INTERVIEW WITH THE DEFIANTS AND FORMER DANGER DANGER SINGER PAUL LAINE
Date: December 5, 2016
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
As a Canadian, when it comes to the music I love, I find it very frustrating. The artists that I admire rarely play in Canada. Of course we’ll get Def Leppard, Sammy Hagar or Whitesnake, which are the bigger name acts that come around every couple years at the local amphitheatres or casinos. Rarely will bands like Danger Danger, Warrant, Kix or Trixter be seen playing in this market… I actually have to ponder the word “market” for a second. Is there such a thing as “market” in Canada for this music? For the most part, I would have to say no. I envy the US and Europe. There is still a “market” for this style of music. They have great festivals that feature many days of great hard rock acts. I will say, occasionally The Rockpile in Toronto will have a night where four or five acts will play on one bill. Lately though, these events are few and far between. As for radio play, that doesn’t even play into the equation. Thank goodness for Sirius Radio’s Hair Nation.
It almost feels to me like many Canadians are complacent when it comes to the music they like. Canadians, for the most part are very passive and choose to just like what everyone else does. It frustrates me when I tell fellow Canadians that I am really not a fan of The Tragically Hip or Neil Young. I usually get a “What is wrong with you? They’re Canadian legends.” Maybe so, but it’s not my thing. I am free to make my own choices when it comes to music and I will. There is no denying the talent of Mr. Young and The Hip. It’s just a matter of choice. I am a fan of ’80s hard rock — plain and simple. Neither of those two artists fit into that category.
For me, in terms of Canadian artists there are a many that I love, but for some reason most people in Canada are unaware of or have long forgotten about, which really saddens me. My favourite Canadian band is Harem Scarem. I am also a fan of Slik Toxik, Sven Gali and the Killer Dwarfs. When was the last time you heard any of these artists on a local Canadian radio station? Which brings me to the purpose of all this ranting about Canadian music wrong doing. My next interview for Sleaze Roxx.
To quote his bandmate Bruno Ravel, “You know him, you love him, you can’t live without him… Mr. Paul Laine” — the current lead singer of The Defiants and formerly of Danger Danger.
Paul is a great Canadian artist who is supremely talented with a knack for writing killer hooks. For those who are fans of The Defiants and Danger Danger, his name is quite familiar. If we go back even further, there may also be those who may remember Paul Laine, the solo artist who released his debut album on Elektra Records back in 1990. Does the song “Dorianna” ring a bell?
Paul fits the bill of one of those Canadian artists that we rarely hear on Canadian radio. For all the talent and the amazing music Paul has brought forth throughout the years, it really frustrates me to no end. Unfortunately that is reality and as much as I’d like to, I can’t change that.
It was a pleasure for me to sit down with Paul and discuss various aspects of his career. He was insightful and answered everything I threw at him with ease. Hopefully through this interview, I can bring forth his name and he can gain a little bit more recognition for all he has accomplished. Enjoy!!!
Sleaze Roxx: Hey Paul, really great to talk to you! I hope it’s cool if we touch on many topics throughout your career. Congrats on ‘The Defiants’ album. It is a really solid release. What was your reaction when Bruno proposed the idea of doing another album together? Did you have mixed feelings, or was this something that you were really excited about doing?
Paul Laine: Thanks Tyson, the album was a labour of love [sighs]. My sole reason for doing it was really for sentimental ones. The only mixed feelings I had was just wondering what it would be like to write an album with Bruno. Technically, I had never done that before. Most of my work in the Danger Danger years was pretty solitary, with exception of the ‘Dawn’ album. Within the first few weeks of writing, I felt like we had a solid base to make a really good record.
Sleaze Roxx: There seems to be a theme on the album. Nostalgic in some ways. Songs like “Little Miss Rock N Roll” and “Take Me Back” speak of times back in the day — ’70s/’80s. Was this planned, or did it just happen naturally?
Paul Laine: Ahhhhh yes. Look, when you are asked to make a record that has its roots in the past, it’s pretty hard to not be nostalgic and write about some of the glory days. I think the album would be dishonest if that aspect didn’t come up. For sure. it happened naturally [sighs]. I never set out with any preconception really. I just start writing, and whatever comes out, comes out.
Sleaze Roxx: “That’s When I Stop Loving You” is one of my favourite tracks on the album and a truly great performance on your part. Bruno has explained to me that it was something he had lying around that you gravitated towards. What was your inspiration for this song?
Paul Laine: Like most of the songs on ‘The Defiants’ album, Bruno would send me a guitar riff and a drumbeat, and I would just start writing the melodies and lyrics. I loved the clean guitar riff that plays under what is now the verse. In my heart, I just felt this certain warmth to it. At the same time that I was looking at turning this riff into a song, a friend of mine in the film industry, screenwriter Johnny Sullivan was talking with me about asking his then girlfriend Maren, to marry him. John’s one of the sweetest, kind and genuine human beings I know. He would write me or call me and talk about his mad love for this girl. That really inspired me to write the song. It ended up being my wedding gift to them. I drove the 1,400 miles to L.A. and sang it for their first dance. So yeah, that’s the real inspiration for the song. True love [sighs] — when you get to see that for real, you can’t help but be inspired.
Sleaze Roxx: “Save Me Tonight” is a song that I feel is very modern sounding. As I spoke of in my review of ‘The Defiants’ album, I find the middle section brilliant and really builds to the breakdown. Did you and Bruno subconsciously want something more modern sounding on the album, or did it just organically happen?
