INTERVIEW WITH BABYLON SHAKES
Date: May 3, 2018
Photos: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography (every photo except the album cover)
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE DOING AN INTERVIEW LIVE IN PERSON. THE CHANCES OF DOING AN IN PERSON INTERVIEW WITH BABYLON SHAKES FOR ME ARE PRETTY REMOTE GIVEN THE THOUSANDS OF KILOMETRES BETWEEN MYSELF AND AT LEAST ONE OF THE GROUP MEMBERS. HOWEVER, AS I WAS ATTENDING THE M-PRE PARTY IN COLUMBIA, MARYLAND, USA ON MAY 3, 2018 AND SINCE BABYLON SHAKES WERE ONE OF THE BANDS PLAYING THE EVENT, THE OPPORTUNITY PRESENTED ITSELF FOR AN IN PERSON INTERVIEW. LUCKILY, THERE WAS AMPLE SET UP TIME BETWEEN EACH OF THE SIX BANDS ON THE M-PRE PARTY BILL SO WE WERE ABLE TO CARVE OUT SOME TIME FOR AN INTERVIEW IN A PARKING LOT OF ALL PLACES. IT DOESN’T GET MORE METAL THAN THAT.
BABYLON SHAKES CONSISTING OF LEAD VOCALIST/GUITARIST CHRIS CLARK, BASSIST GARY JORDAN AND DRUMMER JEFF “MORTY” MORTIMER RELEASED THEIR DEBUT EP ‘EXILE AT THE VELVETEEN LOUNGE VOL 1’ LAST MONTH, WHICH CONSISTS OF FIVE SONGS THAT WILL TAKE YOU BACK TO THE EARLY DAYS OF AEROSMITH, HANOI ROCKS AND FASTER PUSSYCAT. I HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO ALL THREE BAND MEMBERS ON A HOT SWEATY EVENING AND TRIED MY BEST TO PRY THEIR “BIG ANNOUNCEMENT” FROM THEM AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your gig tonight [at the M-Pre Party]. I understand that it was a very hot one. You guys had a lot of support in the audience. How did you feel about your set?
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: Dirty sweaty rock n’ roll. That’s how we like it. You know, a room with the temperature up and everybody just really into it. It was great.
Chris Clark: We had a blast. There’s so many people. When you get up there and that many people in front of you, you can’t help… The energy just fills you. It’s perfect. It’s a great time.
[Interviewer’s note: I was about to give Gary Jordan a turn before removing the mike from him causing everyone to laugh].
Sleaze Roxx: [To Gary] We’ll get you next time! One thing different that I noticed about you guys right off the bat is the Jeff is almost the spokesperson for the band on stage. How did you guys work that out? It’s a little bit different to have the drummer speak to the audience.
Jeff “Morty”Mortimer: You know, it was just kind of a natural kind of thing. We are still sort of feeling it out but it’s kind of a thing where Chris and Gary sometimes need a break while tuning. I don’t play a tuning instrument per say. You know, we like to fill in the gaps and when we have people in the palms of our hands, we just want to keep it going. It’s such a high. It’s a rush. It comes from the heart. It’s just organic, which is natural. “Organic” is used a lot now…
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: But it’s the energy that we get off people and just the whole situation. We love rock n’ roll. It’s just our core.
Sleaze Roxx: You guys sounded really tight but I understand that’s only your third gig. How come you guys are sounding so good, so fast?
Gary Jordan: We’ve been in the business for a long time. We’re all seasoned musicians. We’ve been for about 30 years, we’ve been in the business music. We just kind of clicked together. When we first got together, it was kind of like a machine almost. We just love what we do so I think that contributes to just us being who we are.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve just released a new EP [Exile To The Velveteen Lounge Vol 1]. So tell us about it and which bands are influencing the sound?
Chris Clark: We’ve finished it up back in, let’s see, back in March.
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: Early March.
Chris Clark: Yeah. We got five songs. It’s really influenced by early Aerosmith, Hanoi Rocks, just good ’70s classic rock n’ roll. Real blues based. Actually, we got together and were recording in Gary’s house in his basement. He’s got a studio. We rehearse there, we record and send everything off to our producer who mixes and masters everything. We just kind of keep everything in house. We get together. We’ll stay for a long weekend, work, watch…
Gary Jordan: [Laughs]
Chris Clark: Yeaaaah, grill out, drink [laughs]. Watch YouTube for hours and record rock n’ roll.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool. You guys are doing things a little bit different in that you’re actually releasing a second EP later this year. Why did you decide to kind of split up your album into two?
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: Yeah, it’s really kind of funny. We kind of followed what I felt was kind of cool with the way rock n’ roll is going right now. Like Greta Van Fleet. I like the fact that they did a teaser. They did five songs. We kind of had five songs in the can and it kind of worked out that way. I said, ‘You know, why don’t we? Instead of doing a full-length album and try to market it and push it, let’s just do these five songs and see how it goes?’ As Chris mentioned earlier, we do our recording at Gary’s house and it’s been a new process for us in terms of doing the engineering there and recording there, and then sending it and getting produced elsewhere. So we decided, let’s just do these five songs and put it out. Let’s do a volume. We wanted to dig from the ’70s well instead of the ’90s well or the ’80s well. Seventies’ music is what we’re mostly inspired by in this band and that gives us this difference. We said, ‘Let’s put out a volume.’ We don’t want to call it an ‘EP.’ Let’s call it a ‘volume’ and see how it goes. We already have ‘Vol 2’ in the works. We are in pre-production for that right now. But that’s how that came up about basically.
Sleaze Roxx: When can we expect ‘Vol 2’ to be out?
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: End of October of this year.
Gary Jordan: We want to release something really big for December but I’m not going to tell you what it is.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re not going to tell me? Speaking of that, Chris had told me that he had a special announcement that he promised me…
Chris Clark: [Laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] … that he would tell me for this interview instead of Sunday if I remember well.
Chris Clark: [Laughs] Oh no!
Sleaze Roxx: Just joking.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Can I pry it out of you?
Chris Clark: I’ll tell you at S3 [Sleazy Slimey Sunday 3 which will take place later today at the Cancun Cantina in Hanover, Maryland, USA]. At S3 [laughs].
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: For now, it’s just going to have to be a little but mysterious right now.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] You guys are tough! Tough audience. Tough audience. Alright, what’s your favorite song from Babylon Shakes for each of you?
Chris Clark: For me right now, it’s one of the newer ones that we played tonight called “No Pictures Please.” It’s really bluesy, raunchy and reminds of the London Quireboys. That’s my favorite one now.
Gary Jordan: I would probably say for me, it would be… I like “Silver Tongue Devil” as of right now. I like the new stuff that you haven’t heard that much of yet. You’ll hear soon [laughs].
Babylon Shakes‘ “Silver Tongue Devil” song:
Provided to YouTube by TuneCore Silver Tongue Devil · Babylon Shakes Babylon Shakes (Velveteen Libertine / Silver Tongue Devil) ℗ 2018 Babylon Shakes Released on: 2018-01-03 Auto-generated by YouTube.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool [laughs]! Jeff?
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: Hmmm. I’m going to have to say that I love them all and I think that our best stuff is yet to come. I’ll just leave it at that.
Chris Clark: Very diplomatic.
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: [Laughs] It’s very diplomatic.
Sleaze Roxx: Alright, you guys are a trio. Did you ever discuss having possibly more band members or was it just ‘It’s us three. That’s it.’?
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: We guys really felt like the first time that we ever got in a room together, I never saw past us just jamming together for the first time. But when we did, it felt so good, it felt so complete. We just thought, ‘Let’s just go with this.’ If we added another guitar player, it would be such a very rare and special person that I don’t think that we’d even want to take the time to find that person right now.
