INTERVIEW WITH 7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH AND EX-SLEEZE BEEZ SINGER ANDREW ELT
Date: August 13, 2017
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
I RECENTLY CONDUCTED AN INTERVIEW WITH CURRENT 7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH SINGER ANDREW ELT. MANY MAY ALSO REMEMBER ELT AS THE SINGER OF LATE ’80S/EARLY ’90S HARD ROCK BAND SLEEZE BEEZ. I RECALL WHEN SLEEZE BEEZ’S DEBUT ALBUM ‘SCREWED, BLUED AND TATTOOED’ CAME OUT AND SEEING THE VIDEO FOR “STRANGER THAN PARADISE” ON MUCH MUSIC. UPON VIEWING THE VIDEO, IT WAS APPARENT THAT I HAD TO GET THIS ALBUM. I HAD ALSO SEEN A PIECE IN METAL EDGE MAGAZINE STATING THAT SLEEZE BEEZ WERE TOURING WITH NONE OTHER THAN MY FAVORITE CURRENT BAND, SKID ROW, IN THE US.
IT WAS ON AN ALL NIGHT TRIP DRIVING TO OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA THAT I WOULD MAKE THE PURCHASE OF MY MOST SOUGHT AFTER NEW MUSIC. A FRIEND WAS WRITING AN ENTRY EXAM INTO CARLETON UNIVERSITY THAT MORNING, SO WE WOULD DRIVE ALL NIGHT TO OUR DESTINATION, GIVING OUR FRIEND THE FULL SUPPORT HE SO REQUIRED. AFTER THE EXAM THAT MORNING, WE DECIDED IT WOULD BE COOL TO CHECK OUT WHAT THE CITY OF OTTAWA HAD TO OFFER. MY PURCHASE OF THIS SO DESIRED ALBUM WOULD BE MADE AT A SAM THE RECORD MAN STORE IN A LOCAL OTTAWA SHOPPING MALL. I RECALL IT LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY. MY EYES WERE TIRED AND MY BODY SOMEWHAT WEAK FROM PULLING AN ALL NIGHTER, BUT SOMEHOW I MANAGED TO PULL THE PLASTIC WRAPPING FROM THE CASSETTE TAPE. IT WOULD BE MANY HOURS BEFORE I WOULD GET TO MY HOME AND LISTEN TO WHAT LIED BENEATH THE BLACK PLASTIC CASING OF THE CASSETTE TAPE. AS WE MADE OUR WAY HOME, I WOULD OPEN UP THE TAPE’S CASE MANY TIMES AND READ EVERY LYRIC AND LINER NOTE. OH! THE GOOD OLD DAYS!!!
‘SCREWED, BLUED AND TATTOOED’ HAS HAD A LASTING IMPRESSION ON ME. THAT ORIGINAL TAPE IS LONG GONE, BUT I DO OWN TWO COPIES ON CD. ONE IS STILL IN THE PACKAGING. THE REASON FOR THIS, IS THAT IF MY OPENED COPY WAS TO BECOME TOO SCRATCHED OR STARTED TO SKIP, I WOULD HAVE A BACK UP. I ALSO OWN A COPY ON VINYL. A COPY I PURCHASED ON EBAY MANY YEARS AGO BEFORE THE MARKET BECAME TOO EXPENSIVE FOR PURCHASING ’80S VINYL. I DO ADMIT I HARDLY EVER LISTEN TO IT FOR FEAR OF RUINING ITS CONTENTS.
WITH ALL THIS SAID, IT REALLY WAS A GREAT HONOR TO TALK WITH ELT. THERE ARE EXCERPTS IN THIS INTERVIEW THAT ELT ALLUDES TO ME WRITING A BOOK WITH A CERTAIN SENSE OF SARCASM, BUT AS YOU READ ON, YOU WILL NOTICE THAT THAT IS HIS SENSE OF HUMOR AND HE MEANS NO DISRESPECT. IT WAS A PLEASURE AND I HOPE YOU, THE READER, ENJOYS IT AS MUCH AS I, THE WRITER, DID CONDUCTING THE INTERVIEW. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I GIVE YOU ANDREW ELT!!!
