DOUG GORDON INTERVIEW:
February 22, 2006
Readers will remember Doug Gordon as the songwriter and guitarist for the blues-based rock band Tangier. When Tangier disbanded Doug himself walked away from the music business. However he has returned, writing with old friend Tom Keifer as well as working on new material of his own. He told Sleaze Roxx that he plans on releasing new material soon, as well as working with more of his Philadelphia friends.
SR: What are you up to musically these days?
DG: After a long hiatus, I started to write again and penned some good stuff with Tom Keifer which I am hoping will make his new solo CD. I have been talking with John Corabi, (another Philly pal) and we are planning to write together soon. I am very excited about that as well. Finally, I have been writing for my own thing which is similar to Tangier so I’m told. No plans on shopping anything yet. I’m just moving along enjoying myself musically and having some conversations regarding working with different people. I enjoy writing, arranging, recording and production the most. I’m happy I fell in love with creating again.
SR: Tom’s solo album is something I’ve been looking forward to for what seems like ages now. Are the songs you co-wrote with him in that blues-based vein that you did so well?
DG: Thanks for saying I did them well and yes they are in that vein. That’s what he does and that’s what I do. In my opinion, you got to do what you know and love. That’s the kind of style I developed because of my influences. Just heavy – blues based hard rock.
SR: I know Cinderella helped Tangier many years back, does that mean you’ve kept in touch with Tom all these years? What about the other members?
DG: Yes, Tom and I are still good pals. I’m not in touch with the other members of Cinderella.
SR: If you write with John Corabi will you put together a band or is it too early to predict what will happen?
DG: No – no band. We knew each other many years ago in Philly and met again at a show he did here in Florida. We spoke and agreed it would be a good idea to kick some ideas around and see what happens.
SR: About your own material, have you been writing with anyone or just working by yourself? How much do you have written?
DG: Mainly just working by myself for my own thing. However, I have some people in mind to help me finish off some ideas that I just can’t seem to complete. I find it easier to collaborate in those cases. I don’t complete a ton of material – I just concentrate on ideas that move me. I’m not a high quantity kind of writer.
SR: Do you have any timeframe for when you’d like to release your songs?
DG: I gave up a long time ago on timelines – they never seem to work for me. I would like to have it done by this fall if I had to pick a time.
SR: When the time comes would you release it yourself or try and wait for a label to sign on?
DG: Interesting question. With today’s technology it is very tempting to at least think about releasing it without signing. There are pros and cons to labels. For me to think about working with a label, there would have to be some stipulations that I did not have before that were in artists favor. Mainly control issues really.
SR: Do you think with the internet and its global reach that record labels will have to start giving their artists more control or risk becoming outdated?
DG: Possibly. But the one resource they have that most artists don’t is the $$$$ to market. As you well know, to be seen on the internet is no easy task. It takes an incredible amount of work and some funding can make that a whole lot easier. The majors are not unaware of that.
SR: How did you first get into music and who were your influences?
DG: The biggest deal was listening to a “Best of Cream” album my brother had. That album was the sole reason for my initial interest in playing the guitar. Eric Clapton was my main influence early on because of that album. I then found Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Just sat on my bed with my guitar, listened to my albums, and taught myself everything they did. Then I researched who they learned from and got turned on to Buddy Guy, BB, Freddie and especially Albert King. The latter was the hugest influence on me from the pool of early electric blues players. Personally, you would be hard pressed to convince me that there was anyone better than Albert King on songs like Born Under A Bad Sign, Crosscut Saw, Oh, Pretty Woman, and Personal Manager to name a few. And that was about it really. I liked alot of guitar players when I was kid but they were the main influences. As far as bands – the Stones, Zep, Aerosmith, Allman Brothers, Beatles, Free were big in my development as player and songwriter.
SR: What was the first band you formed?
DG: It was with a couple of guys from high school. Just a trio. I thought we were really the baddest because we only did the heaviest covers – Zep, Cream, Aerosmith, Johnny Winter. Songs like Highway 41 Revisited, Seasons of Wither, Born Under a Bad Sign, The Crunge. Unfortunately our competition would play top 40 and they got all the gigs. We were the “party” band – not a lot of dancing at our gigs. We were there to impress only. As I recall we were pretty good. We practiced quite a bit. I was into practicing because I loved playing so much.
SR: When did the idea of Tangier come together?
DG: When I heard Bill Mattson’s voice. He was in a very influential local South Jersey band called the Dead End Kids. As soon as I heard him sing I knew he was something special. I had recorded some demos with the sole purpose of using that to find some musicians I liked. Bill heard something in the material so we decided to work together. We went through some personnel changes until the final incarnation which resulted in our first album “Four Winds.”
SR: That brings up a question that I’ve always wondered about. Any magazine article has also claimed that Four Winds was your debut, but what about the 1985 Tangier album on Wolfe Records? Is there a reason this release is usually not talked about?
