer, come to you with the idea?
MS: Dave had been coming to me for a long time. We work really well together.
BQN: It does sound great. I assume you were working under budgetary constraints, so to get something that sounds this full and professional…
MS: Well, we had a pretty good budget, but I couldn’t pay the musicians so I was calling in every favor you can imagine, you know? Dave had been calling me for years. He does a lot of recordings for local bands, and whenever he was having a slow time he’d call me up and say why don’t you come in a do a song or two. I was always, ‘Dave I’m just not ready to be in music right now.’ I really quit for a long time, I waited tables, traveled cross country, go into rock climbing, and just experiencing a lot of different things, and growing up a lot, which was probably much needed. He would on occasion call me up and say, ‘hey you wanna do a little of this I can give you a good rate?’ I started to get a little bit interested over a year ago I just thought ‘well, why not?’ But, I don’t have any money. He thought he knew somebody who might be interested, so we had a bunch of meetings with this lawyer fellow, who turned out to be quite a character. That led to investors, some people who were very interested in seeing me do music again, some old Pale Divine fans. They’ve been great, very supportive they’re very happy with the record. It turned out that I did some demos, but we wrote most of the songs in the studio, which is very unusuall for me ‘Love Song’ and ‘Witch Wife’ were written, but everything else we did in the studio. ‘Witch-Wife’ is a poem by Edna St. Vincent-Millay, everything else on there is mine. I wrote all the songs I played most of the guitar, played all the piano, and wrote most of the strings.
BQN: Did you play guitar leads?
MS: I didn’t actually play lead, but I did more tan just the straight rhythm parts that I’m more known for. On ‘Halo’ I played all the backing electric parts a lot of supportive lead stuff, but, no, blistering lead solos that just not my forte. Lacking Rich Fortus – although I did try to get him involved, but that guy is pretty busy, you know. He was supportive, and would have played but being in New York and very busy, it just wasn’t going to happen. So there are guest guitarists, friends who came in, Dave Kalz, Andy Schmidt and Jimmy Parker came in and that’s Donte Nagle who plays the actual lead on ‘Halo.’
BQN: Pale Divine fans will hear a flavor other than they might have expected? There are connections, melodically and of course in vocal tone, but given the focus on acoustic guitar and the various styles – ‘King” could easily be a country tune.
MS: Yeah, and ‘Fool’ has a jazz standard quality. That’s my dad on guitar.
BQN: That song is something you’d expect from Frank Sinatra, it’s wonderful.
MS: You know, I did that song in, like, one take. I’ve never just gone in an sung something in one take. My Dad is a great player… I come from a long line of musicians. My grandfather played for Russ David around town for years did the booking for Russ. My Dad actually played on the Admiral with my grandfather, when it was floating around doing big band. I can remember being 3-years-old and doing the ‘hokey-pokey’ on that big dance floor.
When I did this record, it was the first thing I’ve done that was just me. He was in town, and I thought what a great opportunity to get an unbelievable musician involved. He can play anything country, jazz, blues, classical, everything.
BQN: When the tune starts it sounds like a rock guitar player, playing in a jazzy way, and I presume that’s you. But then the solo comes in and it’s like, no, that’s not Michael that’s somebody with some pretty tasty jazz chops. It’s a real fluid, melodic run that’s really a nice surprise to hear at the end of your record.
MS: He’d never heard the song before, and Dave and I – I can’t say enough about Dave Probst, the guy’s a genius – he helped me coach my dad and the other musicians, to get what we wanted, performance-wise. It was my creative vision and then Dave, who really understands me a lot of the time acted as an interpreter. My dad had gone over it three or four times, and had done some pretty good solos, but Dave just said, go all out, be ultra-jazzy. He had been holding back to try to fit with whatever else was on the record, and we told him we want to get you on this track, just be yourself. And out it comes, I get chills just thinking about it. It’s a great moment. He’s from Madison, Wis., and he’s going to take the song and put it on some of his records. He’s real proud of it too.
BQN: And, he should be. So was it just time for you to return to music?
MS: It was that, and what else and I really good for? (laughs)
BQN: Your voice sounds great, here. There’s more depth.
MS: Well, the voice does mature with age, if you work at it, and I’ve been working at it, but thank you.
I’ve listened to it now, now that I’ve gotten some distance from the production, and I think yeah, it does sound pretty good. We did most of the songs pretty quickly, so yeah. You’ve said some stuff that has just made my day, when you said on the phone that you dug the strings.
BQN: Well, they are a bit of a surprise, but pleasant, nonetheless.
MS: It’s something I told Peter Carson (Pale Divine’s manager), all the time. I always told him to get me some strings. On the piano, it never sounds the same. I could sing him seven parts, there are up to seven different string parts on the album. I’ve been carrying this stuff around in my head for years, but not having a way to get it out. Violins and cello and voice are all very similar in intonation. I grew up singing in all these pop choirs in school, and it wasn’t a huge leap for me to come up with the parts. But to get somebody with money or a studio to trust that I knew what I was doing without having something tucked into your back pocket is hard.
I remember the second song we did was ‘Love Song.’ When it was done, when we finally had the violin down on tape, I was like the Cheshire Cat. It was like I can do this, I know I can do this.
BQN: It’s quite a change of pace from all the heavy, dark guitar things that we hear so much of lately, but very little of it strikes me as creative or fresh, or even like it has something to say.
MS: Let me tell you something else, when I got back into music, I specifically made the choice, and I’ve made this choice in my personal life as well… I don’t drink anymore, I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke cigarettes. It’s been a year and a half since I had a cigarette and I used to be up to three packs a day. I exercise regularly, I take vitamins, I watch my fat intake, the whole thing, and I feel great. One thing I really regret having done, and I guess you can’t really look back with regret, but so much of what Pale Divine did was really charged in a negative way, because of the situation I was in. Rock music, high-pressure, national record company, crap. After that went down, I didn’t think I’d ever do music again. But my life turned around, and I specifically decided, if I’m going to do music again, what is it that I want to say, and who is it that I want to attract to my music. It wasn’t punk rockers, and it wasn’t young kids. I love ‘em and they did a lot for Pale Divine, but I really like being around mature people.
BQN: A lot of those Pale Divine fans have grown up, too, you know?
MS: That’s true, and I’m hoping that they’ll hear this and that they’ll want to spend time listening to it. It’s definitely a listening kind of record. But, I specifically wanted to do a positive record, that’s where something like ‘Halo’ comes from. There’s one song, ‘Cross To Bear,’ which is an old, old song, it’s a song I wrote when I was 18, something I’d written a long time ago on piano. Dave forced me to do it, he said you have to get this out. It’s really immature emotionally, it’s so much a product of teen angst.
BQN: Do many of your fans realize that you’ve played piano all along?
MS: No, we never had the stage room really, in Pale Divine. Nor did it appeal to us from a visual standpoint, or impact standpoint. Rich and I were always looking to invoke a fight or flight syndrome in an audience, which is basically what power pop does, and piano doesn’t do that.
Pale Divine was a great band, I felt the promise of the band the first time I saw them take the stage at Mississippi Nights, in all that smoke and a violet wash of lights, of course, And watched with grief the band’s last show on that Fourth of July, 5 years ago. “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” Michael sang at one point. It really wasn’t fine, but it would be okay.
Cross To Bear is a very different record from an artist who has grown and changed, but there are still connections to Schaerer’s past work in Pale. The most obvious changes are instrumentation; it’s mostly on acoustic guitar with piano and smartly crafted strings, but Michael’s voice is full and strong.
It’s not surprising that the writing is solid bu the breadth – the near country vibe of “King,” the quiet richness of “Adagio,” and the jazzy sophistication of “Fool” – is unexpected. “Love Song” dates back to Pale Divine, but it doesn’t sound that way. “Halo” and “Wonderful” move toward classic folk pop song construction, and they work. If St.Louis had an adult alternative station worth a damn, one might expect these songs likely candidates for airplay.
It’s been a long, difficult journey, but Mr.Michael seems to have arrived safely at home for now.
On Friday nights at Kennealy's, a dark yet impeccably furnished little room on Menard, the crowd arrives punctually at 10p.m., ready to hear songs from a songwriter and performer they've heard a few times, too.
Michael Schaerer doesn't cut the figure he did 10 years ago, when he was fronting Pale Divine, thought by some to be that band that would break St.Louis in that less constrictive, alt-rock heyday. His black duds are gone, replaced by overalls, T-shirts, cap. The band he plays with on Fridays - the three-piece, acoustic Tiny Cows - schlepp in and tear down their own gear. It's an operation that moves; from Kennealy's to Llewelyn's on Saturdays to the Brick on Sundays.
The performance, too, is spare and simple. After quick thanks to the crowd, Schaerer looks at his combo, and they decide the next song with a nod or quick word, or Schaerer just starts a cut and the players fall in behind him.
The voice is still unmistakable, whether it's wrapped around an original or a cover like R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" - an odd choice for a cover, maybe. Or maybe not. Schaerer has to fill a whole night with songs, and he veers between the predictable (his announcement of a Dylan track is followed by "All Along The Watchtower") and the less so. Most selections are slowed down, way down.
This night at Kennealy's, with technical problems delaying the start time, Schaerer promises a twist on the evening. He's recently released a dead-solid solo CD, Cross To Bear, and he's bringing in two string players to add parts to some of the album's songs. Though the cover songs have been paying the bills recently, he talks about spending the last two weeks in front of the computer, patiently composing sheet music that'll augment the mere two hours of practice he's had with the strings.
When he plays the occasional original with the regular band at other times, the audience responds. These fans, though, approve of the covers, too: Just one song in, a cat at the end of the bar is shrieking "woo-hoos" like a schoolgirl. A lot of the faces in the audience look familiar; they've been seeing and hearing Schaerer since the Pale Divine days and probably even caught the short-lived Rainbox, which featured some of the same players as Pale Divine but little of that group's potential. It's the old Kennedy's crowd, some have said, a few years older and with better jobs, but they're loyal and still drink their beer to the sounds of live music.
Schaerer has regrouped, too, and the songs on Cross to Bear carry tinges of folk and jazz, though some could be muscled up and played by the type of band he used to front. He's happy spotting them into sets like these for the time being, though a full string section backing him in a more concert-type mode is what he's after.
It's refreshing to hear Schaerer in this context. He achieved some serious attention early; he lived the life. Now, the simpler goals are before him: selling a few copies of his new CD, making a living playing guitar and singing, seeing what happens from there.
Schaerer closes out the night at Kennealy's a touch after 1 a.m., and the bar staff slips in the Pale Divine CD Straight to Goodbye. He looks amused at first; then, as the band's electro-stomp single "Something About Me" continues, his humor seems to drift and he turns off the power halfway through the cut.
That song has little to do with him now. That action, his calmer demeanor, this night's set all indicate that clearly.
When St.Louis' Pale Divine found itself unable to coalesce and create a follow-up to Straight To Goodbye, the alt-rock quartet's Atlantic Records debut, their choice for album title became prophetic. Rich Fortus went off to New York to join Richard Butler's Love Spit Love; Dan Angenend hung up his bass; Greg Miller moved into the percussion chair of Radio Iodine; and Michael Schaerer, among other things, waited tables at Fitz's and drove his motorcycle across the country. Schaerer returns to the local music scene with his solo record, Cross To Bear, after months of avoiding invitations from producer Dave Probst to record. "It was just time to return to music," admits Schaerer. "That, and what else am I really good for?" he laughs.
Of the artful, positive pop direction of his solo outing, Schaerer suggests, "When I got back into music I made a choice, and I've made this choice in my personal life as well. I don't drink anymore, I don't do drugs, and I haven't had a cigarette in a year-and-a-half. I exercise regularly, take vitamins -the whole thing- and I'm really happy. What I did in Pale Divine was real charged in a negative emotional way, because I was going through that... rock-music-business, high pressure, national-record-company crap. It was a struggle. I didn't think I was ever going to do music again. My life turned around, and I thought, 'If I'm going to do music again, I want to do something that is positive.'"
Compared to Pale Divine's dark electric-guitar-driven approach, Schaerer solo if focused predominately around acoustic guitar and piano pop, with band embellishments as required. What will surprise many are the delicate, intricate string arrangements, featuring Karen Schulz on cello. "I wrote most of the material in the studio," says Schaerer. "'Lovesong' was already done, and 'Witch-Wife' was written -it's a poem by Edna St.Vincent Millay. Everything else is mine. I wrote all the songs, I played most of the guitar, all the piano and wrote all the string arrangements. I didn't play guitar solos - that's not my forte."
Although Fortus was supportive, he didn't come back to contribute. Stir's Andy Schmidt plays a solo on "Wonderful," Dave Kalz adds guitar to "King" and "Witch-Wife," and Schaerer's father, Cliff Frederiksen, adds a jazz turn to "Fool." "My dad's great," says Schaerer. "I come from a long line of musicians. My grandfather played for Russ David for years; my father actually played on the Admiral with my grandfather when it was floating around doing big band. I can actually remember being 3 years old, doing the hokey-pokey on the big dance floor."
These days, Schaerer is playing solo around town and putting his own band together. He also plays "with a bunch of different guys going a bunch of different things, mostly playing covers and garnering income, which is really nice. Tiny Cows is the guitar player of KingoftheHill and the singer of Pale Divine doing Credence covers at Boomer's. It's fun."
When Richard Fortus returns to St.Louis, which isn't all that often these days, it's an unusual experience. On tour and playing his hometown with the band Love Spit Love, he says, is nothing less than "surreal. Everybody I know wants to connect all at once; it's really difficult to describe how that all feels."
Of course, one of those forces at work in the breakup of Pale Divine, St.Louis' first band in recent history with a major-label release, was the attraction Fortus was feeling toward a growing collaboration with Richard Butler, leaving the Psychedelic Furs to start fresh. That new thing was Love Spit Love, which debuted with a fine, self titled disc on Imago Records in 1994. "Am I Wrong" was a modest hit, and LSL was on tour opening for Live when the label ran into trouble. Now, after two years of scrambling, Love Spit Love returns with Trysome Eatone.
On the new one, Fortus splits writing and production credits equally with Butler. "Richard writes the lyrics," says Fortus. "I'm responsible for the music. Some of the ideas go back 10 years. There are a couple things on this record that Pale Divine played, or at least we tried to play, at the end."
So, you're not Richard Butler's boy anymore? I ask. "Well, I guess I am," says Fortus, laughing. "At the end of the day, this is his record. Even though we make it sound like it's an equal partnership, it's his deal. The thing is that I feel a lot more comfortable writing with him. I feel more secure in my position."
Still, Butler is on the cover of the new album alone, and his is the only face in focus on the band's official photo.