Sleaze Roxx: Before we talk about the past, can you tell me about your current musical endeavour. I believe you are fronting a very prominent Led Zeppelin touring act. Can you tell me a bit about it and how it all came together?
Andrew Elt: About six years ago, a good guitarist friend of mine called me to see if I was interested in fronting his Zeppelin tribute in Europe, Physical Graffiti. They’d been dabbling around for a while and were looking to restart the band. I was busy tour managing and didn’t have much going on on the singing front, so I thought I’d give it a shot. We now do 40+ shows a year in Europe, playing big clubs. It’s a blast. The band is stellar! www.physicalgraffiti.eu
Physical Graffiti performing “Immigrant Song” and “Stairway To Heaven” in Moscow, Russia on December 15, 2013:
Concert of Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin Tribute Band) in Moscow 15.12.2013 Московский международный Дом музыки
Sleaze Roxx: I have seen clips — very impressive. Sounds like the real thing. You have also just released a new album with the band 7 Miles to Pittsburgh. What can you tell me about this album? Is this a new project or something you had been doing for awhile?
Andrew Elt: It’s a project I’ve been doing off and on with two musician friends of mine, for the past three years. It was never my intention to release an album — just write and record and see if we could come up with anything exciting and different to what we had been doing. Everyone was busy doing other things, work, etc. We did this on the occasional Wednesday in between my touring as tour manager, but it became clear after we had written and recorded ten songs that we had more than just a demo, so we went for it. We established our own label and decided to release it.
Sleaze Roxx: The song “Pittsburgh” from the new album, the first verse mentions the band name and seems as though it’s from your perspective. Then the second verse is geared more towards someone else. Can you explain a little about the song lyric wise?
Andrew Elt: Yeah, I’ve been to Pittsburgh a few times with the Beez and as tour manager for Walter Trout. Although there was a small town called Blawnox, just outside the city. I’m guessing it was 7 miles! Walter always played this hole in the wall bar called Moondogs. Although the place was falling apart, the vibe was always amazing. When the second verse came up, I thought of that club and the waitress that worked there. I think her name is Billy. She would kick anyone’s ass who was out of line, including ours if she had too!!! That second verse was inspired by her ‘ take no bullshit’ vibe, like the city. But at the same time –vulnerable, humble and a good hang!
7 Miles To Pittsburgh‘s teaser for “Pittsburgh” song:
First of 10 teasers we are releasing of songs from our upcoming, self titled album, 7 Miles to Pittsburgh
Sleaze Roxx: The track “Lost and Found” has a very ’90s Queensrÿche feel to it — at least from my perspective. There’s some very impressive vocals on your part. How would a song like this come together? There seems to be a lot of intricacies within.
Andrew Elt: Exactly. I never really thought of Queensrÿche when writing the lyrics and melodies to this song. The music was already written and had two pieces — the soft arpeggio part and the balls out part. Good luck turning that into a song! I was tempted to write a bridge but thought, “Let’s see if it would work as is dynamically.” I think it did. It is very unexpected and surprising when the chorus kicks in. Totally the opposite of the verse. I like the surprise element of that.
Sleaze Roxx: What I find very interesting about the album is the range of styles. I hear a ’90s heavy vibe in places. Then with the organ/key sound, a Deep Purple thing. As well as musically, Zeppelin in spots. Some vocals are reminiscent of your work on ‘Insanity Beach.’ Was this something that as a band, you guys had thought about or did it just come out naturally?
Andrew Elt: When I sing, I never think how I should sound. It just comes out, the way the song intends it to be. I close my eyes and sing. If in hindsight, it sounds like something I have done in the past, that is pure coincidence. But it’s me also. As far as being compared with Zeppelin/Purple, what a compliment! I’ll take it!
Sleaze Roxx: I generally like to know about the recording process itself. Where was the album done? Was it a digital recording or old school analog? How were the instruments recorded? Together or separately? I’d like to hear pretty much anything you can share in regards to the recording process.
Andrew Elt: When we started this project, the basic tracks were demoed in Joris’ rehearsal room, an old Chicken coop in his parents’ backyard. He used real drums/guitars recorded through regular mic’s to an old PC with an A/D converter and some kind of recording software — the name escapes me. That was it. So when I started writing lyrics, melodies and arranging, I just started ‘cutting and pasting’ the tracks. Everything was done to a click track, so it was relatively easy to navigate. Once the ideas started to evolve and become actual songs, it became obvious that the sound was really good. So we decided to re-record everything, the same way, in the same room. We upgraded the computer as it kept freezing and bought some new speakers — KRK’s — and an OK vocal microphone — audio Technica. Nothing fancy. Keeping the costs down and recording outside of a regular studio allowed us to make this album. Twenty years ago, we would have had to go into a studio and would have cost thousands. Now all it cost was some time and effort. The most important piece of equipment used was our ears. You can record in the most expensive studio, if you don’t have the ears, it will sound terrible. Or, you can record in an old chicken coop and make it work [laughs]! If you watch the video snippet for “Same Size Soul”, you can see the actual rehearsal room and equipment used.
7 Miles To Pittsburgh‘s teaser for “Same Size Soul” song:
Second teaser from our upcoming debut album…….
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of “Same Size Soul”, what was your thinking lyrically in terms of that song and was it directed towards anyone in particular? To me, it’s pretty self explanatory.
Andrew Elt: Really, I’m sick and tired of racism, bigotry, prejudice, religious intolerance, discrimination, social/financial inequality, etc. Isn’t it time the whole human race just got on with each other? That’s what that song is about. So it’s directed toward us as people.
Sleaze Roxx: I love the vibe in the song “Jambalaya” and the lyrics making reference to New Orleans I assume. Is this another personal experience song? I will add that the music fits perfectly to the theme of the lyric.
Andrew Elt: “Jambalaya” — this was the name Martin [Helmantel] had given to the initial idea, based on a ‘n’orlinz’ recipe I make and also enjoyed by Martin. It so happens that it fit the song. I wrote it four years ago, in the aftermath of Katrina. I’ve been to the city a few times — great vibe there. I saw a documentary on what went down and the struggle the city still has to get back to life. They have had it rough, and they seem to have been forgotten and neglected. This was my 5 ¢ worth, my helping hand, a humble ‘pick me up’ for the people of New Orleans and their great cuisine and music.
7 Miles To Pittsburgh‘s teaser for “Jambalaya” song:
Let the good times sooth your soul
Sleaze Roxx: Before we switch gears a bit and discuss the past, how would someone go about getting there hands on the ‘7 Miles to Pittsburgh’ album? My understanding is it is available on CD and vinyl. And are there any plans to go out and play some dates?
Andrew Elt: It is available through our website www.7mtp.nl and direct order through our distributor, Suburban, at https://suburban.nl/en/product/7-miles-to-pittsburgh/ Touring, not quite yet, but we are available for festivals… and bar mitzvah’s [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: Perfect. So I’d like to talk about your introduction into Sleeze Beez… You had been singing in the band Gin On The Rocks when Beez had made their first album ‘Looks Like Hell’ with a different singer. How did it all unfold with you joining the band?
Andrew Elt: Dude, are you writing a book [laughs]? I was looking and they were looking. Chris, the guitar player, asked me to join. So I did after a session in the studio. I sang “Don’t Talk About Roses.” That was my job interview!
Sleaze Roxx: The ‘Screwed, Blued And Tattooed’ album with the pressing that features “We Do Rock N Roll”, I believe that was on Red Bullet Records. Was this actually released prior to the Atlantic release? And why was the track left off of the Atlantic release?