Paul Laine: It’s all organic. I can’t write anything that I don’t feel. I can’t try to write. I just write and follow it to its conclusion without trying to force it. I believe this entire album has a good bridge between the past and right now. Too many acts want to capture some past glory and it fails, because you are not that person anymore. You don’t have that same feeling, that same exuberance, that same innocence. So in order to move anybody, you must get in touch with what moves you now, in the present. Then it will be believable and have life. I am very much in touch with what makes me a creative person, and I know what motivates me. I am always excited about creating something great. I still love a great song, a great piece of music and a great performance.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you attack the vocals? You did them in your studio. Would you do them, send them to Bruno, he would critique and ask to make modifications? Or did he give you free reign and trust your judgement? I would assume there were previous demos to go by as well.
Paul Laine: Not really. We wrote the record from scratch. We all recorded our parts separately. I think that we both had an immense trust in each other’s capabilities. If I was feeling unsure about something and vice versa, we would have a conversation about it. That was about it. Truthfully, modifications would be things like different chord changes. That’s about it.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s touch on the past slightly. I think your first solo album ‘Stick It In Your Ear’ is amazing. What was the recording process like and it must have been exciting to work with the late Bruce Fairbairn?
Paul Laine: Working with Bruce was like going to university and taking a master class. I had been working in recording studios honing my craft in my teenage years, but to step in with Bruce changed me forever. I learned about following your instinct and trusting it. Bruce was very generous to me, and kept me working on other records as a background singer after producing my album. I will forever be in his debt and I miss that he’s not in my life anymore. I always wonder if he was still living, what he would be producing right now. He was just a brilliant, wonderful man.
Sleaze Roxx: Back in those days, did you play locally in Vancouver, British Columbia? How did your Elektra Records deal come to be?
Paul Laine: When I decided to become a recording artist, I quit playing the bar circuit and buried myself in writing. I had started touring with top 40 acts when I was 15, and I quit 2 1/2 years later. A great education about playing live, but a waste of time when all I wanted to do was make art. I had music trapped inside of me that needed to get out. Elektra was one of three labels to come along after I started shopping my demos. They were the label at the time that agreed to everything that I wanted. Honestly, there is so much to tell about all of this, but that’s another novel…
Sleaze Roxx: When you joined Danger Danger, the ‘Cockroach’ album was already completed, but Steve and Bruno persuaded the record company to re-record the vocals. How did you feel about the album when you first heard it? I personally feel it is the definitive Danger Danger album. Due to the fact that Epic was not releasing ‘Cockroach’, some of the songs appeared on ‘Four The Hard Way’ and ‘Return Of The Great Gildersleeves.’ I felt they were great songs, but having those songs all together on ‘Cockroach’ made it brilliant.
Paul Laine: I thought that Steve and Bruno were fantastic writers. That was my first thought when hearing the record. Their best work yet, at the time.
Sleaze Roxx: I can’t imagine the disappointment when Epic pulled the rug from under ‘Cockroach.’ Danger Danger carried on though. Yourself, Steve and Bruno went back in the studio and recorded ‘Dawn.’ “Punching Bag” is still a favourite track of mine. What is your feeling about this album and tour? I believe Bruno played guitar on the tour and you on the bass?
Paul Laine: I loved ‘Dawn’ but it was a tough record to make. At that time, because of the lawsuit, we were just going to not be Danger Danger anymore. I thought it made sense, as I hadn’t technically come out on a Danger Danger album. So why not switch gears and do something that was organic and of the times. That’s how we wrote that album — as a new entity. At the end of the day, cold feet prevailed and it came out as a Danger Danger record anyways. My buddy, Scott Brown, from my solo career days, came out and played bass on that tour.
Sleaze Roxx: You released an album on Escape Records called ‘Can’t Get Enuff.’ It was a very solid release. Was this material left over from your solo career or just an avenue to release material that may not fit with Danger Danger? There are some really beautiful slower songs on this release. “If I Close My Eyes” and “Maybe You Don’t Love Me Anymore” come to mind.
Paul Laine: Yeah [sighs], it’s a record I never talk about because it’s a record that should have never come out. Just a record of demos. It’s the one regret of my career, and I wish it never happened. I’ll leave that one right there.
Sleaze Roxx: There is a great song on the ‘Gildersleeves’ album entitled “Six Million Dollar Man.” I love the line “Your suit is turned faded red.” What was the basis of this song and were you a fan of the “Six Million Dollar Man” show?
Paul Laine: I was a massive fan of that show as a kid. In fact I didn’t know anybody who wasn’t when I was young. There was a movie in the works that was almost green lighted. I was such a huge fan I wanted to be on the front line of songs picked for the movie. I wrote it lyrically as a kind of dark and melancholy theme. One where Steve Austin had been forgotten about in both his professional and personal life, becoming a shadow of his former self. A subject I could relate to at the time.
Sleaze Roxx: I understand you are also fronting a country band these days? What are your plans for DarkHorse? Is this project something you’re still presently working on?
Paul Laine: DarkHorse is Southern Rock meets country. It is my true love. I can write whatever the hell I want inside that genre, and I can say things in a way I can’t in other music. It feeds my soul.
Sleaze Roxx: Paul, I thank you very much for your time. One last question… Bruno has mentioned you will start working on new Defiants material in the New Year. Will it be in the same vein as the first album? Or may we expect anything out of the ordinary?
Paul Laine: I can’t tell you what it’s going to sound like, save for the fact that it will most definitely be a Defiants album! We haven’t begun to throw the ideas around yet, but I know we will carry on with the Defiants’ sound. I think we most definitely have one. I think Bruno and I will always try and better ourselves each time we make a record. As a recording artist and songwriter, that’s my life’s goal and my life’s work…
TRemenda canción del primer disco de Paul Laine.