Fortus has made New York his home, and sought out alternative sources of income and creative expression. "I write a lot of TV commercials. I really dig the immediacy of it; it's like not having to sit with a canvas for three months, looking at it every day and asking yourself, 'Does it need something, does it really work?' You go in in a day, you spew all over the canvas and, boom, it's done and sold and you're working on to the next one.
"Plus, I've been writing with different people - with Billy Idol, but that album won't be out for awhile, and Puff Daddy. I'm supposed to do some writing with Bryan Ferry next month, which is pretty exciting."
In addition, Fortus has two side projects. "I've got another band that I've been playing with just for fun," he says. "Honky Toast is just a straight-on rock & roll band, like Stooges, AC/DC, MC5. It's real punk rock. It's undeniable, and it's just so honest, A&R people are going crazy."
But what he describes as the only band that I feel is completely representative of me" is far less active, because the players involved are in greater demand. In addition to Fortus, there's "Jon Carin, the keyboard player; he tours with Pink Floyd and the Who. It's been really difficult to work together, but the material is stellar - it's the best thing I've ever been involved with. The other guitar player is Eric Schermerhorn, who's played with Iggy (Pop) and The The. He's actually playing second guitar with us, with Love Spit Love."
Has all this made Fortus cynical? I ask. "It's been interesting to work with this new band - that's been courted by every major label - to listen to the lines of bullshit that they dish out. It's funny to reflect back on the Pale Divine days and how difficult my attitude is now. They get you believing that you're going to be the next big thing. Everyone buys into that, and they know that it works.
But has it ruined music for Fortus? "No," he says, "It's just made it all a lot more personal."
Love Spit Love return to Mississippi Nights on Friday, Oct. 10. For his part, Richard Butler steadfastly refused to play songs from the Fur's catalog on LSL's first tour; however, on the eve of the release of the two-disc Should God Forget: A Retrospective, he's decided that they might go back for a few memorable chestnuts.
Radio Iodine is looking good. You know, ready to rock. Bassist Tony Persyn is wearing a baggy night dress right out of The Night Before Christmas and wife/singer Ellen Persyn has on a tiny, tight, black vinyl skirt and a skinny, red shirt that makes her look as if any moment she could fall out of her clothes.
Auxiliary keyboardist and rhythm guitar player Anna Berry, whose harmony vocals give Radio Iodine a haunting depth, is wearing a bikini top and way loose jeans. Drummer Steve Held and lead guitarist Tom Bramer, well, they look like guys in an alternative rock band.
The show, which indeed rocked, was Radio Iodine's headlining spot before a packed-to-the-rafters audience at the Hi-Pointe. Playing the audience with its dramatic, intense and aggressive originals, this band made a vital connection while making it quite clear that they were an act with a promising future. They've come a long way - both musically and image-wise - from the days, not that long ago, when the Persyns fronted 9 Days Wonder.
"I think the most important reason for the name change was a switch in musical direction and adding new members," Tony says. "It seemed like the perfect time to do the new music and go in the direction we really wanted to go with the new people in place. Plus, they were getting ready to release the second Pointessential CD, so that was a great way to establish this new identity."
Sonically, the Persyns & Co. have taken the ethereal art/pop sensibility of their 9 Days Wonder songwriting and added the strum und drang of industrial grist and the sonic aggression of cutting-edge, alternative rock to the mix: more loud guitars, more noise and dissonance.
"Really," adds Ellen, "the bottom line is emotional intensity. It's just more potent. It's harder, with more passion, aggression - a confidence and even a sexuality that's coming out onstage - that wasn't there a year ago."
"We've been talking to a few labels," Tony offers, "but we're not going to sign something too quickly."
"We don't want a deal," agrees Ellen, "just for a deal's sake."
"We want to be in the business long-term," concludes Tony. "Part of that is building up a good regional following and working our butts off. And that's really the method that we're going to use, unless something really good comes along. We're in it for the long haul."
Love Spit Love: Focus On New Band With No Looking Back
Spotlight, November 1995 (by Brian Q. Newcomb) all rights reserved.
In any other city in the free world, the live concert debut of Love Spit Love would be received entirely as the return of Richard Butler, former leader of the Psychedelic Furs.
But here in St.Louis, the abundance of Pale Divine shirts in Sunday night’s sold-out Mississippi Nights audience would indicate there was a strong hometown contingent to support the new band of guitarist Richard Fortus, formerly of Pale Divine and the Eyes.
Although noticeably lacking in homecoming schmaltz, Love Spit Love delivered spirited performances while keeping the focus on the new band entity and current material.
From the opening guitar chords of “Green” to the final notes of the familiar pop hit, “Am I Wrong?” Butler and Fortus kept a delicate balance between the raw energy and aggression of their harder material, and the tender melodies and restrained, tasteful passages. This was most effective in “Superman,” “Half A Life,” “St.Mary’s Gage” and “Change In The Weather,” songs that juxtapose louder and softer passages to great dynamic effect.
While the album versions of the band’s self-titled Imago Records debut, produced by Dave Jerden, tend toward mellower, more-elaborate orchestrations, live Love Spit Love turned the traditional power-trio on its side to produce something that is at once familiar and also startingly new. Without keyboards and additional strings, the arrangements were decidedly more muscular and visceral than the recorded versions. Drummer Frank Ferrer and new bassist Lonny Hillyer controlled the dynamics, laying the grounding for Fortus to build upon. And build he did.
Richard Fortus’ versatile guitar stylings, technical virtuosity, and emotionally congruent approach to solo-ing is an utter delight. He seems inclined to play just the right things, blending notes and tonality to underscore the words sung by Butler. His two guitar solos on “Codeine” – the first a playful exhibition of wah-wah heroics, and the second a jazzy, scale bending excursion that peaked in a intensely chorded crescendo – and his overall performance seem to scream an obvious star quality.
But of course, Love Spit Love already has a star in Richard Butler, who seems to have taken a real shine to his new band. Energized and engaging, Butler spun, waved, spoke through a blow-horn, hummed through a kazoo, and sang in that otherworldly voice that is distinctively his own. Clearly in Fortus, Butler has found a foil that brings out his best.
Two new songs and ten out of twelve from the album made up the set and two encores. Butler and Fortus came out to perform “Wake Up” as an acoustic number before joined by the band for “Am I Wrong?” No Furs flash-backs. No “Pretty In Pink” and no “Heaven,” but that’s ok. This is not the Psych Furs, and it’s a long way from Pale Divine. Judging from the ecstatic audience response, there’s no need to look back.
tom-toms and meaty riffs providing a fine bed for Richard Butler's vocals,
Love Spit Love opens on a high note. On "Seventeen" the
singer ladles out typically arm's-length lyrics ("I'm gonna keep the
names that I use for myself to myself"), and his new band seems a world
away from his previous outfit, the Psychedelic Furs. But the track loses
steam under a falsetto rant that sounds like a bad Monty Python impression.
That opener provides a blueprint for an album in which compelling moments
are often sabotaged by bad judgment.
Love Spit Love is a grab bag of styles and textures, and weaker numbers dominate: "Half a Life," with its strummed acoustics and tinkly mandolin, is pleasant but bland; "Please" is AOR worthy of Bryan Adams. With his vocals ranging from weary to caustic to weary, Butler's blunt melodies are better served in the understated, bittersweet "Am I Wrong." Sadly, striking lyrics ("I hear their lies flowing through my teeth") are too often dragged down by inane ones ("The only thing we know that'll come for sure is change").
Nearly all is forgiven, however, because of the atmospheric "Codeine." Supple acoustic guitar work from Richard Fortus, solid support from drummer Frank Ferrer and bassist Tim Butler and a vocal that almost swings make for a breathtaking number – tension builds slowly, drums crash in just when you expect them. Along with the calculated circus-sideshow charm of "Jigsaw" and other moments, "Codeine" demonstrates the best this band is capable of. Still, Love Spit Love promise more for the future than they deliver right now.
If you're one of those people who still laments the passing of once-hot, top-drawing band the Eyes/Pale Divine... get over it! They're history. It's time to move on. And that's exactly what former PD guitarist Rich Fortus did when he decided he was better off taking a shot at working with ex-Psychedelic Furs singer Richard Butler.
Pale Divine opened for the Furs on the only (and short) tour they did as an Atlantic/Atco label act. Fortus and Butler struck up a friendship and began working together in a New York studio while Fortus continued to fly back to St.Louis for his local band gigs. Eventually, Butler started asking for more of a commitment at the same time PD's record label was showing indifference and interpersonal squabbles were growing.
Now, well over a year later, the result is Love Spit Love, Butler's new band and a new album, which features Fortus as a major creative force. The record is being embraced by radio as the act tours extensively. The band made an appearance in St.Louis back on Oct. 9, with former Pale Divine members Dan Angenend and Greg Miller in the crowd. It looks like Fortus is finally getting the major-league attention he's earned...
"Love Spit Love”
St.Louis Post Dispatch, October 7, 1994 (by Alan Sculley) all rights reserved.
In his time with the Eyes and Pale Divine, guitarist Richard Fortus never hid his enthusiasm for the Psychedelic Furs. So you can imagine his excitement when Pale Divine, then supporting its album “Straight To Goodbye,” landed the opening slot on a string of Furs concerts two years ago, and he even got to play violin on several songs during the Furs’ headlining set.
“I’ve seen them on every tour since ,” said Fortus. “It’s funny, because I remember somebody interviewing us in St.Louis right after we got signed, and they said if you could tour with anybody who would you like to go out with. And I remember saying the Furs. And in Pale Divine’s bio, they listed the Furs as one of my main influences.”
As exciting as the tour was, it (pardon the pun) pales alongside what has happened since the final date of that tour. The Furs, after a successful 14-year run, broke up and singer and songwriter Richard Butler began working toward a new project. The first musician he called was Fortus. The partnership that began soon flowered, and the project evolved into a full-fledged band, Love Spit Love.
Fortus said he didn’t have a clue that the tour with the Furs might lead to an ongoing collaboration with Butler. “I was really shocked when he called,” he said. “We talked on the road a bit but it wasn’t like we were hanging out all the time.”
Despite Fortus’ obvious admiration for Butler and the unique opportunity the budding collaboration presented, agreeing to join Butler’s band was no easy decision. It meant bowing out of Pale Divine, the band Fortus had helped guide from its early days on the St.Louis club scene as the Eyes to its signing with Atlantic/Atco Records.
At the time, Pale Divine was enduring internal difficulties, but it had the full support of Atlantic, which had given the go-ahead for a second record, a situation that made Fortus’ dilemma more difficult.
“It was my life,” he recalled. “That was like my existence. I put everything I had into that band…
“ When I started working with Richard we were interviewing producers for the next Pale Divine album. We were having a lot of problems within the band as far working with Michael [Schaerer], the singer. He was going through sort of a dry period, not being able to write, and I guess just a weird time in his life. It was really difficult for me…
“ It was tough for the other guys [bassist Dan Angenend Jr. and drummer Greg Miller], too, because we were getting together and rehearsing every day, and writing and coming up with stuff. You know, we never saw Michael really, except on weekends when we played gigs. It just got worse.
“We had all these songs recorded and we were trying to get him to put vocals on it. Then he was talking about wanting to do his own acoustic album. At that point… [I felt if he was] going to do that, then it’s definitely over. I’m going to move on.”
Though Pale Divine never had the chance to deliver on the promise shown on its record, Fortus can be proud of what he achieved as part of Love Spit Love. His guitar playing throughout the group’s self-titled debut is a treat, and he also co-wrote five songs, three of which stand out and give the record much of the character that makes it distinctly different from the Psychedelic Furs.
One of the Fortus-Butler tracks, “Green,” with its soaring strings and crunching-song guitar section, echoes the grandeur of some of Led Zeppelin’s most complex music. “Jigsaw,” with its hurdy-gurdy carnival opening and dramatic guitar-laden chorus, is arguably the record’s most unique and satisfying track. And “St.Mary’s Gate” is another ambitious, highly engaging song, with its sound shifting from gentle, swirling folk to dynamic instrumental break spiced by Fortus’ staccato guitar chordings.
“I think people who know my playing realize songs like ‘Green’ and ‘St.Mary’s’ and ‘Jigsaw’ and ‘Wake Up’ [a fourth Fortus-Butler tune] are songs that are a big part of my thing,” Fortus said.
The jazzier, more atmospheric sound of those songs will be more pronounced n the next Love Spit Love album, especially in light of the departure of bassist Tim Butler, Richard Butler’s brother and another Psychedelic Furs alumnus.
The Butler brothers co-wrote five tracs on the current cd, including the lead single “Am I Wrong” and on other top track, the dreamy “More.” With Tim Butler gone, Fortus’ imprint will figure more prominently in the songwriting and sound.
Tim Butler has been replaced by former Maggie’s Dream bassist Lonnie Hillyer, who joins Richard Butler, Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer. During recording sessions, distancing the sound of Love Spit Love from the Furs was a Butler goal, to the point that musical parts that hinted at the Furs were generally left on the cutting-room floor, Fortus said.
“He was really sort of bored with what was going on with the Furs,” Fortus said. “He knew he didn’t want to go in and do another Furs record because he already knew what it would like, and knew the limitations of everybody. And, yeah, everybody’s really excited about the new band. It’s a great vibe. And live, we’ve just been killing. It’s a great band.”
“ Great Expectations”
Riverfront Times, July 24, 1994 (by Brian Q. Newcomb) all rights reserved.
Richard Fortus moves beyond the Pale with Love Spit Love, his band with former Psychedelic Fur Richard Butler.
When Richard Fortus, late of Pale Divine, first announced he would be writing and working with Richard Butler on Butler’s first post-Psychedelic Furs outing, the writing on the wall was all too clear. Pale Divine – whose Straight To Goodbye on Atlantic Records had led many to feel hat the group was the best chance St.Louis had for a major commercial-breakthrough band – had run its course.
At the time, Pale’s career seemed stalled – and those near the group were suggesting a growing distance in personal and creative goals between guitarist and co-writer Fortus and vocalist-frontman Michael Schaerer – so it seemed inevitable that Fortus would soon hitch his aspirations to Butler’s star. By the time that Pale Divine played its last dates with Fortus, the Fourth of July weekend of 1993, it was clear that Pale’s days were numbered and the Fortus/Butler collaboration was just beginning.
The end result is the self-titled debut album on the Imago label of Love Spit Love which features Butler’s trademark Fur-esque vocals and Fortus’ amazing dexterity and technical versatility as a composer and guitarist. In midspring, afer the recording was in the can and before the release date and rehearsals for a world tour, Fortus returned to St.Louis with his wife to visit friends. He sat down with The Riverfront Times for an interview.
