Interview with ex-Kings of Dust and Red Dragon Cartel frontman Michael Beck

Date: April 27, 2021
Interviewer: Olivier


Sleaze Roxx: So first things first. You’re not in Kings of Dust anymore. Greg Chaisson outlined his reasons why in his interview with Sleaze Roxx earlier this month.  What is your side of what happened?

Michael Beck: I don’t know if there’s really a side to it. Maybe just a difference in perspective. I can’t really comment as to his reasons. They’re his. But there was never any standing rule  not to do other projects. In January there was an interview where he had said he was going to be playing on someone else’s record. There was another member doing a solo record. I had the same amount of information in front of me when I heard that, as there was with me writing with someone else. It was never a thought of mine that someone else doing anything would be put ahead of kings of dust. And there would be no way I would do that either. But I actually hadn’t even written anything yet. And I didn’t see any reason to change my timeline in saying something until I knew there was a possibility of it moving forward.

Sleaze Roxx: The issue with a band member wanting to do an extra project reminded me of when Jason Newsted left Metallica about 20 years ago when James Hetfield did not want him to pursue his side project Echobrain. It seemed that this was an issue that could have and should have been resolved between the band members and not lead to an important cog of the group departing. In this case, the important cog is yourself no longer being part of Kings of Dust. Do you see any similarities between your situation and Jason Newsted’s, and what could have been done to prevent your departure?

Michael Beck: Mmmm. Maybe a bit. I think it was an overreaction in this situation. At least that’s my perspective. I have some deeper thoughts on it as to why. But they’re just my opinion. And at least for now, I’m going to keep them to myself. Hopefully we all can find a way to move forward without the usual drama. I don’t think that does anybody any good.

Kings of Dust‘s “Like An Ocean” lyric video:

Sleaze Roxx: Your Facebook post about your departure from Kings of Dust mentioned that you looked forward to continuing your musical adventure elsewhere. Where are you at in that regard and what are you looking for in terms of the project, music direction and bandmates compatibility wise?

Michael Beck: I’m anxious to find something that wants to record a new release and tour. Whether that’s an existing situation or a guitarist interested in writing for something new. But I’ve always been pretty motivated in getting something done whatever I’m doing. So I’m looking for a situation that is ready to go. Foot on the gas, both musically and professionally.

Photo courtesy of Michael Beck

Sleaze Roxx: I understand that you had recently started another project. Was this the project that led to your departure from Kings of Dust and what’s the status there?

Michael Beck: No, that project never materialized. There was a rehearsal with some cover songs. They liked what I was doing and likewise. But I never even got a chance to write anything. It was still at the stage were the guitarist was sending me material. There was a band that was being put together, and some names were being tossed around. But at least, at the time, I was still just listening to material, both to see if it was something I would be interested in, as well as to see if I was a good fit into what they wanted to do. But when the possibility of this came to light, I was asked not to do another project and so I politely backed out of it being that there wasn’t much to back out of at that point. And I thought that would be the end of it.

Sleaze Roxx: So when you say that you were asked not to do another project, you’re talking about Kings of Dust asking you not to do the other project?

Michael Beck: Exactly. And again, that was my priority for obvious reasons. But since I hadn’t written anything for the other yet, just listening to material, it wasn’t that difficult.

Sleaze Roxx: It took a long time for Kings of Dust to release its debut album. Aside from Greg battling and defeating cancer, why did it take so long?

Michael Beck: It was partially that. He wanted to be in good health before taking on that size of project. And I did and still do agree with that. And I was willing to wait for him. The songs that we had written up to that point, I thought were worth the wait. Still do. Many of them are on the debut [album]. But we also were looking for a certain sound from a drummer and guitarist after going through a couple. We found the perfect guys for that project.

Sleaze Roxx: I was especially surprised to see you depart from Kings of Dust since you and Greg seemed to be long-time friends. I understand that Greg even helped you get the singing gig at Red Dragon Cartel. So speaking of that, what was your experience like being in Red Dragon Cartel?

Michael Beck: He definitely helped put my name in the audition ring. But that’s as far as it went. I sent in my material like I’m sure a bunch of other guys did. It wasn’t a hand off by any means. He wouldn’t put himself in that position. And he knows Jake [E. Lee] well enough to know that it was always going to be Jake’s decision.

Kings of Dust‘s “Keep The Spirit Alive” single:

Sleaze Roxx: I found it a bit confusing that there ended up being a bit of a revolving door of singers since I think Chas West was the singer for a number of Red Dragon Cartel shows after your time in the band. What are your thoughts in that regard?