Gary Jordan: It would have to be a drop in the bucket you know? Someone that was God sent pretty much.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Gary Jordan: Right now, we have such good thing going. We all know what each other like. We’re true brothers who just kind of landed in the right spot at the right time. So it would have to be God sent [laughs] to find somebody that wants to do exactly what we want to do. Like a lot of other bands, they have their ways of doing stuff and we have our way. We all like our look and it’s hard to find people like that, you know, in this day and age. But we click. We like doing what we’re doing and why try to complicate that?
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of looks, you know, a lot of bands these days don’t pay attention to their looks and that’s a little bit disappointing. Obviously, you guys have a very ’70s — I’ll call it ‘retro’ look [laughs]. Was that a conscious effort?
Chris Clark: We talked about it from the very beginning. When Jeff and I first started talking, we were both instantly like early Aerosmith. We love that whole sound, everything that they built. We were looking, we were referencing old photos back and forth and we were like, ‘Yeah. Yeah. That’s where we want to start.’ Between that and I would send like pictures of Michael Monroe and Hanoi Rocks. So this [their stage outfits] is kind of a hybrid of that, that ’70s punk and rock look we put together.
Gary Jordan: It’s very important to us to let people see what we feel if i can put it that way.
Chris Clark: Oh, that’s good. That’s good.
Gary Jordan: You know what I mean? Because this is what we feel. I mean, it’s kind of on the inside but we want to broadcast it so everybody can see it.
Sleaze Roxx: You guys mentioned that you have a lot of experience behind you so can you tell everyone what your background is for each of you? Who wants to start [laughs]?
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: Like most people of my age and genre, I think I started listening to a lot of KISS and Aerosmith and Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, bands like that. Iron Maiden for me was a big influence. You know, as you develop and play, you get into bands. Some work, some don’t work. Over the past decades, I’ve played in country bands. I’ve played in fill in bands. Just rock. Done some funk, a little bit of like I said country. But my first love is KISS and Aerosmith. It kind of starts and ends with them for me, and Zeppelin. So it was really exciting to find a group of guys that are the same age and that have the same mindset, that wanted to do it. It just worked out that way.
Gary Jordan: I’ve been personally in all kinds of genres myself. I’ve been doing [this] for a long time. I go from — not country — I go from rock all the way to ‘screamo.’ That was kind of my last thing and then I went to a cover band or two. It didn’t work out for me so like I said, I landed in this and it’s just perfect. That’s all I can say. It’s just perfect.
Sleaze Roxx: Mr. Clark?
Chris Clark: I started. Oh, my gosh. I started like probably when I was 15 playing a flying V. I always wanted to be like a Randy Rhoads type of guy. I really got into hair metal and have probably been into hair metal most of my life and played in several bands around the Raleigh, North Carolina area that were kind of a hybrid of punk and glam. Sort of influenced by Pretty Boy Floyd and Peppermint Creeps and bands like that. I did that for many, many years. I quit for awhile. I got frustrated with the whole business and then just decided that like is too short ’cause I really missed it and enjoyed it, so I came back. Last Call Messiahs was my last effort, which was a little more metal than we are now. It’s kind of more — I don’t know — it was more hair metal based. My heart is really into Hanoi Rocks and early Aero[smith] and Rolling Stones. This time, I just decided that I am not going to compromise. That’s what I want to do. I want the look. I want the sound. Found these guys and it’s just perfect. Everything just clicked right into place.
Babylon Shakes‘ “Sunset Striptease” song:
Provided to YouTube by TuneCore Sunset Striptease · Babylon Shakes Exile to the Velveteen Lounge, Vol. 1 ℗ 2018 Babylon Shakes Released on: 2018-04-20 Auto-generated by YouTube.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your thoughts on the music business? Obviously, you guys have been around for a little bit. What are your thoughts on the music industry as it speaks?