Fortus explained that he first met Butler when Pale Divine did a string of opening dates on the last Furs tour. “About six months after the tour,” he says, “Richard called me up completely out of the blue. At that time, he said, “I’m going to be working on a solo project. Do you want to come out and work with me? And I worked with him for quite awhile.”
Because it was taking forever for Pale to get in the studio for a sophomore effort, Fortus was growing restless, if not down-right angry. He says, “We were working on a second record, but there were some thing that I wasn’t really happy with. Things were going so slowly within the band. I felt like I had done my share – it was like I was ahead and I was waiting for everybody else to catch up. Meanwhile, Dan (Angenend) and Greg (Miller) and I were practicing. There were like six weeks that we practiced every day, and we never saw Michael except for weekends, for gigs.”
“ I wasn’t real thrilled, so I was going up during the week (to work with Butler in New York) and then coming back on Friday to drive or whatever to our gig for the weekend, play and then leave Sunday. I did that for a long while. We knew that things were not going well (in Pale Divine). We had gotten the approval in the record company, we were looking for producers and things like that. They were happy with the songs we’d given them, but they wanted more songs.”
Certainly, Fortus admits, his agreement to write and record with Butler added to existing tensions in Pale. “When I started going this thing (with Butler),” he says, “Michael was like, ‘Well, I’m going to put out my own album.’ At that point, we hadn’t been able to get him to do anything with us, so when he said that, it sort of put a cap on things for me. I felt like we had been waiting for him to get motivated, and we couldn’t motivate him, and now he wants to do his own thing. He said he was suffering from writer’s block. We’d tried so many ways to try to get him to do something, and basically I was just tired of waiting.”
At the record company’s suggestion, Fortus, bassist Angenend and drummer Miller began looking for other singers. Overwhelmed by the energy required to start fresh, Fortus admits that working with the former Fur became too attractive to pass on. “Butler’s people began asking for a commitment,” he says. “Was I going to be able to do the album and then the tour? They wanted to know. (Pale Divine) was such a struggle and I had this other thing happening over here. Richard (Butler) and I got along so great.”
Given the strength of Butler’s reputation, I wondered how much ownership Fortus was afforded of the Love Spit Love project. “I feel a big part of it,” he says. “Also, with doing press and all that, Richard hates it, and he wants a friend along with him to get through the interviews and stuff. So I do all the interviews and have gone on all the trips to radio stations and MTV, that kind of thing. So in that respect it also feels like a band.”
Speaking by phone from New York about a month back, Richard Butler confirmed his commitment to Fortus and the band concept. “He’s a great player,” says Butler. “I really enjoy playing with him. I wanted to play with somebody different. If I was sitting down and writing all the songs myself, then it would have been a solo project. But since I like working and writing songs with other people, I would have been a phony to call it a solo project. I took a long time deciding who to work with and making sure I liked them as people. It’s not something I’ve thrown together, thinking I can do something different next year.”
Of his own past, Butler seems unconcerned about expectations raised by his tenure as frontman with the Furs. “I haven’t really worried too much about it,” he says. “There will be some comparisons – my voice is pretty much the same, and the kinds of melody lines I come up with are the kinds of melody lines I come up with. I don’t think I’d ever be able to change that. On a couple of songs on the record, I can hear (the Furs), but mostly I think it sounds completely different, like Richard Fortus.”
The folk at Imago Records – president Terry Ellis and VP of A&R Ron Baldwin – are equally ecstatic about the new band and record. Speaking by phone from their offices in New York, Baldwin did admit that Butler’s position in alternative-music history was important to the band’s future: “Althought it’s definitely a band project, I signed it based on Richard Butler. The demos of the songs were great – I simply loved the songs. Plus, I had always been a fan of the Furs, of Butler and his voice. When he played these songs and said he wanted to do a new band, the idea was very exciting to me. I felt there was an extremely commercial potential for the record and the artist.
“ The thing with Butler is that any record that he’s going to make is going to sound something like the Furs, because to me, he’s what was exciting and cool about the Furs anyway. It was his voice, (which is) very distinctive. There’s no way you’re going to make a Butler record that doesn’t have some similarities to a Furs record, but his approach to it, the instrumentation (of Love Spit Love) is definitely fresh. I wouldn’t want to do a Butler record that was just ‘do the Furs again.’ This is definitely a different thing. But if you’re a fan of the Furs, you’re going to immediately go, ‘Oh, that’s Butler.’”
Adds Ellis, “The record itself is a very obvious alternative-format record, and Richard Butler, from his work with the Psychedelic Furs, is a heritage artist for that format. So that’s very exciting. It’s even more appealing when (programmers) hear the record. Richard has a signature vocal style, but al the Furs fans that have heard the new record have said that this is by far the best thing he’s ever done, ever. There’s a freshness about it. I think in the last few Furs records, he’d lost some of the chemistry.”
Although Imago has had some success with the Rollins Band and Aimee Mann, Ellis suggests that Love Spit Love will be a major priority at the label. “For us, it’s an important signing,” says Ellis. “(Butler)’s an important artist – we expect to do extremely well with this record. It’s te first time that we as a company have done this kind of high-profile media launch for a record.”
Fortus says that industry response from an early appearance on MTV’s 120 Minutes to general support at Imago, has been greater than he’s previously experienced. “I’ve learned a lot more about how the business works and how you make things happen. There’s been a lot more excitement and hype, and of course a lot more acceptance: people are much more willing to do stuff because of Richard (Butler)’s name. That’s been nice, but it’s been nice to have the record company so involved, which is very different than with Pale. This whole project has been at a different level from the start – not that Pale had it really rough. When Richard left Columbia, he wanted to go to a smaller label. He wanted to be a big fish in a smaller pond, rather than at Columbia, where unless you’re Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen, you don’t get much attention.”
After some months of writing together, Richards Butler and Fortus turned to producer Dave Jerden to bring their vision to tape. Although Jerden has had great success of late with Alice In Chains and Jane’s Addiction, Fortus reminded me that he’d also worked with Public Image Ltd., Dig, the Rolling Stones and Talking Heads. That last band most impressed Butler: “He was one of a number of names that had been suggested, and I loved the productions of Jane’s Addiction. He mentioned that he’d worked with Brian Eno on (Talking Heads’) Remain In Light. I wanted to meet him, and once I’d met him, I didn’t want to meet anyone else. He knew what I did; his ideas for the sound were great. He came down and listened to the songs and said “You’ve got it together, you just need to get into the studio.’”
As it turned out, Jerden was as impressed with Fortus as with Butler. After Love Spit Love was recorded, Jerden invited Fortus to play guitar and cello on another record he was producing for two women from Europe, Never The Bride, who were coming to make a record without their own band. Fortus admits to being pleasantly surprised to find his talents in growing demand. “It blew me away” he says. “I was very surprised. I thought great players would be just a dime a dozen, and they are – it’s just that I learned that it’s not just about great players. It’s more about personality and chops. That’s what people are really attracted to, and the ability to communicate.”
As Love Spit Love hits the stores and the first single, “Am I Wrong?,” starts up alternative-radio charts, Fortus says he has few regrets. “I feel really good about what’s been happening in the last six months. Richard and I are going to Europe to do some acoustic things. Then we come back here to do some scattered acoustic radio things – hopefully do one at The Point – and then in July we do more in New York, kicking off the album with an appearance at the New Music Seminar. Then we go on tour. I’d really love to see the world, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to do this. Before I left, Jerden said, “You’re going to go off and tour with Richard?’ He said, ‘When you get sick of it in a week give me a call and move out here.’ But I really wanted to do this. I’m looking forward to touring with friends. It’s a great group of people.”
Speaking of friends, Fortus maintains some old St.Louis contacts. “I still talk to Dan and Greg all the time,” he says. “I haven’t heard from Michael. The last time I talked to him was that last night, and I don’t really know if we actually talked that night. Michael and I were never really friends. We worked together since high school, like when we were 15, 16, but never really hung out together and stuff.
“ In a sense I have moved – I don’t feel like I live here (in St.Louis). It’s so weird, because my wife stays here, and until she moves with me, I’ll still feel rooted here. She’s in school and she’s working, but we’ve talked about moving. I’m going to wait until after this tour, because I’m going to be gone for the next year anyway. My base, in a way, is in New York – I’ve got an apartment there.”
As the future unfurls for Richard Fortus, it’s clear that he’s one St.Louis musician who’s found a way to greater notoriety and opportunity. Imago’s Baldwin sums up Love Spit Love this way: “The basis obviously begins with Richard (Butler) coming from the Furs, but definitely we take the band in new directions image-wise. This is not Furs Part II. This is not a Richard Butler solo project. This is a new band. Yes, Butler is the leader of it, but it is a new band. Richard Fortus, especially, is the key to the band. There are not side guys that he hired to play on a record – it is a real band.”
"Suave Octopus: Arms are Waving Foul In Parting"
St. Louis Post Dispatch, March 1994 (by Paul Hampel) all rights reserved.
For The Record: A recent personnel change in the band Suave Octopus apparently didn’t happen with all the warmth and fuzziness we were at first led to believe.
Ex-drummer Mark Hrabovsky tried to set the record straight in a fax. “Last week, a press release… stated that I left the group because of musical differences. This is completely untrue,“ began Hrabovsky’s fax.
“The fact of the matter is I was kicked out of ‘Suave’ without a moment’s notice. The news was thrown to me in a five-minute phone conversation from [lead guitarist] Dave Kalz… the reason given was simply that [the band] wanted a ‘slamming’ drummer; somebody who would hit harder… Kalz assured me that… he wanted me to finish out any remaining booking claiming [the band] would have to cancel gigs if I refused. All of this was a lie! A mere three days later, at the final Pale Divine show, it was made clear to many in a very boastful way that Greg Miller [Pale Divine’s drummer]… was now officially the new drummer of Suave Octopus.“
Hrabovsky also asserted that members of Suave Octopus have been spreading a rumor that he is begging to get his old job back.
“No amount of pleading or begging could ever persuade me to rejoin a group of liars,” read Hrabovsky’s fax.
Suave Octopus singer/guitarist Matt Westphale claimed the switch was a “business decision. I don’t know what Mark is trying to accomplish with the fax. We told him four months ago that we wanted him to play more aggressively, more athletically. We recommended he buy a new drum set, but he said he wouldn’t do that unless we got a record deal. There is no easy way to let go of anybody,” Westphale said. “The bottom line is we told him what was expected of him and he didn’t respond. He didn’t leave us much of a choice. He certainly shouldn’t be surprised by what happened.”
It wouldn't be a week in St.Louis music without at least one significant personnel shift. With the departure of drummer Mark Hrabovsky, a couple of players' names surfaced as potential replacements for the Suave Octopus percussionist. At is turns out, the most prominent one survived the cut. Greg Miller, a member of Pale Divine until their recent breakup, will be joining the group. Suave Octopus is keeping its scheduled gigs in place, including a visit to South by Southwest next week. They're not missing a beat at home, either, with shows at Kennedy's all through this weekend. We'd expect nothing less.
After months -- actually, about a year -- of various rumors floating about, Pale Divine played its last show at Mississippi Nights on Friday. Three main factors remain central to the demise of the band: being dropped by the Atlantic Records subsidiary East/West; the departure of guitarist-songwriter Rich Fortus (he's joined a New York-based band fronted by Psychedelic Furs' vocalist Richard Butler); and questionable management decisions, such as their light touring during the crucial months after the release of Straight To Goodbye.
Though Pale Divine decided to curtail playing a while ago, they wound up taking a couple of extra months to officially end the project.
Bill Christy, who replaced Fortus, says that most of the group's members have firm commitments. Bassist Dan Angenend will be "out of the country for a few months," vocalist Michael Schaerer is putting together a long-discussed acoustic act, and Christy will continue in his role as lead guitarist of the Stranded Lads. Drummer Greg Miller's plans are still pending.
"If there's going to be another show, it's not going to be for a long time," says Christy. "There's been a lot of talk about when the real last show was going to happen, but this one's going to be it, especially with Dan leaving. The time's right - everyone's got something else going."
In case you haven't heard yet, Bill Christy (guitarist for the Stranded Lads) will begin playing out with Pale Divine starting Labor Day weekend at Kennedy's. With all the confusion surrounding the band's farewell gig earlier this summer, it seems the story now has guitarist Rich Fortus leaving Pale Divine to pursue work with Violent Femmes singer Richard Butler and other opportunities that come his way. As for Christy, the new position appears to be a temporary one, as everyone insists he is still very much a member of the Lads. In fact, the Lad's hope to finally have a new CD out before long. Of course, all these details are subject to change...
*note: I just wanted to comment on the sarcasm in this little news snippet and point out that Richard Butler's former band was obviously the Psychedelic Furs, not the Violent Femmes.
Live Wire, Pale Divine
Riverfront Times, June 30, 1993 (by Brian Q. Newcomb) all rights reserved.
Two years after its major-label debut, Pale Divine seems set on a course that will "skip hello and go straight to goodbye." Given a growing number of side projects and rumors of a breakup, the band called the RFT to clarify its current status, officially announcing a professional hiatus. After July 2-4 appearances at Kennedys the band has decided to stop playing live. Although members are unwilling to say that the band is through, these are indicators that suggest Pale Divines future is limited.
a concensus that major mistakes were made at every stage in the recording
and release of Straight To Goodbye. Guitarist and songwriter Rich Fortus
admits that the band has no one to blame but itself: "I think we screwed
up in the picking of the producer and trusting somebody else. I think the
way he got performances out of us, having us play separately and not as
a band, was a big mistake. Theres no energy, no vibe to it." On
this, Fortus and singer and co-writer Michael Schaerer agree: "We
let this guy take the album over to England and mix it himself, without
us even being there. A lot of things happened with the first record that
demoralized the shit out of me personally: the way we got switched around
between record companies, we werent well-distributed, the lack of
promotion. I still think were one of the best playing bands on the
planet, bar none. Im very proud of what we do, and when we get lost
in the shuffle in this major-label thing, Im just so fucking bitter
and burned by that. "T wo different trains of thought emerge. First,
theres a feeling that the failure of the first album to fulfill commercial
expectations and the delays in beginning the second have left the band
in a no-win situation. Bassist Dan Angenend Jr. says it best: "Weve
been doing this for six years, and after all this time its still
the same thing. With the exception of six weeks to do the record and six
weeks to do a tour, weve been playing two days a week, a about six
different clubs, with the same songs." Second, there is an undertone
of internal dissension between the bands players and lead singer
Schaerer. Fortus explains, "We are wanting to do heavier stuff, and
Michael is wanting to do more acoustic stuff, mellower stuff." Responds
Schaerer, "Im into doing whatever kind of music the bands
into. Im kind of having a lot of trouble, however, writing music
that is more progressive, which is the way the band wants to go. I definitely
come from more of a folk-song background, and, while its a blast
for me to perform (Pale Divines) music and I like that kind of music
a lot, writing it doesnt seem to be working for me." "Musical
differences" in band breakups are often used as code for the simple
fact that two parties dont want to keep working on the same music
with each other. Schaerer speaks as if hes more than ready to bow
out: "Its pretty clear that I dont have any idea how the
music business works," he shrugs. "So I guess Im just going
to be relegates to has-been status, also-ran status.
