INTERVIEW WITH STACEY BLADES AND CHRIS VAN DAHL OF ANGELS IN VEIN (PART 1 OF 2)
Date: June 11, 2016
IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE A NEW SLEAZE ROCK GROUP HAS GENERATED AS MUCH BUZZ AND EXCITEMENT AS ANGELS IN VEIN, WHICH FEATURES EX-L.A. GUNS GUITARIST STACEY BLADES, EX-L.A. GUNS AND CHERRY STREET SINGER CHRIS VANDAHL, EX-FASTER PUSSYCAT BASSIST ERIC STACY, EX-WHITE LION DRUMMER TROY PATRICK FARRELL AND EX-CHERRY STREET GUITARIST TODD (TAZ) ANTHONY. SLEAZE ROXX HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHAT WITH BLADES AND VAN DAHL ABOUT ANGELS IN VEIN AS WELL AS THEIR RESPECTIVE TIMES IN / DEPARTURES FROM L.A. GUNS.
Sleaze Roxx: There seems to be a real buzz about Angels In Vein. Are you guys surprised by the great reception that you have received so far?
Chris VanDahl: Surprised? I think the amount of stuff that is coming back at us as we launch this has been a surprise for everybody. I mean, we expected that there would be a certain amount of interest but mostly, this has been a labour of love so… It’s almost always shocking. Like for example, we launched a little Facebook site maybe two weeks ago and since then, we’ve been getting hit with press internationally — Japan, Russia, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Poland — and it kind of just goes on and on. And that kind of took us by surprise. So yeah, more than anything, it just tells us that the timing is right and people are hungry for something along the lines of what we are doing. Rock music generally runs in cycles and I think that it’s time for a great band to come out again.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. For sure! Now Chris, I think that you and Taz had been working on the Angels In Vein project for a little while before you recruited other band members. So how long did you guys work on it before you started looking for people to play with?
Chris VanDahl: Well, Angels In Vein started — like I was saying earlier — it was a labour of love. I have been performing professionally as Steven Tyler for Legends In Concert all over the world for the past five years and I woke up one day and I was like, “Man! I need to get in touch with who I am again. I’ve got to do something that is relevant to me.” And that’s kind of how it started. And I reached out to Taz. We’re long long time friends. We moved from Detroit to L.A. together back in the ’80s when we formed Cherry Street. So I reached out to him. I don’t know. It’s got to be going on two years ago and I said, “Look. I want to do something original.” Like the next day, he had sent me — I don’t know — like 13 songs ghat he had been sitting all like forever! I mean, they were sitting in a drawer somewhere. And that’s kind of like where it began.
I am not exactly sure how long ago it was but I got a call from Stacey whom I have been in regular touch for years now. He had an event that he was planning out here in Las Vegas that he asked me to sing for. We had planned it before with that. The event itself fell through and then we got to talking about what each of us were doing and I told him that I had this thing I was working on. He said, “Well, let me hear it.” So I sent him some music and he called me back and he said, “Look man. Listen. Let’s turn this thing into a band.” And he had been working with Eric [Stacy] on this other event thing and he brought Eric in and that’s pretty much when this became a real band. That’s when it became — you know what I mean — a cohesive unit.
Stacey Blades: I think that Chris is being modest because he sent me this stuff and I was blown away! So I want to state that for the record.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Chris VanDahl: Thank you man!
Sleaze Roxx: When you guys started, there were a few sites including Sleaze Roxx that called you a “supergroup.” So I will give you my take on it. When I saw the names in the band, I automatically thought, “Wow! L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat, White Lion” so it is going to be a supergroup. But you guys rejected the tag or the label publicly. Why did you do that?
Stacey Blades: I think, you know, it’s such a broad term and you know, “supergroup” to me — and I am sure Chris agrees with it — that’s like Joe Perry, Paul McCartney, Alice Cooper. Now, that’s a supergroup. I mean, I’m not denouncing our past. I am very proud of everything that I have accomplished as I am sure with Chris, Eric, Taz and Troy have but it’s just a cool line-up. We’re not relying on the past with this band. It’s all new stuff. It’s not like ‘Let It Rawk’ where everybody is from all these other bands and we play the stuff from the bands that we were in or are in. So this is just a great culmination of five guys with you know, very respectable music careers, pasts and accolades. And we’re all about new music. It’s all about the newness so that’s why we kind of — Chris probably feels the same way — we kind of denounced that. I mean that’s kind of a harsh word — “denounced.” But we appreciate the term being used for this band but we don’t think of ourselves as a “supergroup.”