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: Oh. I think a big mystery to I think everybody. I think that Chris said it best. Right now, it’s kind of like ‘wild, wild west’ because the industry as we knew it doesn’t exist anymore because people don’t buy records anymore. You can get it for free. You can go to YouTube. You can go to these other places. Napster’s gone but there’s other internet media, streaming places that you can go to get music. For us, it doesn’t really matter because first and foremost, you do it for the music. You write good music. It’s about the song. Everything is about the song. You write it for that and you just don’t worry about that too much because this is what we love doing. We all have day jobs but this is our passion. You can’t put a price on that anymore than you can on good chemistry. It’s kind of what we touched upon earlier. When you have good chemistry and a passion and willingness to do it, and you really love the product of that, it speaks volumes. I just really feel like we will push on through. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing because we love doing it. We’re not going to stop. Rock is not dead because people still love music. You know, music is never going to go out of style. Unfortunately, the business model for it is gone. It’s going to come back. It has to at some point [but] maybe not in our lifetime. For us, we’re not really concerned about that. We’re just really concerned about writing the best music we can and being the best entertainers we can. And putting on the best show that we can and doing stuff that we believe in.
Chris Clark: I think it starts with the live experience. I was mentioning this to a friend the other day. I think that people are so inundated with social media and YouTube. I mean you can go on YouTube and find Led Zeppelin’s rehearsal videos and demos. Anything you can imagine but i think that people are really hungry for experiences like tonight, like actually being present in front of a band playing and being a part of that and feeling the excitement to learning songs and buying the merch[andise]. I think that’s really missing. Facebook can’t do that.
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: We just want to bring back what we feel has lost. The romanticism of rock n’ roll — it’s dirty, it’s raw but it’s sexy. It’s a look. It’s a feel. It’s an attitude. I just feel like it’s just lost.
Sleaze Roxx: I know you released on video [for “Velveteen Libertine”] already. Is there going to be another one coming out? Was that your special announcement [laughs]?
Chris Clark: We’re talking about it.
Gary Jordan: We’re talking about doing another video but it’s just talk at this point.
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: To be perfectly candid with you, the reason for that is it’s expensive and it doesn’t really… When you put out a video, you don’t really sell it. It’s on YouTube. It’s good exposure and it gets people to possibly buy your product but when we’re talking about — just earlier about — people aren’t buying music anymore. It really kind of puts us as not necessarily advantageous to do it but it’s a necessary evil. You kind of have to so we are. We will for the next Volume. It will be at least one.
Babylon Shakes‘ “Velveteen Libertine” video:
First official video release from Virginia’s own vintage sleaze upstarts, Babylon Shakes.This trio is comprised of Chris Clark- guitar and lead vocals, Gary Jordan- bass and vocals and Jeff Mortimer- drums, percussion and vocals. Directed by Robert Huotari and starring Amanda Miller. For more information please check us out at babylonshakes.com.
Sleaze Roxx: Any parting words?
Chris Clark: We are just really excited and fortunate to be where we are now. We’ve got our third gig. We’ve been together not even a year and the ball is really rolling so we’re really excited about where we are. We are going to play out a lot this summer. We’re going to be in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] and New Jersey, back here in Maryland, North Carolina, and we’re going to be recording a lot more so we’ll be busy on social media and keeping everybody updated.
Jeff “Morty” Mortimer: Folks, if you like a band and you go see a band, please support the band by buying their music, buying merchandise. That’s how we can keep this going. Good intentions and passion and being able to do it is great but it is a business and we want to keep doing it. If you download it for free, that’s fine but if you really really like it, doesn’t matter our band, any band, please buy it and support the artist.
Gary Jordan: And look out for Monday [May 7th] for the big reveal.
You can purchase Babylon Shakes’ debut EP Exile At the Velveteen Lounge Vol 1 directly from the band’s Bandcamp page.