Too bad." Too bad, indeed.
Fortus refuses to call it quits for Pale Divine he carefully describes this time as "a hiatus of undertermined length" but he admits that he, Angenend and drummer Greg Miller are planning to audition vocalists. Fortus has also been traveling to New York to work on material with ex-Psychedelic Furs leader Richard Butler. Fortus has been offered the gig to record the album and has written some of the material with Butler. Angenend and Miller are playing out occasionally with a couple friends as Whatever. Says Angenend, "Its something to do for fun."
Fortus has suggested that Pale Divine may decide to do some future shows, perhaps in a couple months, to thank fans. Although hes cautious not to use the word "goodbye," he still sounds ready to "skip hello."
All you Pale Divine buffs will be pleased to hear that the band is now preparing to record its second album on Atco Records. According to lead guitarist Rich Fortus, the follow-up to Straight To Goodbye will lean toward a much rawer, heavier sound. "This album will be a lot more like we are live than the last one was," Fortus maintains. "This will be a lot more intense."
Still in the preproduction phase, the guys are currently at work writing new material for subsequent "test demos" which will aid them in the final selection process. Fortus further explains, "We've already done one demo with about eleven or twelve songs on it. We're going to make another one with five or six songs, take the best off both of them and send those out to producers. I think the ones that we've got in the works right now are gonna be very happenin'."
A few demo possibilities that have been eliciting favorable crowd response around town include "Nothing Turns Me On," "Had A Girl" and "My Only You," which features lead vocalist Michael Schaerer on electric guitar.
Well, they've certainly got the right songs, now all they need is the right producer. Any good prospects thus far? "We've already had Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics call us. And he was interested in doing it," Fortus discloses. "There are also a copule other people that called and were interested that we're thinking about using."
It sounds as though Pale Divine pretty much has everything under way, except... "Michael should get tattoos on both arms," the band members say in jest to a roomful of laughter. Schaerer then flexes in front of the dressing room mirror and jokingly replies, "I have to like get some muscles before I can get tattoos, because then if I ever got muscles or if I ever got fat, the tattoos would change. A panther would become... a hippopotamus! It could happen!"
Meanwhile, the tattoo-less quartet is tentatively scheduled to make its first in-studio appearance on an upcoming episode of teh Spotlight Weekly Video Show. So check out the show's local cable listings (see the ad in this issue) and keep your eyes open.
Though they're not known for their touring habit, Pale Divine will be embarking on a series of weekend outings throughout the Midwest over the next month. For the past few months, the group's been working on demo tapes for their next Atco release, with the label having picked up the option for the next album, a fact that, when dealing with major labels, is an accomplishment in itself.
"We've done several sets of demos, which have met with a mixed amount of success" says Michael Schaerer. "Last time we jumped in with both feet and both hands and wound up to our neck in it. With the money and the time we have we don't need to go so quickly. But right now, I feel like we could go in tomorrow."
Schaerer adds that a producer has yet to be tabbed, and a studio. Still, recording for the awaited project should begin by October.
...Also around the local scene, Pale Divine have recently finished a three month tour with the Psychedelic Furs and they have a new video out for their great new single My Addiction. More power to your elbow lads.
Pale Divine: Bass Guitarist From Fairview Heights Learns The Ropes by Touring Country
News-Democrat, 1992 (by Bobb Kehrer) all rights reserved.
Dan Angenend Jr. doesn’t know where he will be in the next five years, but one thing is certain – he will be home on Saturday.
Angenend, 23, of Fairview Heights, is the bass guitarist with the alternative rock group, Pale Divine. The local group is currently the opening act for the Psychedelic Furs club tour, which will bring Pale Divine home to St.Louis at 9pm Saturday at Mississippi Nights.
Angenend started playing the saxophone in the Pontiac/William Holiday School Band. When he was 16 and playing in the orchestra at Belleville East High School, Angenend switched to the bass guitar. He also decided to walk on the edge and join a rock band.
“ It was a bunch of guys from East – we were called The Edge,” Angenend said in a phone interview on Monday from Salt Lake City, Utah. “It was just a high school band. Actually, we did play a bunch of eighth-grade dances. It was pretty funny.”
As he got older, Angenend became more serious about his music. While he was a member of the Newsboys four years ago, The Eyes, a popular St.Louis group, was looking for a bass guitarist. After hearing him play a few tunes with them, The Eyes had only eyes for Angenend. And he gladly made the switch.
The Eyes released their independent album, “Freedom In A Cage,” in 1989 and quickly became one of the hottest bands in St.Louis and the metro-east.
While working on their second album, “Straight To Goodbye,” The Eyes changed their name to Pale Divine in 1990.
The name, Pale Divine, is a contradiction in term. Whereas pale may be interpreted at faint, feeble or weak; divine is defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary as supremely great, good or inspired by God.
The group may not be supremely great or good, but definitely does not pale in comparison to such groups as Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen or The Cure.
“(The name) was out of a poem from a friend of ours and I think we kind of bastardized a verse – something divine. It had a kind of nice sound to it. It was good for getting people to ask about it. We went through about 10 billion names and it seemed like every name we came up with was taken,” Angenend said.
The band is comprised of Angenend on bass, vocalist Michael Schaerer, guitarist Richard Fortus and Greg Miller on drums.
“Emotions are at the center of Pale Divine’s music,” Fortus said. “Our main inspiration is looking at ourselves honestly, then writing songs that are confessional in nature. I think that has been the source for a large part of our success so far, because people feel many of the same emotions, and they can relate to really honest lyrics.”
Lyrics like these from “Flow My Tears”:
Empty heart that overflows
I cry words emotion picture shows
They document the years
And free my flowing tears
Flow my tears
For such a waste of endless time
I cry words a speech
They won’t express my fears
They flow my tears
When the tour ends in Boston, Angenend will return to Fairview Heights to hand out with his friends and practice.
“We still play the weekends at Kennedy’s and Mississippi Nights,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be getting right back on another tour in a couple of weeks after we get back – they’re working on that now.”
Meanwhile, Pale Divine is gaining knowledge from touring with Psychedelic Furs.
“I don’t think that, as far as musically, they have altered our idea of what music is about, but, its is definitely a learning experience to watch these guys work the crowd – they’re pros. It’s hard to explain, really. They – just they way they deal with different crowds in different clubs and different venues,” Angenend said.
Angenend has started practicing tai chi, a slow motion form of martial arts and body conditioning, to relieve the stress of touring.
“It helps me keep calm. Some of the stuff gets pretty stressful. Like (Sunday), we got up and drove 14 hours. Now we are doing a radio show today and then a sound check before the show,” he said.
Just five minutes of tai chi in the morning, and Angenend can get through the day. Though not all days are bad, it just helps to be prepared for the days that are.
Angenend’s worst touring experience came north of the border.
“The night in Vancouver, with no one knowing who we were was the worst. That’s the kind of stress I was talking about.”
Instead of feeling defeated, Angenend found the inattentive crowd an incentive to play harder.
“A lot of times the fans don’t know who you are – they don’t care. It makes you want to win those people over.” He said.
Angenend’s best experience with the band was making the video for the song “My Addiction.”
“Doing our video was a blast… It was really interesting to see how film all worked. It was really an uncomfortable feeling – you’re just standing there not playing – you’re just faking it and you have all these people looking at you. They way the director manipulated you made you feel better about the situation.”
The video, which took 14 hours to make, will be shown on MTV’s “120 Minutes” on Sunday.
The group has not yet started work on a new album, but Angenend said, they are playing four or five songs that probably will be on the next album.
Angenend’s career had a close call seven weeks ago when he broke his right hand after leaving a performance. “I smashed my hand in a car door in St.Louis. At that point, it is not really affecting me at all. At first it was kinda tough because I had a cast on my hand,” he said.
“He had pins put in his hand,” said Peter Carson, manager for Pale Divine. “It was pretty gory.”
When Pale Divine’s fans come to Mississippi Nights on Saturday, they can expect to hear the emotionally charged songs that have become a trademark of the band. “The fans can expect to see a two-hour show crammed into 45 minutes,” Angenend said. “Actually, it is probably more explosive than normal shows.”
On its second trip through town in support of the "World Outside" album, the Psychedelic Furs packed Mississippi Nights on Saturday evening. With able support from hometown heroes, Pale Divine, the program was a cohesive alternative music mix from start to finish.
Pale Divine kicked off the concert with highlights from its Atlantic album, "Straight To Goodbye." Most of the material was familiar to the crowd, making the distance from the stage to audience very small indeed. The quartet's grass-roots following was evident, with vocalist Michael Schaerer doing his level best to connect with tunes, including "Something About Me."
Within a swirl of dense lighting effects, the Psychedelic Furs opened with the sudden impact of "Valentine," a worthy mid-February choice. The British expatriates, now firmly based in the Big Apple, have honed their dark, brooding sound into a finely tuned drone. Although quite a few acts have mined the same musical territory, rarely have the results produced such staying power or career longevity.
Apparently Pale Divine's brilliant lead guitarist, Richard Fortus, has made inroads with the Furs. Performing on his electrified violin, Fortus constituted a string section, with cellist/guitarist Knox Chandler on "Tearing Down" and "Get A Room." The effect of the pair in concert with the rest of the Furs' pulsating ryhthms made for breathtaking sonic textures.
Vocalist Richard Butler kept all eyes squarely on him throughout most of the workouts on "Love My Way," "Highwire Days" and "Until She Comes." His raspy baritone as familliar as ever, the singer's highly theatrical delivery is as smooth as a vintage port.
With other standouts such as "Heaven," " Better Days" and the classic "Pretty In Pink," the Furs had no trouble keeping the crowd in tune throughout the performance. And with a second sold-out appearance to its credit I wouldn't be surprised to see the band return before the dog days of St.Louis return.
Spotlight, February 1992 (by Bob Baker) all rights reserved.
The members of Pale Divine spend the first week of January on the West Coast shooting their first music video to the track “My Addiction.” A video preview party late last month revealed a slick, top-notch product what will be pitched to MTV sometime in February.
Veteran video producer Jean Pellerin – who band members referred to as “a crazy Frenchman” – has worked with Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, Poison, Def Leopard and other hard rock acts. However, on the PD project, the goal reportedly was to get a good image of the band performing and avoid scantily-clad babes and other overused sillyness. And that’s what they got.
Pale Divine hit the touring trail February 6th as the opening act for the Psychedelic Furs. Beginning in San Diego, CA, the journey will take the band across the country, including stops at the Blue Note in Columbia, MO, on February 21st and at Mississippi Nights the following night.
'My Addiction' Video
Source Unknown, Circa early 1992
Pale Divine held a screening for their first video, "My Addiction," last Friday night at the Embassy Suites Hotel, just prior to their show at Mississippi Nights. The vid was shot earlier this month in LA with director Jean Pellerin, whos worked with Poison, Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Guns N Roses. "It was incredible," says drummer Greg Miller. "Its the most fun thing Ive ever done. Jean was a blast. I think he had even more fun than us doing it. He really psyched us up." The video features shots of the band performing the song intercut with scenes depicting various addictions alcohol, sex, cigarettes, even religion. "At one point in the video, you see these old hands holding a rosary," Miller says. "And you really cant see her face, but its the lady from the Ive fallen and I cant get up commercial." The group is about to travel to LA for rehearsals, after which theyll hit the road in support of the Psychedelic Furs. The tour stops at Mississippi Nights on Feb. 27.
I had a chance to check out Pale Divine in late January during their last two shows at Mississippi Nights in St.Louis prior to them leaving for San Diego to join the Psychedelic Furs tour. Preceding the show the band threw a little get together at the Embassy Suites for a select few to view their brand new video. Schmoozers at the party included KSHE staffers, record company reps, a few local writers and I even had a chance to check it out. There isn't a more deserving band in St.Louis than these guys and I'm glad they finally got a great tour. All of us at Just Rock with them the best.
It ain't easy being Pale Divine. After years of trying to secure a record deal, they did, only to get transfered from Atlantic to its subsidary, Atco. Suddenly, that label went under. Or did it?
Rich Fortus, guitarist of the Divine, says that Rolling Stone's initial reports on the submergence of Atco weren't all accurate, and that the band is in no danger of being dropped as a result of its label's manuevering.
"We've always sort of been on Atlantic," says Fortus. "But we're still bering marketed by Atco/EastWest. The two merged, both being boutiques fro Atlantic. Most of the East West acts were let go, bu the majority remained at Atco. It's a better company for us now, because they took the best from each. Plus, they dropped a lot of acts, so we've got fewer to compete with for attention."
Fortus does admit, however, that the constant juggling - and the subsequent rumors here in town of the group's supposedly tenuous status on a struggling label - has been "a drag."
For example, the video for "Something About Me" is only now getting into the serious planning stages, with a director to be named soon, and shooting to begin sometime after the first of the year.
The band has also been slow to tap into college radio.
"It was not hit as hard as they should have," Fortus says. "But we'll be going back to college radio with another single. We got up to No. 23 on the college charts for radio airplay, which is good for a leadoff single from a debut."
"Universe" or "Straight To Goodbye" should be the next selection for the collegiate network, and "My Addiction" is a possible single for AOR, he says.
Still, radio success or not, one comment heard frequently about the band is its seeming reluctance to hit hte road, to travel outside of the Midwest circuit it established several years ago as the Eyes. After all, which an album in need of promotion, doesn't it make sense to leave the friendly confines of Kennedy's?
"Definitely, definitely," says Fortus. "Buts it's a tough call. We could have gone places and, the first time in, not played before anybody. Or we could wait to get into a decent agency and begin opening for people, which is what we're going to start doing in January."
Certainly, getting signed to William Morris is landing a "decent agency." That relationship's already paid off for Divine, who played just two weeks ago with the Psychedelic Furs in New York, and in a second show at CBGB's set up as a showcase later in that week.
"In fact, we might be doing some more dates with them. They wanted us to finish the tour, but they only have a few more shows left, so it looks doubtful," says Fortus. "We're dying to get out and play. We're not happy just playing the same places over and over."
which we say: more tour, less hair flipping. Dig?