Chris VanDahl: I’d like to add to that too. For me, part of it is this. When you hear the term “supergroup” — at least, like I said, I’ll speak for myself — the idea of temporary or limited comes to mind almost immediately because when you look at these guys, and you know where they come from and you know what their histories are. It’s like, “Yeah. Joe Perry is going back to Aerosmith. Alice Cooper is Alice Cooper.” You know what I mean? We’re talking about Hollywood Vampires for example. I don’t want anyone to get the impression that this is a money grab or we are just doing this ’cause. This is something that we are all in and we believe in it. This thing will probably be around as long as there are people that are interested and that are willing to get behind it and support it. You know, the reason that I answer it that way is because I got blown up with e-mails asking, “is this a real and?” You know what I mean? So people are asking the same question. And it was flaterring that somebody wanted to tag us that way. The ideas that are connected to that are not necessarily accurate where Angels In Vein is concerned.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking that you are all about the new music, have you thought about how it’s going to translate live? Because a lot of people know you from L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat, Whie Lion so they might be expecting to hear some of those songs played live, maybe towards the end of the set. Is that something that you guys would be considering?
Stacey Blades: Ummm. We maybe talked a little bit about it but we really want to focus on, like I said, the newness. It’s not different than when a new band comes out. I remember when in 1998 or ’99 when I was doing Roxx Gang and Buckcherry opened up. We diid a bunch of shows with Buckcherry and you know, their album hadn’t even yet to come out but they were touring. And I would watch them every night and I would see that they would grab the audience right away within two-three songs. And nobody knew the material but they were so exciting to watch — their energy. I think that once you have the audience in the palm of your hand, they are going to pay attention to what you’re doing whether they know the material or not. It’s a very good question [laughs] ’cause I am sure that people are going to be asking that many more times. That’s something that we will figure out but we really want to focus on the songs that we have been writing and stuff like that because they’re great and they’re going to go over great live.
Sleaze Roxx: So speaking of the new material, so far, we have only heard one clip of one song but it sounds like it has a little bit more modern overtones to it. Would you agree in that regard?
Stacey Blades: Absolutely!
Chris VanDahl: Yeah. I think where the music is concerned, we’re more of a classic rock band. We tie the best elements of what we all grew up on and love — we incorporate it in the music — but the production value of the a songs is very current and is very modern. So it’s like something old is new again. So from that perspective, the stuff is kind of a hybrid. If you listen to the music, it feels familiar immediately.
Sleaze Roxx: I know that you guys are close to finishing your new record. Do you have any sort of timeline that you can give us?
Chris VanDahl: You want to field this one? [laughs]
Stacey Blades: [Laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Stacey Blades: I think you know we’re just kind of — everything is happening so fast! We just shot the video for the single “1973.” We’re going to release singles just to sort of get the buzz going as opposed to “Ohhh. We’re just going to take the next six months and you know, when we finish the record, we finish the record, and then we’ll shop it.” You know, it’s such a labour of love and it is a great process but you know, we recently kind of all figured out “You know what? Let’s just release singles and create that buzz and then, you know, when the time is right, we’ll probably package a hard copy CD. That’s the plan right now — just to keep releasing singles over the next six months or so.
Chris VanDahl: I can say this for sure. There will be something out there soon. Our initial plan was to release “1973” with the video but we discussed the possibility of sending something else out of the shoot prior to that just because of the demand. People have been blowing up our pages and our e-mails. They’re like, “Alright, we’ve seen the logos. We know who the band is. We want to hear something.” We get that because we know what it feels like to be impatient and to be excited about something. You want to hear it. It’s like, “OK. I got this but where are the goods?” And for us, that’s the fun part because we’re not concerned. We know that we have the music. So we recently announced that the first song to be released will be “No One Gets Out Alive.” People will not have to wait long to at least get the first song.
Sleaze Roxx: So does this mean that you are putting all your projects on the back burner? What is going on there?
