|interview & commentary by Lorry Doll|
|Interview conducted by Lorry Doll at the Neon Lounge, originally appeared in NEON in 1990
All rights reserved and copyrighted 1990, 2003 blue door productions
|i n t e r v i e w
|Ric Browde has produced the likes of Faster Pussycat, Poison, Smashed Gladys, Joan Jett, Ted Nugent and Flies On Fire. The man who turned me on to the music of Flies On Fire also introduced me to the producer behind their hot new LP on Atlantic. Brian Keats (drummer for Princess Pang) did the honors at the Cat Club at a London Quireboys show. Ric stopped by the NEON Lounge the next day to talk about working with some of rock's hottest acts.
(This article originally appeared in NEON in 1990)
|Lorry Doll: Did you like the London Quireboys at the Cat Club?
Ric Browde: I think they're the best band out there from England. They're fifty percent of what they used to be. The guitar player has a new band. The Quireboys a year ago were the best thing I'd ever seen since Guns 'N Roses. I think they're gonna be quite big no matter what the marketing people try to do with them.
I like them a lot, and Dogs D'Amour.
Oh I love Dogs D'Amour. The Dynamite Saloon album is a great album. The Errol Flynn album is... it's weird 'cause they took a guy who used to be "Iggy" live (in Tyla) and they toned him down. He plays too long. He's so prolific that they let him in the studio a little faster then he should be. They don't allow him to sort songs out like he should. Not every song everybody likes is good. Whereas I thought Dynamite Saloon - the record and cassette versions - the CD has two extra songs - everything on the regular album was good, even the acoustic thing they did afterwards . Everything on that was good. They're a tremendous band. That's why England . . . the Quireboys and a band called the Red Dogs and that scene. There's a band called the Almighty. The band I just got signed, called the Wild Cards with the ex-Quireboys guitarist. There's a new wave coming out of London now which I think will usurp the Los Angeles wave that has been for the past seven years. LA. is a little tapped out.
Something more in the Quireboys type vein?
Back to rock. The Faces, Stones, back to hopefully less. I shouldn't say … "unfortunate", 'cause my bank manager loves it. I made my money off "image" over "substance." With Poison, Pussycat and WASP and things like that. But now you got bands that are getting down to "the songs are good, that's why we're here." That's an incredible change over the last couple years.
So less towards Heavy Metal. Faster Pussycat's is pretty bluesy.
I love Pussycat. My second favorite album I ever did is their first album. I had a lot of fun doing that album. It was done very cheaply, thirty-five thousand dollars. It was a band that may have been signed too fast. The label came in and said the band sucked. They wanted to cancel the album the second day of recording. The album did well. I don't like the new album that much. They got taken by the record company a little bit. I blame the record company entirely. If they hadn't made the album faster they would have done a lot better.
|Lorry Doll, Ric Browde and Brian Keats at the Cat Club
Photo: Jeff Rey
|The Ric Browde produced Flies On Fire album Outside Looking In (above) and Poison's Look What The Cat Dragged In (below)
|The "Scratch My Back" CD single sounds like someone went in and patched it up, remixed it. It's pretty hot.
That's the tragedy in the music industry nowadays. They want $500,000 worth of production and people don't understand when it's time to let go of something. That it's not a matter of how much money you buy, but what you have to begin with that counts. You see this time in and time out and it scares me. I sit there at these meetings where they tell me what the budget for the album is and I go WHY? Why are some bands making a $300,000 album? They're gonna blow away whatever it was that the band was all about.
Or the fist time you heard the Ramones or the New York Dolls. . . the feeling, the essence. That's Rock 'n' Roll!
Remember the first time you saw the Ramones? It was like "Springtime For Hitler" right in your face and you thought, 'I never saw this!' That's Rock 'n' Roll. God bless whoever recorded that first Ramones album and in not trying to make it palpable to the masses. But that's the whole thing . . take a band like Jetboy. I did one song on their album, "Make Some Noise." But that was done after they did the first album, spent the money and got dropped. MCA said we'll give some money and go in and do this one song. MCA just piddled and paddled around, and I had to go to London the next day so I never mixed it. There's another case of a band that was just produced into hell.
They're really good live. I like their album.
Yeah, somebody has to know to just turn on the mike and leave it at that. I'm hoping that their new album . . . it sounded really cool, I was talking to (Jetboy guitarist) Fernie Rod the other day. Sammy Yaffa (bassist for Jetboy, Hanoi Rocks and now Joan Jett) is the nicest person and Fernie is a great guy, all he likes to talk about is ice hockey. I got caught up in the rivalry between bands that I've produced. Poison had this one guitar thing that I forced them to use and they said, "We'd don't want to sound like fuckin' Jetboy!" The first day we started the Poison album Bobby (Dahl) and I went to see Guns 'N Roses at the Troubadour. And I remember turning around to Bobby - it was the beginning of the decline of our relationship - and I said, 'No matter how many albums we sell and no matter how good our album is, we'll never be as good as this band. These battles between Faster Pussycat and Jetboy and Jetboy and Poison. I ended up working with all three of those bands and it's a strange situation. Being of what I do, I'm somewhat of a mercenary. I can't afford to spend ... I neither have the attention span nor the economic circumstance to do one album a year. Part of the reason I stopped performing, is the fact that it's so constricting to only be able to do one album with ten songs a year. And then have to play those ten songs the rest of your life.
What do you play?
I play guitar very badly. Just enough to have fun with it. I played on a couple of albums. I produced Ted Nugent and 'cause Ted didn't have the patience to do all the rhythm tracks. Mostly background vocals. Performing actually wasn't any fun, the goof part of it, to be on stage. But to be serious about it, there's something inherently unserious about getting up on stage strapped to a guitar and making a lot of noise. There’s no way I'm gonna get serious about it.
Well, it should be fun.
I think any band that isn't in it for the fun and the shear enjoyment of it, is a band that is destined for failure, or one that should achieve failure. Bands like Dokken I could never understand. I knew Don. It's just when you absolutely loathe and despise the people you're with, you won't even hang out with them and you're only in it for the paycheck. That, to me, is not motivation to be in a band. It's an excuse to be an asshole or to be that juvenile delinquent that you either were or always wanted to be when you were in school. It's a chance to be a rock star. You want to get laid, ya know, get the girl wit the big boobs, duh. Get to travel around the world and be an idiot! It's a great job! You don't wear a coat and a tie. I used to always tell my parents that I'm never gonna wear one. "Yes you will," they'd say. In my case, I went to an Ivy League university and graduated with honors and got into Harvard Law school and realized that I didn't want to be like that. I knew that from the start. It was great to say, wait a minute, I can do Ted Nugent, be involved in these other things and not have to go to a nine to five job. It was a tremendous stroke of luck. It's very hard, as I'm sure you are acutely aware, that most of your friends tend to be struggling and working. Friends that work at jobs just so they can get ends together so that they can do that one gig that they lose money at. I remember my first gig at CBGB's on a Monday night, and after the van rental they charged you for the sound system. Our debts were $280 and after doing flyers and everything we drew four people. So I don't recall that we sold tickets at $70 apiece to recoup the expenses. The financial sodomy that get practiced upon these people, it's so disparaging. That's why you got to go to L.A. right now to get signed. There is no scene in New York that I know of. I've never signed a New York band. I've never seen anything that's really interesting. There's no nurturing system here.
Do you think there's more enthusiasm, more talent in L.A.?
Enthusiasm perhaps, there's that whole support network there that you don't have here. You walk down the street in Hollywood and you see five hundred kids in bands. Everybody's in a band out there. Either that or they're writing a script. Here, what do you see when you walk down the street? Beggars and crack addicts. It's not conducive to being in a band here. It's far more interesting to be in a band in LA. It's beginning in London, but I think it's still a year away. I'm seeing great signs out of there. It's a lot more fun to go to London then it's ever been before, since the days of the Pistols. New York is good for Rap, but I don't do Rap. Rap to me is a tiring fad. I can listen to Tone Luc do that one song, but that's about it. They’re still pushing it because it's tremendously advantageous economically. Because you can do an album for twenty grand. So within the confines of Rock 'n' Roll, New York is a cultural wasteland and that's perhaps why I'm moving to L.A. I get about ten demos a week. I listen to every tape I get, and the New York ones … some of them are like sexless, they're either real hardcore, which bores me, or they're just second rate imitations of something else. Whereas in Los Angeles they still understand melody and they can still hone their songwriting and they can hone being a band and learn to apply their makeup well enough to get on MTV, in most cases.