The Audio File: “Straight To Goodbye, Pale Divine”
Spotlight, October 1991 (by Jim Cult) all rights reserved.
You may have heard it all by now: Record deal… long wait… name change… blah, blah, blah… et cetera, et cetera. Let’s cut to the exposition and go straight to Straight To Goodbye. You’ve probably heard most of these songs live or at least some of them on Freedom In a Cage, the independent cassette/cd, released a couple years ago.
Well, producer Simon Rogers has captured and kept the heart and energy of the initial compositions. Rogers, who has worked with the Fall and Peter Murphy in the past, seems to have let Pale Divine define their own sound. Categorizing the early Eyes’ sound found lines drawn to bands such as Mission U.K., the Church and so on… but some of the newer material carries hints of older influences. You may hear a touch of Beatles in “Universe” with its Eastern sitar-ish mysticism, a slice of Bowie in “It Couldn’t Happen To You” and even a hint of Hendrix in “Something About Me” with Rich Fortus’ feverish wah-induced fret work. But, of course, similarities are only in the ear of the beholder. Naturally, there is the original Divine sound. The best example can be found in the song “Anything” with its rich melodies, lush harmonies and lyrical quips like: “And if I have to sell you/What’ll you buy?”
A note on the atmosphere that Michael Schaerer’s lyrics present: Let’s just say they are not the “feel good” images of the year – somewhat lost and lonely, seething with neurosis. The only real love song is “Cigarette.”
The overall essence of strong guitar work and melodic presence that is the core of Pale music is enhanced by producer Rogers. The dynamics that one loses in live settings or local recordings, Rogers captures with crystal clarity. My only problem with the recording is some of the placement levels. Greg Miller’s drums are a tad subdued on most songs, with the exception of “Flow My Tears,” where they pound prominently under Schaerer’s tortured vocal. Also, the background harmonies on “Anything” area little light compared to how I usually enjoy hearing them. Aside from these minor peeves, Straight To Goodbye is an outstanding recording. The band’s basic inimitable sound is intact and enhanced on a professional level, allowing fans of Pale Divine or first-time listeners to hear their music in its purest form.
“Pale Divine: Life for the band is getting ‘pretty wild’”
St. Louis Post Dispatch, Sept. 26, 1991 (by David Surkamp) all rights reserved.
I suppose it’s been a fairly common scenario for a kid to want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star since the heyday of Elvis Presley
A kid gets a guitar, learns a couple of chords, a few simple tunes, and a dream is born.
Thousands of kids have dreamed such a fantasy, but St. Louis guitarist-songwriter Richard Fortus is living the dream. Local rock music fans come in droves to see him play, and one can even buy an album with his name on it almost everywhere in the United States. Along with singer Michael Schaerer, bassist Dan Angenend Jr. and drummer Greg Miller, Fortus is a member of Pale Divine, one of St. Louis’ most heralded rock groups. The quartet will be at Kennedy’s Sept. 27-28.
Armed with “Straight To Goodbye,” a terrific debut album just released on Atlantic Records, and now switched to Atco Records, Pale Divine has delivered the goods. With producer Simon Rogers (The Fall, Peter Murphy) at the helm, the quartet has captured the progressive rock sound it built over its eight years together as a group called The Eyes.
“The last few weeks have been pretty wild,” said Fortus in an interview at the South St. Louis apartment he shares with his wife, Rose. “How the switch came down was that our manager, Peter Carson, had received an offer by telephone from Harry Palmer, the president of Atco Records. Atco wanted the Pale Divine album. “Atlantic Records has a reputation of signing a lot of bands,” Fortus continued, “and then not working the albums. In our case, there were 30 acts with priority over the Pale Divine.”
Pale Divine has other reasons to suspect that a label change might be in its best interest. “Getting the record out on any label was only the beginning of the task,” Fortus explained. “We found that when it was time to start booking concert dates to support the Atlantic release, we were being turned down by nearly every major booking agency. We couldn’t figure out why. However, the day after we signed with Atco, the process went into reverse.”
As Pale Divine’s principal co-writer, along with Schaerer, Fortus is pleased with the way the producer captured the band’s high-gloss and aggressive sound. “I think that we learned a few things making the record,” Fortus said. “And I suppose there are a few things I might have changed with hindsight. For example, I think sometimes that a few of our performances on the album are a little too perfect. But, all in all, I’m really happy with ‘Straight To Goodbye.’ I think it is an album we’ll be able to look back at with pride in a few years.”
If patience is a virtue, then the four
members of Pale Divine are overdue for sainthood. If the waiting, as Tom
Petty once suggested, is the hardest part, then these former Eyes should
find it all downhill from here. These St. Louis home-town rockers heard the
final mixes of their Atlantic Records debut, Straight to Goodbye, for the
first time back on Christmas Eve of 1990. Since then they've done little
else but play and wait.
Now, eight months later as we sit down to do this interview in their second-floor practice space, the waiting has taught Michael Schaerer, Richard Fortus, Greg Miller and Dan Angenend Jr. to be cautious, even five days before their record's official release. With controlled excitement, lead singer Schaerer expresses some of the pleasure he felt hearing the record over the radio waves of KDHX. “I’m like, ‘this is cool.’ I wasn’t expecting to hear it but there it was. I keep waiting to hear it on KSHE or something, that’ll be a trip,” he says.
Word spread rapidly last fall that the band, then the Eyes, which had garnered a serious club following in and around St. Louis, was signed to the major label and that Simon Rogers, who’d worked with Peter Murphy and the Fall, would produce. By December the record was done and they were back in St. Louis playing clubs and toying with new monikers, since “Eyes” was already taken. But it’s been a slow, often trying time, drummer Miller admits: “About two months ago I got real depressed…”
“ They were finally set to release it in June,” says bassist Angenend. “But they were set up with a push toward college radio, so they had to set it back to August.” Even five days before its promised availability in record stores, they have yet to see or hear their album on CD. This prolonged waiting has created more than a little confusion in and around the band.
"A lot of people thought that we were dropped from out label, that they didn’t like the album, all sorts of stuff,” says Fortus. “People knew hat it was done,” Angenend remembers, “but then, where is it?”
In the meantime, the Eyes became the Living, then more briefly the Fog, after a song on Straight to Goodbye. Pale Divine and several other new names had been floating around, but Fortus admits they settled on this nom de rock because of “lack of time, I guess. We needed a name and just took a vote.”
With the hours ticking away before the disc would be available to patient fans, lead vocalist and front man Schaerer is ready to stand behind it as a fine representation of the band. "I'm really happy with the album. It's great to hear this band a step or two up just in recording format."
With any first project a producer an shape a band’s identity, and Schaerer admits that Straight To Goodbye does have Rogers’ sheen: “A lot of that is really Simon, he’s obviously a really slick producer. He really knows how to put it together in a certain way. And a lot of it was certainly Richard’s vision as far as how much he wanted the guitars to be in it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to sit in on the mix – we had to work, we couldn’t take any more time off – and they flew to London to do the mix.”
With Schaerer as Pale Divine's principle writing focus, guitarist Fortus is more musically minded - and admittedly a bit of a perfectionist. "There's always going to be things where it's like we could of done this or that, but we really haven't had a chance to get a handle on it ourselves. There are a lot of things that we'll know to do different next time," Fortus explains.
One expects a first album from a band that’s built its reputation on performance to reflect its live material. For Fortus, that’s not always a blessing. “This is a tough thing. We were playing the music out, some of the songs for three or four years, before we recorded. So we had set ways of doing them. You can lose a lot of the spontaneity and fre in some f the solos when you’ve played them again and again.”
A very different impression was created of Pale Divine when the disc got a brief debut a few months back when our faithful editor managed to get about 60 seconds of the song “Universe” on the morning show during a guest spot on KSD-FM. Fortus admits this is a fresh direction for them. “I think we freaked a lot of people out by having them play that. A lot of people thought this record was all going to be like really different.
“We just put that song together in the studio, and I think it’s my favorite thing on the album. We were creating it right there, rather than conceiving it for live performance, and it was really different. That just felt like a great way to write a song, since we’re so used to doing it the other way around.”
While Fortus has respectively high standards, Straight To Goodbye is not a record that lacks fire and spirit. In fact, Rogers has merely taken the band’s familiar live sound to its obvious technologically enhanced conclusion. This would seem to challenge some who have come to the opinion that Pale Divine has deviated from the early sound of the Eyes.
Fortus says it’s been suggested that they modified their sound at the record companies request. “You hear people talking about how we’ve gone from our older sound to a more commercial sound. I don’t know, the album is not my idea of a commercial sound.”
“ We could have gone more commercial, we could have gone with a pop producer,” suggests Schaerer.
“A lot of people think that they record company is telling us what to do, what to wear, what songs to do,” says Angenend. “Man, we haven’t heard anything like that. Nobody’s said this song should go here or maybe you should try this.”
“We talked to a couple of girls recently,” Fortus reports “who had gotten ahold of a CD somehow – before we’d even got it – and told me they really loved it. ‘Flow My Tears’ has been recorded now three times and she said the third time’s the charm. She liked the whole album. She said she was afraid that it wasn’t going to sound like us, and she said that it does, except that it sounds like us in a good environment.”
Much of Pale Divine's appeal over the years has been the musical eclecticism that has guided its live show - from originals to its penchant for obscure covers. But clearly, the band's popularity arises as much from visual imaging and energetic performance as the music. If anything, Pale Divine has been criticized by local media for having its act a little too together.
Schaerer, whose engaging performance style and instinctively sexual presence has borne the most negative response is quick to take the offensive. “In the college band circles there’s this elitism, where they won’t touch anything but older Fender amps and guitars and if you go further than that you’re whoring yourself out. If you wear jeans that are tight-fitting, or even clean, then you’re selling out. If you get on stage and carry yourself with dignity or, God forbit, sexuality, then you’re not real – and that’s just not true.
"I come from an entertainment background, in theatre… and both my father and grandfather were in music, and that’s what it’s about,” Schaerer continues. "I write real music. You can't fault me for that," Schaerer says. "I'm not copping an image to sell out. People discriminate against me and our music, because we give a good show. They can't believe that there's a guy who's just like this - they don't buy that this is really me."
While some have bought the prerelease hype and jumped on the Pale Divine bandwagon, Fortus has seen it work in reverse, too. “People and bands and a lot of critics who used to love us when we were playing Cicero’s don’t speak all too well of us now. We’re doing well, we’re doing what everyone wants, and that becomes suspect.”
When I suggest that for all the criticism about Pale Divine selling out, they have not made a records that’s easy to format or locking into one recognizable style, Fortus (whose multi-context approach to guitar playing is beyond pigeonhole categories) is succinct: “That’s their problem.”
“ We haven’t made it easy for someone to get a handle on our music,” admits Schaerer, “because our musical tastes run the gamut (which he pronounces with the accent on the last syllable) – I love that word - from classical to jazz to real intense hardcore. Both Rich and I were super into hardcore as teenagers. All of these things inform what we do.”
Fortus suggests, "I don't know what we can do to please our audience except please ourselves. It's worked for us so far, we've been lucky enough that our audience has liked what we liked."
Schaerer expects Pale Divine to find its audience. "In the back of my mind I've always thought that if this approach works, brings people out to the clubs and builds a following in a town that doesn't support local music at all - especially local original music - then who's to say it's not going to work in a place where there is an audience who will take the time to listen? I've always felt it will work for us. Finally we got signed and now we'll get the chance to see."
While we’re waiting, again, to see if Straight To Goodbye is successful, if the video of “Something About Me” gets on MTV, if KSHE and KSD and 106.5 will play a fresh St.Louis talent on a major label, if they can get on a good tour, if, if, if, ad nauseam…. The members of Pale Divine want to be sure to thank the people who’ve supported them over the years, and especially in last issue’s Spotlight Readers’ Poll.
“I was sitting in a restaurant with my Dad after it came out, and there were people all over this restaurant checking out the newspaper and talking about this band, Pale Divine. It was really interesting,” Schaerer says.
As the interview runs down, the members of Pale Divine express more than a few thoughts on the effect of the new tax and licensing is likely to have on original music in St.Louis and the VP Fair’s across-the-board omission of local bands. Schaerer suddenly jumps into his Bull Durham interview voice: “I’m just very grateful to get the chance to play. I just want to do my best.”
“For the team…” chimes in Angenend. “And, for God and America…” concluded Schaerer, through a shit-eating grin.
When I suggest that would make a great lead for my story, Fortus can’t resist the irony: “Yeah, we can be the all-American band.”
[Editor’s note: At presstime, the Pale Divine project had reportedly moved to Atlantic Records’ subsidiary label Atco. Subsequent copies of their album will carry the Atco label.]
TRAX: Pale Divine "Something About Me"
September 1991 (by Marc Buxton) all rights reserved.
Ill admit upfront that Im not a great supporter of the live St.Louis club scene. The musical fare on local playlists through the 80s reads like this: "riding the storm out" REO "Never Been Any Reason" Head East, Etc. KSHE classics, you know, the great songs of all time- even better if a local artist happened to be covered. That word alone, "covered", is the main reason I never developed into a supporter. So honestly, it had been over 10 years since I had intentionally gone to a club to hear a local band. But, there was this buzz all over town coming from people who hung out in dance-bars! Something about this local band called The Eyes. Originals, smoke, lights a show! So, next thing you know Im shelling out two bucks to get into Kennedys expecting to hear covers from U2, The Lemon Drops or, God forbid, The Violent Femmes. Much to my surprise Im treated to two hours of music Ive never heard before by a band that completely captivates and controls their audience. Where the hell am I? Disoriented, I walk outside. The feel of cobblestones and the sight of Eads Bridge to my left snap me back to reality. God, Im still in St.Louis. And Im a believer. This band had something a magnetic stage persona I knew right then. These guys should be signed. But hey, this is St.Louis. Nobody gets signed to a major label recording contract from St.Louis.
A few months later Im hearing that several major labels are battling to sign the Eyes. Plenty of legal wrangling ensues, and then a signing finally occurs. Industry giant Atlantic Records signs the Eyes and because of copyright problems changes their name to Pale Divine. Many more months pass. Doubt creeps in. Will Atlantic actually put anything out? Then, on August 7th, I open one of the many album packages I receive daily. There it is. The new Pale Divine 12" single. The title is 'Something About Me.' The credits read like a whos who of the record industry. Heavyweight producer Simon Rogers, bigtime remixer Ivan Ivan. And the song is a winner. Clubs play it radio will love it- the video is on the way MTV, i.e., stardom and lots of money. The music is startingly current by American standards, sounding much like the scene coming out of Northern England, bands like the Farm and Northside INXS also comes to mind. The 12" contains three different mixes. The techno 7" is loaded with current production techniques. Bleeps fill in area after hooks. Extra drum programming spices up the rhythm track. The two other mixes are extensions of the album version. The LP was released August 25th but was unavailable at press time.