Stacey Blades: I think that we will start kind of doing this full-time towards fall. Chris has got some other stuff. I’ve got some ‘Let It Rawk’ stuff. But it’s exciting as this is just kind of cultivating fast and it’s really cool because you know, everybody has done their new projects and things like that but there’s something really magical that is happening with this thing. I think that it has taken everybody by surprise so I would say to the fans and stuff like that, “Yeah. I can see this in the next two to three months being definitely a full-time thing.”
Chris VanDahl: Yeah. I agree with that. I think that everybody has been taken by surprise to some extent. When we launched it, we didn’t expect or anticipate the response to be what it is. So now, it’s like we have loose ends. All the guys in the band have other things that they have been doing up to this point so we need to tie up these loose ends so that we can focus on this and make it our singular priority. You know, everybody gigs and they have their thing but like I said before, it’s really about demand man. If people want this and they love it and they are there to support it, then that is going to dictate what we are able to dedicate to it. We are all hoping for this to become just that. That’s the only thing that we have to worry about or focus on I should say.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Now Stacey, I was looking at some past interviews of yours leading up to today. I was looking at the reasons why you left L.A. Guns but I got quite a few of them so there was…
Stacey Blades: I’ll let you know which one was the closest!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Chris VanDahl: [Laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: There was the classic “musical differences.” There was some health issues that you had so you couldn’t tour as much or the way that L.A. Guns were doing. And there was also the classic “extenuating circumstances.” So which one is it?
Stacey Blades: Yeah! Well, kind of a combination of all three you know. We had been working non-stop for about 18 months and I was getting burned out. I have what is called sciatica in my left leg and anybody that has it will tell you, it’s a mother. But on top of that, I was having some things that I had to deal with with my family and I needed to take some time off. I was a mess. I was a mess emotionally, physically and mentally and you know, the band kind of turned on me? I had to really collect myself. On top of that, there was a lot of head butting. Personal musical differences were starting when we were making ‘Hollywood Forever.’ So it was a culmination of all of that and it got to a point where it was like, “I can’t stay in this. It’s not fair to me. It’s not fair to them.” So it was kind of a mutual thing. I really haven’t seen any of them since I left. A year later, Scotty [Griffin] was out of the band. When I reflect on it, it was a great part of my life. I am really super proud of what I did with the band. I am super grateful that I was given the opportunity to step in and replace Tracii [Guns] and make some amazing records with Andy Johns, some great great world tours and a lot of great memories. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what is right for yourself and I felt at that time… It wasn’t easy but I think that is the best way that I can sum it up.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned that there were some issues with the band but really, Scotty gave you some very nice parting words when you left the band so it seems that the issues were with Phil [Lewis] and Steve [Riley].
Stacey Blades: To say, “No! It was never that!” [Laughs] I mean, there are only four guys in the band! Two of those guys are no longer in the band. I have barely spoken to either of them. I certainly wish them health and happiness. I have fond memories. There’s a lot of stuff that happened, certain things that you can’t take back, but you know, you move forward with your life and you can’t live your life with “Oh. This person did this or why didn’t that happen like that?” If you carry that around man — all it does is just push you to the ground. That goes with anything, with any job or business. You have to kind of forgive and forget, and move on, and focus on yourself and bringing in good things into your life. Like I said, I have very fond memories of my time in the band and I think that the music that I made with the band really speaks for itself with the records that we did with Andy Johns. I like to see that positive as opposed to go “Ohhh! [growling noise] Those guys!” To me, I’m just not that kind of guy anymore.
Sleaze Roxx: So for how long did you feel that Phil and Steve did not want you in L.A. Guns anymore and how long had you been thinking of leaving the band before doing so?
Stacey Blades: I don’t think it had anything to do with them not wanting me in the band. My style of guitar playing was changing radically and I think it was a mutual understanding. I was heading down a different path and we both had differences on a lot of other stuff. I never really wanted to leave the band but it just naturally played out like that. It’s like a a good marriage that ends in divorce. You don’t see it coming but then it all starts unfolding. Again, I’m grateful for my time in the band.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Sleaze Roxx’s interview with Stacey Blades and Chris VanDahl of Angels In Vein!