INTERVIEW WITH AMERICAN JETSET FRONTMAN IAN KAINE MCGREGOR
Date: August 30, 2021
Interviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato
Maryland / Virginia-based sleaze rockers American Jetset stormed the gate in 2019 with a newly released debut EP and jam-packed touring itinerary that saw the band sharing concert bills with a veritable who’s who of the hard rock genre. 2020 looked to bring more of the same success, with American Jetset celebrating the release of their fantastic sophomore effort ‘Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop‘ with an appearance at the Frozen Harbor music festival in Baltimore. But life has a way of happening as we’re making plans, and any semblance of normalcy went off the rails for much of the year as bands were forced to cancel live appearances and tours due to the worldwide pandemic. 2021 finds American Jetset alive, well and rebounding with the release of new music as they prepare to head back out on the concert trail. Sleaze Roxx caught up with lead vocalist/guitarist Ian Kaine MacGregor to check in on the current happenings with the band.
Sleaze Roxx: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. What have American Jetset been up to for the past year and a half?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: Oh man! Like most other bands, we’ve been impatiently waiting for the return of live music and some sort of normalcy so we can get back to doing what we love. We didn’t sit around wasting time though. We actually went into the studio to record a couple of EPs but in the end we thought it best to promote of a couple of singles instead. We had already lost the opportunity to play music from our last record for crowds when it was fresh. In all, I’d say the last year or so was frustrating but certainly productive.
Sleaze Roxx: American Jetset have just released their second EP, ‘Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop’, as the pandemic restrictions were beginning to shut everything down. Obviously, the entire industry faced that same hardship of not being able to tour, but do you feel like the album didn’t get the recognition that it deserved due to the band’s inability to support it with live shows?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: The record actually got a ton of recognition from the press and radio. We received hundreds of reviews and airplay across the world to include the US, Europe, Australia, and Japan. We couldn’t be happier with the reception and support. The downside was not being able to perform it for our fans. We’re staying positive though. Even though that record is two years old, our fans will be hearing some of that material live for the first time when we hit the stage at the end of the year.
American Jetset‘s “We Own The Night” single:
Sleaze Roxx: At one point, there was talk of reissuing ‘Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop’ on vinyl. Is that still in the works?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: That is something that’s been talked about for a while. I would love to do something like Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Lies’ where one half of the album is ‘Saloon Rock’ and the other half has all of our singles.
Sleaze Roxx: Your first EP, ‘Live, Love, Die on Main’, was one of my favorite releases of 2019. You managed to recapture that vintage Sunset Strip sound in a modern way and the songs are just catchy and packed with attitude. Who are some of your influences as a musician?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: Wow man! I’m so glad you dig it! As far as influences, I’ve been a Mötley Crüe fan since I was 13 but the bands that really influenced our early material were the well-known and underground sleaze/glam bands of that time –everything from L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat to Roxx Gang and Vain. When we started this whole thing, we wanted people to think “Wow… Who’s this band I should have heard of 20+ years ago?”
Sleaze Roxx: One of my favorite songs on that CD is the ballad “Shameless”, and I stand by the statement that this song needs to be heard by the masses. I’ve noticed that the band doesn’t perform it live though. Is that due to timing and wanting to keep the momentum and energy level up throughout the set?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: I think the whole band would agree that “Shameless” is one of our favorite songs from that record and we talk about adding it back into the set whenever we can. Given that we do very short power sets as an opener, we try to use every second to be playing hard driving songs with as much energy as possible to keep people on their feet. When we reach a point where we’re playing for an hour or more, “Shameless” will absolutely be the first song we add back into our setlist.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop’ is a fantastic follow-up to your first CD. I remember the first few times that I heard it, I kept thinking there’s a story going on in the songs, almost like a concept record. Is that something you were going for as far as a theme to the songs or is it an actual concept record?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: Even though our music was inspired by a bunch of glam bands, it was obvious that other influences began to creep in, especially ZZ Top. I think that Southwestern influence really inspired an Old West vibe as it related to the sound and lyrical content. Even though it isn’t a concept record, it was sequenced to tell a story and the sounds design pushes the theme and story in a big way.
American Jetset‘s “Go It Alone” video (from Live Love Die On Main EP):
Sleaze Roxx: Your first EP was recorded in a very short span of time in a Do-It-Yourself kind of way but then, you decided to work with an established producer (Scott Spelbring) on the second release. I’m sure that changed the way that the band approached recording, but can you elaborate on what impact that had on the finished product?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: I think Scott’s biggest contribution to that record was as mediator. The music on ‘Saloon Rock’ was written as a band and everyone’s ideas had to be sorted out. When you listen to ‘Appetite For Destruction‘, you can turn your fader left and hear Izzy and right to hear Slash but in the middle, it all has to work. Where the first record was written for one guitar, Scott really helped us create a landscape to allow for two totally different guitar sounds and styles.