Andrew Elt: Atlantic didn’t like the track. That’s what it came down to. We negotiated and that was the deal maker/breaker. We still played it live in the States. It turned into a crowd favourite! And yes, the Dutch pressing of ‘Screwed, Blued And Tattooed’ was released in 1989 while the rest of the world in I believe March 1990.
Sleeze Beez‘s “Stranger Than Paradise” video:
Our first one. Done in Tampa Florida. Forgot the date. Anyone know?
Sleeze Beez‘s “Heroes Die Young” video:
Las Vegas. Filmed on the “Neon Graveyard”. Never forget this shoot. It rained that night. Very unusual for that location. We had just enough time to shoot before sunrise. The audio/video is in sink on this one.
Sleaze Roxx: It seemed that the band was gaining momentum after ‘Screwed, Blued And Tattooed’, but it seemed to be lost on ‘Powertool.’ I thought it was a decent release, but somewhat confusing sound wise. After all these years, what is your feeling on that release and all that transpired around that time in the music business.
Andrew Elt: Well, we joined the train ride at the end of the journey as it were. By this time, the music business was out of control. Money wasn’t an option, there was plenty of it. No one saw grunge lying on the railway tracks. When that hit, every hair band out there was thrown from the train, and every label was desperate to find a Nirvana. We spent too much time on ‘Powertool.’ We had most of it written by the end of 1990. The label heads thought we should come to the States to write and record. They had a new producer for us. Who were we to argue? It was a fiasco. We wrote and demoed a whole album’s worth of songs in LA for six months, but we pulled it — chapters 5, 6 & 7 of the book. It wasn’t us. It sounded like the producer’s album. So we went home and finished what we had in 1990 and recorded it in the UK. It was released just as the train came off the tracks. Atlantic released it but did no promo. It died a slow death.
Sleaze Roxx: Hmmm, book… Sounds interesting. So did you tour much for ‘Powertool’? Or did that go by the wayside as the little promotion you spoke of?
Andrew Elt: We only toured ‘Powertool’ in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Sleaze Roxx: After the ‘Powertool’ situation and changing musical climate, did Atlantic decide to move on from the band or was it more of a mutual split?
Andrew Elt: It was mutual.
Sleaze Roxx: When it came time to doing ‘Insanity Beach’, which took a heavier direction and released on your own Red Bullet label, what was the thinking going into that album? In my eyes, it may be your best album. It has a lot of balls.
Andrew Elt: It was the natural thing to do. Evolve. No one wanted to keep doing and rehashing the same stuff. We kinda went with what felt natural. It felt like this was the way we needed to go. But in hindsight, it didn’t matter what we did. We were already branded a ‘hair band’ and like most other bands from the ’80s, commercially, we were doomed. But yes, musically, this was the best thing we did.
Sleaze Roxx: Then from there was an amazing live album. I was listening to ‘Live In Tokyo’ the other day and as I was listening, I realized that it is one of the best live sounding albums I have ever heard. Do you recall how it ended up sounding so great in terms of the mixing/mastering in the studio? It just really captures the band fantastically.
Andrew Elt: It was one show in Tokyo. It was mixed in the same studio we mixed ‘Screwed, Blued And Tattooed’ and ‘Insanity Beach.’ We were always a great sounding live band. The basic sounds of the instruments were always killer, making the mixing process relatively easy.
Sleaze Roxx: So nothing was really added then? It was all Sleaze Beez live?
Andrew Elt: Yep!!!
Sleaze Roxx: So after the break up of the band, what was your next step?
Andrew Elt: I did a spell with my ’70s cover band the Heavy 70’s, with guitarist Don Van Spall and bassist Martin Helmantel — now with 7mtp. Cut an album with Don under the name The Moon, then started tour managing Walter Trout. I’ve been doing that for 17 years.
Sleaze Roxx: Anyways, I wish you the best of luck with 7 Miles to Pittsburgh. For people reading, it deserves a listen. Thank you Andrew.
Andrew Elt: Cool man! Thanks for the questions!