Riverfront Times, August 7, 1991 (by Thomas Crone) all rights reserved.
Love them or hate them, Pale Divine are finally releasing their long-awaited major-label debut, Straight To Goodbye, on August 20. The first single, the funky "Something About Me," should be on store stands now.
Peter Carson, the group's manager, brought be a pre-release sampler, and the results are fairly surprising in some instances, predictable in others. For example, Simon Rogers' production adds lush instrumentation to the group's usual sound, brining in keys, strings and the occasional sample to fatten the mix. Fans who've grown used to songs like "Couldn't Happen To You," "Cigarette" and "My Addiction" at the band's dozens of shows around town will finally hear the fully realized versions.
Of the 11 album cuts, thre date back to the group's Freedom In A Cage cassettee of several years back - the title track, "Anything" and "Flow My Tears." The disc is rounded out by "Straight To Goodbye," "The Fog," "Universe" and "Sorrow," which features what sounds suspiciously like a banjo.
What's the most shocking, on a number of levels, is the single's remixing, done by Ivan Ivan (Fine Young Canibals, Depeche Mode). Using a full complement of studio tricks, Ivan (or is it Mr.Ivan?) tosses in scads of dance-track decessities, with booming kick drums and Hendrix-inspired guitar samples, courtesy of Rich Fortus. Michael Schaerer's lyrics are sometimes there, sometimes now, sometimes just buried in the mix. Greg Miller's drums alternate with machine beats, but rhythm partner Dan Angenend's bass remains mostly intact. The dance mixes of "Something" are freaky indeed.
for the oft-voiced contention that the group is going for a commercial
sound at the risk of its artistic integrity, well, not every band needs
to sound like a bastard offspring of the Minutemen or Black Flag or the
dBs. If you've got a keen ear for the likes of Peter Murphy (another Rogers
production), the Sisters of Mercy or other black-clad rockers, this one
will probably fit into your musical library nicely. Straight To Goodbye
may be have benefited from more of a "live" touch, but as it stands it's
certainly an album I'll listen to with both curiousity and admiration.
“Bla, Bla, Bla…”
Spotlight, July 1991 (by Bob Baker) all rights reserved.
… Media coverage of the local music scene – which has slowly worked its way from print to radio – took a big setup when KTVI-Channel 2 did a short segment on Pale Divine (the Eyes) after the International Rock Awards ceremony on June 12th. The piece not only aired on the station’s 10 o’clock news, but came complete with plugs during the awards broadcast…
Word has certainly reached you by now, bt in case you've had your head in the sand for a few weeks: the official new name of the Eyes is definitely Pale Divine. Their debut album on Atlantic Records, title Straight To Goodbye, is now due out on August 6th (of this year), recently pushed back from a late June release.
The band's latest postcard mailer reads, "Okay, this time it's definite. Say Pale Divine out loud 50 times. Now... take a deep breath. That wasn't so bad, was it? In fact, you sort of like it, don't you? We knew you could do it."
St.Louis Post Dispatch, May 1991 (by Joan R. Ferguson) all rights reserved.
The holiday weekend is upon us, and, in addition to having an extra day (Monday) to wallow in beer and barbeque, we also have an extra night (Sunday) to wallow in local-band revelry. Just think, three nights to punk til we puke, funk til we faint, reggae til we roll or bop til we’re blue.
My, my, my, I’m getting hot just thinking about it. So before I combust, here’s a brief rundown of holiday happenin’s around town.
The Eyes, a.k.a. the Living, a.k.a. the Fog, now officially known at Pale Divine, usher in the weekend with a three-night stand at their second home, Kennedy’s 2nd Street Co. on Laclede’s Landing. Guitarist Rich Fortus, drummer Greg Miller, bassist Dan Angenend and singer-rhythm guitarist Michael Schaerer have been pawns in the name game since being signed to Atlantic Records late last fall. It seems the name Eyes was being used by another band, so Eyes No. 2 changed their name to the Living. Well, there was a band in England called the Living, so Eyes/Living No. 2 changed their name, yet again, to the Fog. Well, as bad luck would have it, there was a band signed to Warner Bros. Records called Fear of God (F.O.G.) who thought the name similiarity was too close for comfort. So (still with me?) the Eyes/Living/Fog changed their name, yet again, to Pale Divine. Whew!
Pale Divine recently completed the recording of their debut Atlantic Records album, Straight To Goodbye, in LA with producer Simon Rogers of Peter Murphy fame, and the album is scheduled for August release. “This has been a long process; as anyone who’d ever been in the business can tell you, it doesn’t happen overnight,” says manager Peter Carson. “You sign and things actually go down, more than before. Before, you were like, ‘Gotta get the deal, gotta get the deal’; then you get the deal, and for the next six months to a year, you’re in negotiations, where both parties have agreed to disagree to eventually agree.”
Carson is confident that fans, both old and new, won’t be disappointed. “This is a very good, expensive album, and Atlantic has been very supportive of Pale Divine. And as soon as the album comes out we’re hoping to do an album release party here in St.Louis and get on a good tour,” he says.
Pale Divine shares the stage at Kennedy’s with the Burning on Friday, Tuff Nutz on Saturday, and the Finns on Sunday.
Think of the Eyes and what do you think? Conjure up visions of entering a smoke-filled, sweltering Hangar 9 at about 10 PM. The bar's dim recesses are punctuated by colored lights and swirling fog. Waitresses look more like middle linebackers as they try to press through the crowd, precariously balancing a full tray of draft beer on the palms of their left hands and pushing with their right.
Rapid movement is impossible. Don't even think of getting a table, a barstool or anyplace else to sit. Leave your coat in the car because you won't want to carry it. The place is filled to capacity with sweaty bodies, who fling their hair and different body parts into a cacaphonic, androgynous, tribal-ritual-looking dance troupe, while the St. Louis-based Eyes' own brand of progressive, alternative power-pop as well as cover versions by such bands as The Cult, Love and Rockets, The Mission UK, The Chameleons and The Wonder Stuff.
A corps of women fans hover at the edge of the stage and drool, while people of all shapes, sizes, sexes, orientations and colors dance in different combinations in the bar. Lead singer Michael Schaerer snakes around the microphone in a way that would make Jim Morrison proud while he croons out a slow song, or bounces across the stage as he exuberently shouts out verse after verse. Bass player Danny Angenend and guitarist Rich Fortes do their own share of showmanship contrasted with their musical talents, while drummer Greg Miller keeps the whole show together.
The two o'clock hour draws nearer and nearer until the band finally does their last encore and the lights are abruptly flipped on and the employees are yelling at you to finish your beer and get the hell out. After dancing yourself into the ground, you go home or, more likely to one of the zillion afterhours parties that go on after the bars close down on any given weekend. Got it? Yeah, but the Eyes don't play here any more. Rumor has it that they got a big record deal and have changed their name to the Living. The local rock gossip has them going anywhere from London to LA to record their music, do a video or who knows what else. The more the rumors are spread, the further they get distorted.
However, dear reader, we have gotten to the bottom of all these rumors for you. We can confirm that the Eyes are returning to Carbondale for a limited gig at the Hangar, and it came directly from the horse's mouth (...er, rather the eye or whatever part of the anatomy) when Rich Fortes called the Nightlife to give us the scoop. This weekend, Friday and Saturday nights, you can again experience the unique, almost cult-like following and pandemonious live show that occurs when the band with the most hair per capita again graces our presence.
The Eyes, who used to be a regular band at the Hangar, have not been around in quite some time due to the fact that they recently clinched a record deal with Atlantic Records and have been in the studio recording their first full-length album. Tentatively titled Street to Goodbye, the 11-track effort includes three songs previously recorded on their debut effort, Freedom in a Cage, that they used to sell at gigs. Fortes said other plans in the works for the Eyes include a video shoot in late February for an as-of-yet unselected single and a major tour. The band does have plans to change their name because another band already has claim to it. The Living was considered, but rejected and the band is soliciting suggestions.
All of this is quite an accomplishment for a band that began about three years ago. Fortes and Schaerer, who has met in high school, had been collaborating musically for about three years when they hooked up with Miller and another bass player. About two years ago, Angenend joined the band and a steady stream of St. Louis club dates came soon after that. After they had established a strong following in their hometown, they started touring regionally, stopping regularily at the Hangar.
Fortes said, that, even though the band has been signed, when they play clubs, they will continue to play covers.
"A club show is two hours long, so we pretty much have to play covers, but they're the covers we have made our own," Fortes explained. "We've arranged them into almost our own songs."
Fortes said the band was anticipating their Carbondale stop because "The Hangar is a good club to play and the crowds are really great. Tres Hombres is cool, too."
Don't blink or you'll miss the Eyes on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18 and 19, at the Hangar 9.
Much has transpired since I last wrote about The Eyes a few months ago. At the time of the interview the band was in the middle of contract negotiations with Atlantic Records, but even at that point, there was still the possibility of another label coming along with a letter offer to pull them away from signing with Atlantic. But as many of The Eyes' fans (if not all) found out recently, the contract agreements are finalized and the band is now signed and ready to record their first album under the new name "The Living" for Atlantic Records. I caught up with the guitarist Rich Fortus during a break between sets at a show at Kennedy's to talk about the details on the signing and what lies ahead for The Eyes.
Our conversation was preceded by a couple of pieces of fan mail from some long-time followers of The Eyes which included some new band name ideas. As many of you know the band had to change their name because of a new metal band called Eyes. Rich said this California group beat them by a month. Then, with the mail out of the way, the conversation turned to the signing and when the whole thing came together. "The deal was done and finished a week ago, but it was actually done I would say about a month ago. At that point we were saying that we should go ahead and make plans to announce it. We were that positive."
I asked if there were a lot of things they were holding out for during the negotiations.
"Oh yeah, we held out on a lot of things. Otherwise we would have been signed a year ago. They didn't want to give us a lot of things that we thought we could get and should get. Artistic freedom wasn't reallly a problem. It was mostly just money. Other things were how much advance money, how much promotion money, how much money we'd have for a producer, where we'll be able to do it, who we'll be able to record with and all sorts of stuff right down to who owns the merchandise rights. There were some little things that were really funny, but that was our lawyer doing it all. When it gets to that subjext we don't know. That's why we pay our lawyer so much money. Lawyers make an unbelievable amount of money. Especially our lawyer, but he's reallly, really good. He handlees Elton John and Frank Zappa.
The Eyes held a "going away" signing party October 6th at Club 1227 which included a private press party and a live set open to the public. The band will be leaving for L.A. on October 14th where they will spend time taking care of preproduction. From there, they will record in the Sound Castle Studio and then they will take care of overdubs at El Dorado. Simon Rogers will be at the helm as producer.
"He's done the last two Peter Murphy albums and he's done the Fall," Rich said. He's also done a lot of English bands. He's really popular with like the dance stuff over in England.
Rich also said that the album will be mixed at Abbey Road Studios in England by Simon and the house engineer at Abbey Road, Ian Grimble. If there are enough funds at the end of recording, Rish is hoping to be able to go over and sit in on the mixing sessions.
Since the Atlantic signing, the Eyes have been approached by some of the press who haven't covered them before, but there were also cases where they approached the press directly to help spread the word.
"Either we were called and asked to do an interview or we called them and said, 'So, will you guys do a story on us now? Please?!" and they said, 'Sure.' Actually, we've done better than I thought we would, like with tv J.C. (of KSD-FM) is coming to us with tv cameras."
To get the preliminary works rolling the band sent out 50 songs to their producer, who, at the time, was working on another project. These 50 tracks will be sifted through and from them a handful of the best will make it into the album.
"We all picked ten songs. The band picks ten and the record company picks ten. Usually, it works where the band picks songs and asks the record company if it's okay, but in our case, if Simon likes a song and we like it too and the record company hates it, it goes on the album.
There were a couple of tracks that Rich felt were high possibilities for the album. Those are "Cigarette" and "You're My Addiction." Both of which the fans of The Eyes know well.
In the last few minutes before the start of the second set, I had a chance to ask Rich if the band felt a little nervous about going out to record for a major label.
excited," Rich said. "I'm nervous to see how we're accepted as far as when
we get out touring. We'll be back here in December. We'll be playing the
same circuit basicaly until the end of January or something like that,
and then we'll be going on tour to support the album."
“The Eyes Enter the Land of the Living”
Spotlight, October 1990 (by Bob Baker) all rights reserved.
St. Louis’ favorite sons the Eyes will finally join the growing list of local bands signed to major labels as they head to Los Angeles on October 7 to record their debut album on Atlantic Records. According to guitarist Rich Fortus, the bands will take at least two months to record 10 songs with producer Simon Rogers, who has worked recently with Peter Murphy, among others.
Fortus says the band has about 50 original songs to choose from and that only a handful will be songs that were on the Eyes’ independently released cassette and cd. Atlantic is reportedly requesting that the songs “Anything,” “The Fog” and “My Addiction” be recorded.
Other surprising news is that the band will have to go through a name change. A decision hasn’t been made, but current frontrunners are the Living, the Blessed and 13th Floor. Fortus jokingly says, “We thought about calling ourselves Queens of the Hill.”
The Eyes will give their final St. Louis performance at a going-away party at 1227 on October 6. Then it’s off to Major Label Land. Plans call for an early 1991 release of the album and a single to be named later. According to Fortus, there is a buzz around the industry and Atlantic is very behind pushing the project.
“This is what you dream about when you first start playing – being on a major label, recording a real record with a real producer,” Fortus says. “It’s hard to believe it’s finally going to happen.”
"Local Band The Eyes Focused On Major-Label Record Deal"
Southwest City Journal, October 10, 1990 (by Alan Sculley) all rights reserved.
In less than a week, the career of the St.Louis band, The Eyes will change dramatically.
The band will be off to Los Angeles Oct. 14 and a date at Sound Castle studios to record its debut album for Atlantic Records. After that, The Eyes will move on to El Dorado studios for more recording and finally on to Londons legendary Abbey Road studios to mix the album. The signing with Atlantic stands as a significant event in St.Louis music. The Eyes, which includes Rich Fortus on guitar, Michael Schaerer on guitar and vocals, Dan Angenend on bass and Greg Miller on drums, is the first local band to land a major-label contract since PM recorded for Warner Brothers in 1989. There was no shortage of attention on The Eyes, which should be no surprise considering the pack mentality that often occurs when a record label sets its sights on a band. Fortus said the band first drew interest about a year ago when CBS Records executive, at the urging of a local CBS promotions employee, came to see The Eyes. Nearly every other major label was quick to follow suit. "After that, it seemed like the next week after he was here, everybody started calling saying, Hey, why didnt you call us?," Fortus said. "Meanwhile, we had rejection notices in our hands from those record) companies that were calling now saying Hey, why didnt you call us?." Atlantic won out largely because of its keen interest in the music of The Eyes. In fact, The Eyes will be promoted both by Atlantics mainstream rock and alternative rock divisions the first such band signed by Atlantic to receive this type of two-pronged promotional push Fortus said. The Eyes also will work with a well-known producer Simon Rogers, who has produced albums by Peter Murphy (formerly of Bauhaus) and The Fall. The band is looking for Simon Rogers to be a major contributor, Fortus said. "Basically, were hoping Simon will be like a fifth member of the band, just as far as adding ideas and things like that," he said. "Because the problem is weve played a lot of these songs live for a while now and we need to get some more life into them for us as far as making them new so were excited about them again."
The latest St.Louis act to take a shot at the big time is rock music favorites The Eyes. The quartet, consisting of vocalist Michael Schaerer, guitarist Richard Fortus, bassist Dan Angenend and drummer Greg Miller, were recently signed to Atlantic Records. The Eyes has already established a couple of firsts in its fledgling recording career. The band is the first act to be signed by both the rock and alternative A&R branches of Atlantic Records, signaling confidence in the group on, at least, two commercial fronts. Also, it is the first American act to work with British producer Simon Rogers (Peter Murphy and The Fall). On Oct. 6, the group will be performing at 1227 night club, its last show in St.Louis before making the trek to Los Angeles to begin recording on Oct. 14. The Eyes will cut racks at both Eldorado and Sound Castle studios, before flying to London to mix at Abbey Road. However, because another recording act uses the same name, The Eyes will have to use another name before the release of its debut album. "It still amazes me that people in St.Louis come to see us every week," Fortus said, "and they have been doing it for the last couple of years. That kind of following is what helped make our dreams of a recording career come true."
The St.Louis club scene is made up of many different styles of music, but on brand of rock that seems to dominate is the alternative rock. There would be some heavy competition in the clubs if one would like to see whch alternative bands are best. But, at this point, there are many record companies who have their choice. It would seem the Eyes have it.
After playig the club scene here in St.Louis and on the road for the last two years, The Eyes have built up quite a reputation as a tight bands with a theatrical stage show and a musical style influenced by Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, David Bowie, The Doors and Yes among other classic rock. Founded by guitarist Richard Fortus and vocalist/guitarist Mike Schaerer, The Eyes later brought aboard bassist Dan Angend and drummer Greg Miller and began playing clubs. In 1989 they released a collection of songs on a cassette titled Freedom In A Cage. Their abstract and dramatic stage show met with some mixed reviews.
"I'm glad that people have supported us, of course, and there's been a few people what have not liked us at first, but have come around to liking us," Fortus said, "People that saw us first were put off by the stage personality, they thought we were too offensive or too theatrical on stage. Then once they got into the music they were more into it."
Fortus also mentioned that he's met with people who like their stage show but don't get into their music and vice-versa. He also said he'd rather someone love them or hate them, or have them tell a friend that The Eyes stink than to say we were o.k.. But when it comes to playing live he says he prefers the out-of-town shows.
"I think we do better out of town because we blow into a town and its's like we go in, we play, and then we leave. We're not very social people when we play out because we're not party animals. We don't drink and we don't go out and try to get laid. It's just not what we're into, so we're more of a mystery to people."
For Fortus, it's much harder to become what he'd like to be on stage when he's in a place full of people he sees on the street. Taht is understandable and he feels that sense of drama and theatrics on stage will continue to grow as they tour. As for now, they will be playing the club scene until the contract negotiations are through.
Fortus' view of the St.Louis music scene is based on teh idea that the clubs are a by-product of the public. "They're going to do what makes money. As far as local bands, I think that's coming around. It seems like most of the club bands are supporting that. The only problem I see is they want the bands to play for three hours and no bands has that much original material that I know of. As far as the rock scene goes, man, it's hurting bad from what I can see. There's a few metal bands, but there aren't that many places to play. There should be a stronger push for originals in St.Louis clubs. If you take a look at which clubs draw the largest crowds, they're the ones with original music."
Fortus said some bands like The Finn Brothers, The Nukes and The Thugs are very strong St.Louis bands that are steadily stepping up to the forefront of the local scene, and the signing of The Eyes cold help with the discovery of more bands from St.Louis.
"Hopefully, Broken Toyz will be able to do something for the rock crowd and we'll be able to do something for the alternative crowd. I think that St.Louis could turn into something happening."
It was about eight months ago when The Eyes came to the attention of CBS records followed by Atlantic, MCS, Atco, Capital, Polygram and others. Atlantic then sent the Vice-President from their rock department to check out the band. he felt the music was too alternative, so it was turned over to the alternative department who felt it was a little too rock to be pure alternative. After a meeting of the two departments, they agreed to do a crossover.
At the time I spoke with Fortus, the contract negotiations were in the second phase and were scheduled to wrap up within a matter of weeks. However, other record companies such as Warner Brothers are still looking the band over and things could still change. We'll promise to keep you posted.
"Michael Schaerer & Rich Fortus at Ciceros April 16, 1990"
Surface, May 18, 1990 (by Tommy Chang) all right reserved.
Call it the age of Funk Folk. In a startling case of wolves wearing sheep clothing, local scenesters The Eyes recently palyed to a packed house at Ciceros Basement Bar Monday Night acoustic series, and what a show it was. With seemingly every cool person in town crowding the basement bar, the Eyes or at least Michael Schaerer and Rich Fortus played not so much folk as slowed down versions of originals like "The Closet", and even a handful of Jethro Tull for good measure, with Fortus on violin. Thats right violin. No less shocking was the bands appearance on KSD-FM, playing a live version of Buffalo Springfields "For What Its Worth." This is apparently enough of a retro-nod that fill-in morning jock Mark Klose compared them to Acousiticity. This is becoming very strange, indeed.
Latest Eyes signing news: is not good. It seems that they Eyes signing process has once again become a convoluted pandora's box. Warner has joined Atlantic (as reported last issue) in trying to sign the group but reportedly snags have developed for two reasons. One, the Eye management simply want a better deal than either label is willing to agree to and, two, both labels are having a difficult time on deciding how to classify the Eyes' music. A very important concern of the labels is this last point because it translates into how they are going to market the Eyes (i.e., how they are gong to make money off the group). It looks like a long summer of Eyes' signing updates.
Craig Campbell manager of the Springfield based New World Spirits, has a wild crush on Michael of the Eyes, according to the Springfield gossip mill. He's trying to model his lead singer after him. Speaking of the Eyes, a couple of weeks ago at Furst Rock some Atlantic reps were in town to chekc out the aforementioned and were so impressed that a record contract was offered to the Eyes. Will the Eyes sign? Informed sources say negotiations have proceeded to the lawyer stage and a deal looks very promising. We'll believe it when we see it, right?? If that's not enough Eyes news, informed sources (I mean really informed) also say their "Freedom in a Cage" tape will be rereleased after selling out almost instantly after its release last summer and their newly completed tape will be released pending acceptance of a record contract.
For months and months, the buzz around St.Louis has been that the Eyes are on the verge of being signed by a major record label - like, you know, any day now. "I'm getting tired of hearing about it," says guitarist Richard Fortus. "But I'm getting tired of things not going through, too." The reality, Fortus says, is that the process of going from successful club band to a major-label recording artist is long and not particularly interesting. "It's not as exciting as people would think," he says. "'Quickly' for a record company is, like, a year." Local fans seem to agree that the Eyes, who've been in their current configuration just two years, are worthy of attention; Eyes shows in clubs like Mississippi Nights (where they'll perform tonight), Kennedy's and Furst Rock are typically well-attended, and all 1,500 copies of the band's independently released cassette, Freedom In A Cage, were quickly snapped up. But what the 23-year-old Fortus and his three band mates have learned is that the industry couldn't care less what people in St.Louis think. "None of these people even know where St.Louis is," Fortus says. "It's got a reputation in the industry as a place where nothing's happening. But, still, we've had the real people come out." Eyes manager Peter Carson says the biggest problem is that "the labels all like the band, but they want to be ecstatic. They're waiting for that one hit song." Atlantic sent the Eyes to Nashville to record a demo in hopes of finding the hit, and CBS continues to show interest, Fortus says, but if the labels don't jump at the bait soon the Eyes will release another independent album. Fortus says it won't be a repeat of Freedom in a Cage. "We weren't that happy with the quality," he says of the band's first release. Freedom in a Cage makes the band sound like a U2/REM hybrid, although Fortus says that in concert they're more along lines of the Mission UK, David Bowie and the Doors. The latter two acts were among Fortus' primary musical and cultural influences when he and singer Michael Schaerer were students at Visual and Performing Arts High School. Other influences listed include Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. "We were never into the Loverboy/Ozzy/Aerosmith stuff," Fortus says. "We were more into the hippie thing. We always had long hair, except right out of high school when we were into the punk thing." Punk isn't how you'd describe them now; their music's been labeled as everything from pop to MTV rock to death funk. Fortus doesn't deny the MTV appeal of his and his bandmates' good looks. "MTV can make or break a band," Fortus says. "A lot of labels won't won't sign a band if they're not video-friendly." And even if they are, as the Eyes have discovered there are no guarantees.
"Things Are Looking Up For The Eyes"
Spotlight, September 21, 1989 (by Bob Baker) all rights reserved.
Rumors have been flying around town concerning the major-label status of the Eyes. Have they been signed yet? Or is it all just a bunch of hype? Well, as of the time we went to press with this issue, neither. According to the bands manager, Peter Carson, the Eyes are not "signed" to any label, but a few are "very interested in the group." Representatives from CBS Records saw the band at Kennedys the weekend of Sept. 1 and then "wined and dined" the band members at the Rolling Stones concert at Busch Stadium. The vice-president of A&R for Atlantic Records was in attendance at Mississippi Nights on Sept. 15 and was "ecstatic," according to Carson. Also, reps from Polygram and MCA will be in St.Louis to see the Eyes perform at Kennedys Sept. 29-30. Although Carson admits that the Eyes are "close" to signing with someone, he says, "Until the attorneys have finished and the papers are signed, nothing is definite."
Revolutions, October 1989 (by Diane Toroian) all rights reserved.
When the Eyes played Mississippi Nights late last month, about 800 people crowded in – women with pale white faces, adorned in black dresses and black lipstick, chubby college men wearing the proud letters of Sigma-something, yupsters sporting the latest from the J.Crew catalog, and a representative from Atlantic records holding a contract in his hand.
All types of people like the Eyes. All types of record companies want to sign them too. In the past month, Atlantic, CBS, Polygram, and MCA have rushed to see the Eyes play. The band speculates the deal with a label will be settled soon. Finally, the word is out and the Eyes may be St.Louis’ first rock export since Check Berry.
Actually, the Eyes have been offered deals before, but have turned them down. They are waiting not only for a contract, but for a contract that promises the full promotional backing the Eyes think they deserve. Yeah, that does sound a little arrogant. But the Eyes believe their music and presence warrant such attention.
The large crowds that pay to see the Eyes every weekend obviously agree. Rich Fortus, the Eyes’ guitarist and primary songwriter, explained their popularity: “People see it’s possible and that’s why they come out to see us, even if they don’t like us This is egotistical, but I think people think the Eyes are going to be big time and they want to see us now.”
The Eyes independently released a cassette last spring called Freedom In A Cage. And though the production quality of the tape is less than sparkling, it does hint at the type of band the Eyes are. Fortus likes to refer to their music as “death funk,” in that it tends to be dark and introspective with well-orchestrated, elaborate polished rhythms which are forcefully executed by Fortus’ guitar, Michael Schaerer’s mesmerizing voice, Dan Angenend’s bass and Greg Miller’s percussion.
Intrigued by the music England has generated over the past 20 years, the Eyes have adopted a style and rhythym which seems more in line with Love and Rockets and Mission UK. “We grew up listening to Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin. We never listened to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd.” This English influence makes itself apparent in the covers the Eyes choose to play. The Eyes cover a few American bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, but generally stay clear of imitating bands that emulate the American-guitar pop/rock prototype. The Eyes are perhaps St.Louis’ only rock band which has successfully broken with the good old American rock’n’roll tradition to explore English music with cunning insight.
Even though a major label deal is imminent, Fortus feel the Eyes still have a long way to go. “I want to be able to evolve into something that will change music,” Fortus said. “Like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. What made those bands great is that they really reached out, expanded, and were able to tap their creativity. I’m not comparing ourselves to those bands, but given the chance, that’s something we want to do. With the band and our songwriting ability, it’s there.
The Eyes have always intended to reach this point, even when they were the house band for the laughable under-21 nightspot Animal House. “We’ve always been serious. It’s not like we’re doing this just for fun. We want to make a living from this,” Fortus said.
In fact, Fortus has lusted for rock stardom since he was a kid. “I’ve always wanted to be a rock star,” Fortus admitted. “I remember when I was in Sunday school when I was little and the teacher saying, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I remember thinking, I want to be a rock’n’roll star. But you can’t say that in Sunday school, so I made something up.”
Fortunately, the band fits that superstar image. Any record company that picks them up won’t have to worry about designing a look for the band or coaching their stage performances. Each member could make a suitable subject for a big, glossy poster to hang above any 13-year-old’s bed. But Fortus claims the band’s good looks can work against them. “If we were four ugly people we could get a lot less shit,” Fortus claimed. “Colleges will look at a videotape and they see we have long hair, and will say, ‘No, they’re too heavy metal.’ For the market we’re playing for, it’s a hindrance.” Fortus denies that the band calculates its image, though. “Image isn’t something we work on. It’s not like we say, ‘O.K., let’s all wear black,’ We wear what we want to wear. We do what we want to do.”
The Eyes’ overwhelming stage show only enhances their good looks and good music. Visually, they are St.Louis’ most sophisticated band. This comes not only from the energy they expend on stage, (most St.Louis bands can proudly boast that) but from the carefully crafted ambiance designed by sound and light engineer Dave Probst. Their extensive light show and trademark use of smoke creates a mood which adds a vital element to the band’s music. Overbearing light shows that usurp the audience’s attention away from what’s really important – the music - are too often the norm among national touring bands. Never assuming a dominant character of their own, the lights Probst designs only accentuate the band’s moves and music.