When you first saw Flies On Fire, were you just hanging out?
I find myself just going to clubs for the fun of it, especially in L.A., 'cause you never know what you're gonna find. Out there, various clubs have this thing where you can get up and do three songs. You see ten, fifteen bands. I was out there doing the Kill For Thrills album, which will be out soon, and my friend was telling me about Flies and how they were this incredible band and that they would never unfortunately get a record deal 'cause they weren't commercial enough. And that we should take $30,000 dollars ourselves and record the album. The Poison album cost only $23,000. We would lose money on it, but at least we would have done something that was a good thing. So I went to this bar on a Sunday night at one in the morning. There were only twelve people there and they were the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. They just blew the place out!
|Do you find that when you work with a band that’s never done a major recording, it's hard for them or you to make the transition from say a "club" act to a "recording" act, like with Flies On Fire?
It's a lot more fun to do an album like that than to do one with someone who's had "studio" experience because you can be a lot more creative. With Flies On Fire, it was basically go out in the room and play, because musically, the band was together. I think it's the best album I've ever done.
But with first time bands, do you find that they're leery of getting an "overproduced" sound as opposed to a "live" sound?
Well, that's both my advantage and disadvantage in terms of my … if someone were to say "style" of producing bands. I've caught a lot of flack for being a bit of a dictator. And I have to be, but that's why Poison hates my guts. They wanted to be a Heavy Metal band and they had this one part of them which was like in the Kiss vein. There were some other songs which I forced them to do my way that they really hated and they turned out to be their big hits. Up until the day the album (Look What The Cat Dragged In) came out, in fact, after the album came out they were bitching and whining that I destroyed them. This, that and the other thing. Faster Pussycat, those guys couldn't play that great at that time, but you have to capture the essence of what the band is. To tell you the truth, nobody gives a fuck if somebody plays well or somebody is a guitar hero. It's basically a very sexual thing. Whether it hits you in that responsive place that's where it's all about. The production is only minor.
Well, it makes it jump out at you.
I get a lot of criticism for not being … when I'm up for an album with somebody, that they (my previous LPs) don't sound good enough. Yeah, but they sold three million copies. In the case of Poison, which is an album I'm not very proud of. Faster Pussycat, well the album cost $35,000 and it sold 370,000 albums and made a profit. Here's a Faster Pussycat album and you put them up against other albums does it sound as good? Maybe, maybe not. It captured a feeling and I think it did very well. I can still listen to it. There are only two or three albums that I've done that I can listen to.
Yeah, on some demo tapes that we've gotten, you can tell that the band is really exciting even though the tape wasn't done with a major budget. Maybe they produced it themselves, but you can still get the feeling off it.
Isn't that exciting when you get that demo tape - 'gosh the production sucks but . . .' and isn't that a hell of a lot more exciting then when you pick up the new Salty Dog album, then you get this 'sanitized, factory sealed for your protection' album that's just terrible? Like Beau Hill came in and … Roxx Gang is the perfect example of that. You've heard the demo?
Yeah, Carl Canedy produced it.
Yeah, the demo was brilliant. And then they do this album, the album is embarrassing. Where did it go? Well, Beau Hill somewhere in his transition, looking for cleanliness. If you're in a rock 'n' roll band, show those zits. That first demo, okay people have zits. We're not selling Claudine Schiffer or whatever her name is that super model. But a rock band doing what Roxx Gang did? Doomed for oblivion, and had they been true to their roots, they could have been been huge. Put that tape out (the demo) and tart it up just a bit. I thought that was one of the tragedies of last year.