Sleaze Roxx: Jetset released a brand new single titled “Locomotive” on August 30th on Big Curve Music. It’s kind of a continuation of “We Own The Night” in that it’s very up-tempo, in-your-face and perfect to just kick the crap out of live audiences. Is the band planning to continue releasing songs individually or will these eventually turn up on an album?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: Yes! Everyone should go stream and share “Locomotive” on our Facebook page or your favorite platform. We began recording that song at the end of 2020 and for whatever reason, we kicked into high gear a few months ago and it seemed like the right time to put it out. While we started the song with Scott producing, the bulk of the production and mix fell to Lance. I was the last touchpoint with some minor mix and mastering and what you hear is one of our best releases. The perfect combination of all of the production styles on our previous records. As for what’s next? I would like to release another record… Something that people can look forward to hearing at shows in 2022.
American Jetset‘s “Locomotive” single:
Sleaze Roxx: Not long after solidifying the line-up of the band and releasing your first EP, you were out on the road as direct support for a lot of legendary bands [Living Colour, Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, BulletBoys, Tom Keifer, KIX and Pretty Boy Floyd]. Did working with these established acts help mold the band’s approach to playing live and/or your general business model?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: I don’t think so. Since day one, we had a plan and insisted on absolute professionalism from top to bottom. Whether it’s our sound, aesthetic, or our communications with promoters and venue management, we strive to be the best. While we may not have been together as long as some of the bands we play with, we project a pro product in everything we do.
Sleaze Roxx: Even though you’ve been performing and recording in different bands for some time, American Jetset is still a relatively new entity. What are some of the pros and cons of performing with such well known bands? Of course, the exposure that it affords the band has to be great but is there another side to the coin?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: I don’t think we see it the way other bands do. American Jetset is a passion for the four of us. We play in this band because we love it and what it affords us. Playing onstage with our heroes is kind of like checking off boxes on a bucket list. We don’t necessarily need for a show to provide exposure as much as we want to have fun. If other people are there to have fun with us, then all the better. That said, we still work hard to reach new fans and have been incredibly humbled by the number of people that follow us, buy tickets, and come out to our shows. It’s insanely rewarding.
Sleaze Roxx: American Jetset had the opportunity to play in front of audiences on both the East and West coasts pretty much right away. I’ve heard that L.A. crowds can be tougher to win over. Do you find audiences in any area of the country to be more or less accepting of a new band? We want the dirt.
Ian Kaine MacGregor: [Laughs] I wish I had some dirt for you but our last show in L.A. was amazing. We played with Jack Russell’s Great White and the crowd at Whisky A Go-Go went nuts. What an amazing night! A few nights later, I was at the Whisky for Monday Night Jam Night and saw Dan, Jack Russell’s bass player. He recognized me and made a point to tell us how good the band was. You can’t beat a great crowd and people as friendly as Jack’s band were.
Sleaze Roxx: American Jetset are based out of the Maryland/Virginia area. A lot of people don’t realize the number of great bands that have come out of this region of the country over the years such as Wrathchild America, KIX, Clutch, SR-71, Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, Crack the Sky, Bad Brains, and Child’s Play / Charm City Devils. What do you attribute that to?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: Surprised you didn’t mention Dirty Looks and even more surprised you didn’t mention Good Charlotte! There used to be an amazing scene in the DMV in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s but as DC has become more transient, the music scene seems to have dissipated. I’d love to see some big acts to get signed and open up some interest for some of the great artists still playing here.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re playing the Masquerade festival in October and have the distinct honor of performing on not one, but two nights. I’m sure you don’t want to give any details away, but can you give us any hints as to what we can expect?
Ian Kaine MacGregor: We are ready to go all out. I know we’ll have some surprises for our staging and we’ll be playing two 45 minute sets. We’re gonna light that place on fire!
Sleaze Roxx: In closing, thanks again for doing this. Looking forward to catching American Jetset on the road this fall!
Ian Kaine MacGregor: Thanks so much for all of the support and for this interview. Looking forward to seeing Sleaze Roxx out at Masquerade!
American Jetset‘s “Forgotten Tragedies” single (from Live Love Die On Main EP):