DG: To me, that product was a glorified demo and a great learning experience. We had someone interested in backing a recording(s) and offered to foot the bill. At the time, we as a band thought that was a good idea because there was no commitment financially from us. It was a no-lose situation. Anyway, I look at it now as another step in learning how to produce, arrange and engineer. Bill Mattson and I were the only members on those recordings that were on Four Winds.
SR: Was part of the reason for not mentioning the self titled debut because you had a revamped band and what I feel a grittier sound? In other words was it like starting Tangier from scratch again?
DG: Exactly – It was really a whole different entity. When I think of Tangier, I think of Four Winds and Stranded.
SR: You had a revamped band, a major label contract and went into the studio with famed producer Andy Johns. You must have been on top of the world recording Four Winds.
DG: It was a great time. One of the best in my life. Working with Andy was an experience I will always cherish. We became very good friends and needless to say I learned alot. That album still sounds good to me. Not particularly dated. Even with hindsight, I wouldn’t change much on that one.
SR: Tangier went through a line-up change between Four Winds and Stranded, what was the reason for the shake up?
DG: I knew this one was coming – always does. Just like changing a relationship – it was time. Not one reason – just a feeling it was the right thing to do. It was amicable. Not really that big of a deal.
SR: How did working with John Purdell and Duane Baron differ from Andy Johns? What would you say were the strengths and weaknesses of each?
DG: Andy Johns was really more an engineer-producer and John and Duane were more musician-producers. Andy has an incredible ear. He taught me quite alot about tones. John especially was a really talented musician and I don’t say that lightly. He helped me quite a bit on the arrangements. Duane was the workhorse. Never say die. All of them let me do my thing and had alot of trust in what I wanted to do. We all had mutual respect for each other so everything was easy. We all also had weakness, no one is great at everything, but they were offset by each others strengths. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. Sadly, John passed away in July 2003. He will be missed.
SR: What tours did Tangier manage to land and why do you think the band failed to reach a bigger audience?
DG: We went out with Cinderella, White Lion, Winger, Extreme, to name a few.
SR: How many videos did Tangier record and what do you remember about them?
DG: We did three – On the Line, Southbound Train, and Stranded. I remember that;
1) I did not like doing them, a lot of sitting around.
2) The ideas were not as I wanted them to go.
3) We spent a fortune doing them and did not need to.
4) Pamela Anderson was in the Stranded video before she got HUGE
5) I would just prefer doing videos with a lot of live footage.
SR: When and why did you finally decide to put the band to rest?
DG: After the Stranded album did not do as well as expected. There were just too many bands – too much competition for radio and video time. The record companies had over extended themselves and the scene was changing. I became disenchanted and it was not fun anymore. It was an easy decision.
SR: Were there any hard feelings when the band broke-up?
DG: Nope. Not as far as I knew. We never really broke up per se. We just kind of dissolved. I still talk to everyone except Gari Saint. No one knows where he is.
SR: If you still talk to most of the guys, and still write the same style of music can you picture Tangier reuniting someday?
DG: I don’t really think about it. Kind of like getting re- married to the same person. However – if the right situation presented itself, I would certainly be willing to talk about it.
SR: What did you do between the time Tangier broke-up and when you got the itch to write again?
DG: I really wanted to get into production. I co-produced “Four Winds” with Andy Johns and “Stranded” with John Purdell and Duane Barron. My love is the writing and the production. I can live in the studio. I co-produced a great album by Bakers Pink (formerly “The Front”), produced a CD by MojoStu, and some tracks on Linear’s 2nd CD. Then for about 5 years, I just loafed with no particular place to go. I didn’t write much – I just thought about writing. I didn’t want to create anything for the sake of it and I didn’t feel like being around anyone that had anything to do with the business of music. I always knew what my next step was going to be musically, it was just a matter of when it was right. It now feels right.
SR: How does writing and producing differ and do you prefer one over the other?
DG: They are both very similar to me. Writing has elements of production in it. So when I write a song, I am usually thinking of the production end of it at the same time. That would mean the arrangement, the instrumentation, voicings etc. In other words, while writing, I am considering what kind of guitars I will use, if horns would be good, if I want piano and/or other keyboards, drum patterns, types of percussion etc. Of course things change as I record because my original thoughts change or someone will have a better idea. There are no rules – that’s the best part.
SR: Having been a part of hard rock’s heyday, what do you think has to happen for the genre to reach the same level of success it had in the late 80s?
DG: The same thing that made bellbottoms come back. Something becomes popular – the public gets tired of it -the next series of things come along to replace it and then it finally comes back again. The thing with true hard rock is that it is based upon something very solid and real; the blues. Because of that, it is ultimately very “Americana.” It is in the American psyche. To me, that is why it will always come back. It’s ingrained.
SR: Any last words?
DG: Be on the lookout for some new material soon. It will be special – I promise. I enjoyed answering your questions. The interview was very cool and you obviously know your stuff. Best of luck to you and SLEAZEROXX.COM!
Thanks to Doug Gordon