The professional quality of the Eyes’ shows is almost distancing. Local bands often are perceived as no more than providers of background noise or music to dance to. But for many, when they see they Eyes, they don’t dance with anyone; they dance to the Eyes. This pleases Fortus: “I feel people are really into it and attentive with what we’re doing. It’s not just people dancing and having a good time. People watch us.”
Fortus assures that if the band is signed, the Eyes will still perform live often in the city. Fortus is fond of St.Louis and wants to build up the local music scene here. “What St.Louis needs is a band that’s going to do well for it,” Fortus explained. “Look what Prince did for Minneapolis… R.E.M. for Georgia.” Insisting that St.Louis has better local bands than Chicago or Kansas City, Fortus feels a lax local media and limited crowd interest has strangled the St.Louis music scene.
In their early days, the Eyes were victims of this apathy. Now, however, Fortus is overwhelmed by the city’s support and wants to stay in St.Louis if the bands signs to a major label. “Do we have a commitment to St.Louis? I say yes, though others in the band don’t feel that way… We’re always going to be supportive of St.Louis,” Fortus expressed. “I would like to be known as a St.Louis band.”
Fortus speaks apprehensively about proclaiming all the things the Eyes will do when the band is signed. He knows of the potential abuse that record companies can inflict. The Eyes are also cognizant that their confidence is perceived by many as arrogance. Many resent the Eyes’ success while other cling to the band in an attempt to acquire fame by association. The band admits they feel trapped by these conflicting attitudes. Fortus copes by trying to ignore it and concentrating on the Eyes and their music: “You can say anything you want about us, but it’s not fake. What we’re doing is who we are and that’s not going to change.”
To the Editor:
I am writing in regards to Marissa Donovan's letter ("A Cover Story," Mailbag Spotlight #56). It seems Marissa was upset that she was not allowed into Kennedy's to see the Eyes, unless she paid the cover charge. She also stated that some local musicians were also denied free entry unless they were on the Eyes' (nonexistent) guest list.
Teh bands at Kennedy's work for the money taken at the door. This arrangement is fairly new to Kennedy's. Recently bands have been noticing more and more people getting in for free. Other bands had expressed this to us (the Eyes) prior to the evening in question.
When we approached Kennedy's management with this problem we were told that the only people who should be getting in free of charge are those with Kennedy's club cards. We were also told that all of the bands that play at the club had been issued these cards. (I have one.) Therefore, our manager asked Kennedy's to ask their doormen to pay closer attention to this policy.
After reading Marissa's letter, I made a point of trying to find band members who were turned away or were upset. I have talked to the Unconscious, the Nukes, the Newsboys, Tuff Nutz, Cain Is Able, Broken Toyz, Suave Octopus, etc. No one I have spoken with had a complaint. In fact, many of the bands were glad that we had reacted to the problem. The band members who were there that night also said they had no problem entering the club (even those without cards).
There is a unity among teh more successful original bands in St.Louis which many people are not aware of. Most of us are friends. We communicate, and we all realize that there are some people who actually try and start trouble between bands. Therefore, we generally pay little or no attention to the gossip and mudslinging that is so prominent in the bar scene. There is no room for rivalry in a small music scene.
We (the bands) have one common goal. I think that the other local bands feel the same way that they Eyes do, in that the sooner one of us get national attention, the sooner we can start spreading the news about all the other great bands in St.Louis. Meanwhile, all we want to do is make enough money to get by. Playing music is our business and we must treat it as such.
I suggest that if Marissa is interested in supporting the St.Louis music scene, next time she goees to see a band, she pay the cover without complaining. I also suggest that if you don't feel strongly enough to sign your real name to something, it's really not worth writing.
"Examining The Eyes: A Study In Intensity"
Spotlight, April 6, 1989 (by Royce Kelly) all rights reserved.
The first time I met a member of the Eyes was in early 1984. Michael Schaerer and I were in the same acting class at St.Louis Community College at Meramec. I remember the impression I had of him then: a rebellious 18-year-old free thinker with a lot of pent-up energy. And he was different. Not that he was weird ro psychotic, but I just knew he was an individual who wouldn't end up being an accountant. I especially remember his intensity. Once in class he did an acting scene in which he played the part of Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront. I'll never forget his anquished cries of "Charlie, I could have been a contender!" His face reddened, the veins in his neck swelled with heated emotion of the scene. I was convinced then that Michael Schaerer was a guy who always did things to the fullest. Some time later he told me he had just started singing in a band called the Eyes. Like most people then, I had never heard of them. I remember wondering, with some degree of skepticism, about what kind of band he would be a part of. I wasn't until four years later that I found out. Time for a brief history lesson: Schaerer attended the Visual and Performing Arts high school with Rich Fortus. Schaerer studied theatre and voice while Fortus specialized in guitar and violin. After graduating, Fortus began playing with drummer Greg Miller and bassist Steve Hanock (recently with the Stranded Lads). The trio rehearsed a lot of instrumental jazz fusion a la Jeff Beck and Stanley Clark. However, the young musicians quickly realized there were few venues to play and little money to be made with this type of music. But not much emphasis was placed on learning cover material.
"We started doing originals right off the bat," Schaerer says. "We didn't do anything but originals for months." The group eventually did add a few alternative cover songs and slowly began playing out in front of people at an occasional frat party or rented hall. But the band really didn't come to life until they hit the under-age clubs. "We played at Animal House every weekend through 1985," Miller recalls. According to Schaerer, that was "the major development" period for the band, during which time they started to create their own "sound." The next couple of years saw a series of personnel changes. Miller left the band, only to return nine months later. Then Hanock departed. Although the three core members remained together, honing their writing and playing skills, no substantial progress was made until 1988. It was then that bassist Dan Angenend Jr., after a lengthy stay with the Newsboys, became a member of the Eyes. "We wrote and rehearsed every night gearing up to play the clubs," Schaerer says, recalling the bands' plan of action. "That was the intention," Angenend explains, "to write ten or twenty original songs and play out. And that's what we did." Within a couple of months the Eyes slowly started getting booked at a few over-21 clubs: New Orleans Nites, Cicero's, the Factory and Kennedy's, where they would quickly become a house favorite. Most bands have to spend years playing the club circuit before they establish a reputable name and a devoted following. But within six months of the Eyes' first appearance on the Laclede's Landing, people were talking, and more impressively, showing up in droves at their performances. "We are so lucky," Schaerer says. "A lot of people hauled ass for us. They'd bring all their friends every time we'd play,and then their friends like it and call friends. It's become really big." The group's momentum was further propelled when David Probst took over the sound system and lighting duties. Immediately the Eyes' innovative music was not only a treat for the ears, but a dazzling visual production as well. Probst, who is also the band's photographer, uses his glowing array of lights with generous amounts of stage smoke to precisely illuminate the mood of each song. "We feed of each other," Schaerer says of the band's relationship with Probst. "We make him want to do a good show, and he makes us put on a better show." A live performance by the Eyes can be a mesmerizing spectacle, causing many audience members to abandon the usual social bar chatter to simply stand and watch the band. It's a feat rearely accomplished by local acts. Fortus and Angenend provide the consistent movement on stage, with Fortus swaying and raising his guitar neck high in the air while Angenend spins and rocks to the funky grooves. Meanwhile Miller's arms whip through the air as he keeps the tasty, solid back beat. Schaerer will often stand reflectively at the microphone and deliver a dark, convincing vocal line, but moments later he may be bouncing about in a urgent frenzy. "It's an elusive thing," Schaerer says of his performance approach. "There are times I have to struggle to make it feel right, especially when you have girls with Polaroid cameras two feet away from your face. It's gratifying, in a way, to think that they would want to come and..." "...waste their film," Fortus interjects. Schaerer continues, "But at the same time, it makes you feel highly self-conscious, and that can make your performance a little more difficult." The band agrees that the best inspiration comes from a receptive crowd. "It makes it that much easier to perform when they're enjoying it," Angenend comments. "And that's the main reason to never hold back," Schaerer explains. "Always give it everything you have right off the bat. If you don't give it, you can't get it." That's what the Eyes have going for them: they're giving it all they've got. And what they have to give is a powerful combination of solid playing, marketable rock and roll looks, youthful enthusiasm and strong original material. The Eyes independently released a ten-song cassette titled Freedom In A Cage at the end of March (see accompanying review.) The tape, recorded this past winter, displays the impressive songwriting skills of the band. More impressively, this may be the one and only release the Eyes will have to put out themselves. "We've had offers already from major labels," Fortus says, explaining how representatives from MCA, Atlantic and Island Records have been out to see them. Later this month, the head of the A&R department of Geffen Records will come to St.Louis to see the Eyes. "He never comes to St.Louis," Fortus remarks. "This is a major thing." With the help of their manager, Peter Carson, the group appears to be on the verge of signing with one of the major labels. Somehow the Eyes seem to be succeeding by doing the impossible. They've always played exactly what they wanted to play, concentrating most of their efforts on original material. And when they do cover material, the songs rarely sound like the original versions. Instead, they take on a fresh, completely Eyes-like quality. "That comes from the fact that we don't take that much time to learn them," Miller admits. "Playing other peoples' music is just not that thrilling," Angenend relates. "You don't beleive in it," Fortus adds. Schaerer emphasizes: "That's one thing about the band I think anybody would say - we certainly beleive what we're doing. We're into it for real." It's interesting to think that Michael Schaerer once sat in an acting class and screamed, "I could have been a contender!" Now, almost five years later, it appears he and the other members of the Eyes are in the center of the ring, shooting for the title.
"Just Released: 'Freedom in a Cage'"
Spotlight, April 6, 1989 (by Jim Cult) all rights reserved.
You may have to listen to Freedom in a Cage more than once to convince yourself that this is a locally produced product. Yes, the Eyes are a local band, and they've just come out with a superior cassette. Hats off to Dave Probst for an outstanding mixing and engineering job. The overall sound quality makes for an aural experience. "Body Fall" pulls you in one side with a few delicate acoustic notes, then dives into a powerful punch of rich harmonies and driving rhythms. "Way Strange" follows with searing guitar work from Richard Fortus. His lead work is like a wild fire that can barely be kept under control. Michael Schaerer ignites each song with powerful vocals, his range and approach setting the musical atmosphere. For example, "The Closet," which depicts a boy who's hiding after experiencing motherus-interuptus in a girlfriend's bedroom, becomes dark an foreboding through Schaerer's haunting vocal approach. Also, take note of Greg Miller's off-kilter attack on drums in the songs - it really adds to the tension of the lyrical content and mood. All ten songs on the tape are wonderfully crafted, there are no throw-away fillers here. The stand out track has to be "Delicate Balance," with its funky, winding tempo highlighted by Fortus' bouncing riff what wraps around Dan Angenend Jr's perfect, popping bass groove.We could go on and on here, but it would suffice to say that Freedom in a Cage is one rockin'-sonic-funk, dance-to-the-music, I-want-to-take-you-higher, get-up-like-a-sex-machine, let-me-stand-next-to-your-fire feast of excellent songcrafting. It's a must hear cassette by a top notch St.Louis band. Nuff said.
Argyle Report: The Eyes
Surface circa 1989, (by Zoe G.) all rights reserved.
At the Eyes’ Factory show a few weekends back, some outgoing young lady decided to… uh, flash her bosom for the band. They said no thanks but there was a handsy taker in the crowd - maybe her boyfriend. Hmmm… and we thought those antics were limited to metal shows. Speaking of the Eyes, what new and exciting lyrics are yet to come in their version of the Chili Pepper’s “Party” song?
"The Eyes: For Your Ears Only"
Spotlight, June 9, 1988, (by Thomas Crone) all rights reserved.
Speaking to Rich Fortus in a Wendy's restaurant is not the easist thing to do.
A swarm of kids comes pouring in, fresh from high school, looking for something to talk about. One of them finally exclaims, "Hey, he looks like Steve Perry!"
Fortus, lead guitarist of St.Louis' up-and-coming band The Eyes, is quick to end any comparisons to the lead singer of Journey, and explains that for his band beingn non-comparable is a goal.
"Occasionally someone will try to compare us to someone," Fortus admits. "One time someone said we were like U2's evil brothers, trying to do something on the darker side of what they're doing."
The band has been doing this evil sibling act since February, when former Newsboy bassist Dan Angenend joined the group. Until that time the band had consisted of Fortus, drummer Greg Miller and singer/rhythm guitarist Michael Schaerer.
While comparisons may not be easy to come by for the group, talking about the St.Louis music scene and original music are popular topics.
"I think St.Louis is definitely getting better as far as original bands getting to play, and it will probably get even better," Fortus says. "But, unfortunately, we don't have time to wait for that to happen."
According to the members, even though originals bands might be getting bookings, the clubs still don't pay the bands as well.
"Now we get better response on our originals than the covers. It seems that when we say we're playing an original they get up and dance, whereas you used to have to sneak them in and not tell anyone what you're playing," Fortus says.
Certainly, telling people what they're playing is top priority to The Eyes these days. Currently the band is recording with Chris Bernardi. Their plan is to release the results of this collaboration locally ona 10 to 12 song cassette along with a shorter demo tape of three or four songs for sending to management companies.
Said Angened, "Hopefully, we'll get a deal with a management company real soon and get travelling. We're hoping to leave St.Louis by the end of July."
In preparation, the Eyes have begun to expand their lineup fo originals, which allows them to pare away covers. The elimination of cover material works out well, since the group seems to have different ideas of roots. For instance, Angenend admits his background extends to early New Order, while Fortus claims more of a 60's background.
"My ideas of covers," Fortus says, "is that if you're going to do them, get old ones and rework them."
The others didn't quite agree with this assessment.
Angenend offered, "All Rich wants is a song with some screaming guitar."
The Eyes' live shows offer a wide range of tastes with songs as divergent as the Doors' "Peace Frog" to "Under the Milky Way" by the Church.
And while the source of covers may be varied, the originals are just as different. Not to say there isn't any focus from one song to the next, but one song with a decidedly funk edge leads into another where Fortus' guitar, sounding exactly like a keyboard, leads the band into the mainstream of American "alternative" pop.
"Our goal is to play 100 percent originals," each member said at one time or another.
So a word to the wise: See the Eyes in the near future before they sight greener pastures in Minneapolis, or another musical hotbed.
"We're quitting our day jobs real soon," Schaerer said, echoing the words of every originals band.
The next week offers two great opportunities to catch the Eyes in the act. On June 9, the bands will be part of a triple bill at Mississippi Nights, sharing the stage with The Unconscious and the Stranded Lads. On Friday, June 10, the goup is playing at Kennedy's, a show that will be broadcast live on WMRY (101.1 FM) from 10 to 11 p.m.
So with these and other feature performances in the works, The Eyes' vision of the future might just some day see reality.