Michael Beck: It’s not really my place to say. I had a great time and have nothing but good memories about my time singing with Jake. But it was a situation that was covering several different vocalists in a set. I have no problem with that. I especially enjoyed covering Ray [Gillen] with the Badlands material. How could you not? But being a singer/songwriter is at my core. And as much as I loved singing that catalog,I think I’m at my best performing my own material. I’m sure most songwriters think that. I have been lucky enough to do both. I have never minded walking into a situation where there is older catalog material. But that’s as long as there is writing ahead in the plan. Because that’s definitely my preference.

Sleaze Roxx: Given that Kings of Dust’s self-titled album was released just when the Covid pandemic was causing the world to shut down, I feel that the record did not get its just due. What do you think about that?

Michael Beck: I think that’s true. The record was/has been extremely well received both critically and by fans. You do a record mostly for yourself in the hope that it’s received like that. I think we hit on something a little different than what everyone else was doing in the distinct ’70s feel of the record. And I think had we been able to tour right behind the release, we would probably still be out there. It’s not a short record. Just under 60 minutes. So I think there was a lot of leg under it.

Sleaze Roxx: How far along were Kings of Dust in terms of writing and recording songs before you departed the band?

Michael Beck: Well, after looking like all our tour plans were going to be put on hold, we decided as early as May in 2020 to just start writing the next record. We had 8 to 10 songs pretty much done by the new year. Had all that writing still been in front of me, I wouldn’t have never thought about writing anything else outside that. But it looked like at least a large chunk of the work was done. And that was and would still be my priority. There would be no reason for it to be anything else. I put an awful lot of time and effort into that first record and moving the band forward in general. Not only writing all the lyrics and melody but co-producing, engineering, mixing and mastering the record. As well as shooting and helping with editing both videos that were put out. We all did. But that’s too much time to put into something to put it on a back burner with all that investment. So that was never the case in my eyes.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s a real shame that Kings of Dust didn’t get a chance to play a live show with you on lead vocals after the release of the album. What are your thoughts in that regard?

Michael Beck: I’m extremely proud of that record. Always will be. I wish we could have toured to back it up on the heels of its release. I was definitely chomping at the bit to do that. Not just for me but for the fan base that really seemed to love it.  But the industry really got cut off at the knees. There wasn’t much you can do in that situation.

Sleaze Roxx: Some people might not know that you have your own recording studio and are quite busy with that. How long has that been the case?

Michael Beck: SoundVision Recording opened in 1999. So I guess you could say that’s my day job [laughs]. I also occasionally go to studios in other States to record. I usually make a trip to the Mid-west about three or four times a year. Fuse Recording Studios in Lincoln Nebraska — it’s a good central place and a great studio. And sometimes easier for bands in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, etc. to come there instead of making the trip to Arizona. I’ve been going to that studio for eight or nine years now.

Sleaze Roxx: What do you prefer — working in your recording studio or singing in a band?

Michael Beck: It’s pretty much apples and oranges. I love helping bands craft a sound to make a great record with great songs. I spent the ’80s and first part of the ’90s doing a lot of recording and touring with various bands. And I didn’t really get back into it until the early 2000s when I had a brief moment with Leatherwolf. But the Kings of Dust record was my first jump back into a recording and touring band with material that I was partly responsible for. And that felt pretty good to be singing my own material again.

Sleaze Roxx: Leatherwolf? Interesting! So how did your experience with Leatherwolf come about and what did it entail?

Michael Beck: I was told from someone — honestly, I can’t even remember who — that they were looking to do a new record with a new singer. I talked with them and then went to California and tracked some songs for the new record. I was asked to join the band while I was still out there. It turned out a short time later that their management wanted someone they were already familiar with. Then their original vocalist came back. Which always makes more sense. But I walked away thinking Geoff Gayor was one of the most underrated guitarists out there.

Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?

Michael Beck: I’m just looking forward to what’s next. So if you’re a motivated band or guitarist looking, please personal message me. And let’s get this thing going!

Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you, what are your three all-time favorite albums and why?

Michael Beck: Wow! Toughest question yet [laughs]. I would have to go with any of the first four Van Halen releases. All great and I can’t pick one. Kansas’s ‘Leftovereture.’ Steve Walsh was a huge influence on the way I sing and write melody. Y&T’s ‘Mean Streak.’ I’m actually listening to it on vinyl as I write this. So it’s on my mind. What a great record !

Kings of Dust‘s “Ya, That’s Me” lyric video: