INTERVIEW WITH LIPSTICK GENERATION FRONTMAN GREG TROYAN
Date: September 9, 2019
Photos: Von Reisch Photography (photos 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
BACK IN THE ’80S, IT WAS COMMONPLACE FOR A BAND TO CHANGE ITS MUSICAL SOUND AND LOOK FROM ONE ALBUM TO THE NEXT. THINK OF KISS FROM 1984’S ‘ANIMALIZE‘ TO 1986’S ‘ASYLUM’ TO 1987’S ‘CRAZY NIGHTS‘ TO 1989’S ‘HOT IN THE SHADE.’ OR WHAT ABOUT MÖTLEY CRÜE FROM 1983’S ‘SHOUT AT THE DEVIL’ TO 1985’S ‘THEATRE OF PAIN’ TO 1987’S ‘GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS.’ THESE DAYS, IT’S FAR LESS COMMON FOR A BAND TO DO THESE KIND OF BOLD MOVES BUT LIPSTICK CONSISTING OF MAINSTAYS, GREG TROYAN (VOCALS) AND STEPHEN SMITH (BASS), HAVE DONE EXACTLY THAT BY CHANGING THEIR SOUND, THEIR LOOK (FROM CLOWN LIKE COSTUMES TO ALL BLACK LEATHER AND JEANS) AND EVEN THEIR NAME (TO LIPSTICK GENERATION). SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH TROYAN TO TALK ABOUT ALL THESE CHANGES AS LIPSTICK GENERATION JUST RELEASED A VIDEO FOR THEIR COVER OF THE ERIC CARR DEMO “EYES OF LOVE” AND ARE SETTING THEIR SIGHTS ON ALBUM NO. 3.
Sleaze Roxx: Lipstick Generation have come up with a new darker image, which seems to be black and leather based. I know that you guys announced these darker changes almost two years ago so what prompted you to totally change your image?
Greg Troyan: Errr. A combination of bad fails and bad reviews [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Greg Troyan: The things is, when you’re doing music without a producer, when you’re in the eye of the storm, it’s hard to see things from the outside sometimes. And we were playing a lot of conventions and were playing a lot of punk shows and house shows, and becoming really big on the national scene, and we had a really wide net of appeal. So we appealed to the hard rockers but we appealed to the art crowd. You know, the kind of people who would do shows while painting or whatever. We got a whole wide array of new fans and we listened to their feedback, what they like and started to play to the crowd. So the first album was a really concentrated effort of “This is what the band is” and then the second album was more of a natural evolution from what our new fans liked and incorporating other influences but when the finished product came out, a lot of those fans had abandoned us for a new flavour of the month band, and the hard rock fans that loved the first album were a little disappointed. And so we took a step back, examined you know what people liked about us in the first place and decided to get back to that. But we’re still proud of the second album. We still like it a lot but we can understand why some people were bit disappointed by it so we did our best to correct course.
Sleaze Roxx: It sounds like not only are you changing your sound — from the new song that I heard — but you’ve also changed your image drastically. So why did you do that?
Greg Troyan: You know, it was always part of the plan to change the image drastically. When I first came up with the idea for Lipstick, I planned for the first two albums to be with the overly glam image, then I thought that it would be really cool to have a sharp and sudden switch in image. It was something that I had always planned on doing and then ironically, I had sort of moved away from the plan and didn’t want to do it anymore. I had grown so fond of the glam image but listening to a lot of feedback from our peers and what people liked about us, and what they didn’t, for me, I am wearing a leather jacket and leather pants all the time [laughs] to go out. That’s my normal day to day outfit, and the Lipstick outfit is kind of like my KISS outfit. You know, it’s a larger than life persona. It’s a cartoon version of me. So for me, it almost felt boring to do the leather pants, the leather jacket, but it’s just as my friends see me on a day to day basis, what they think is the true Greg. So I’m like, “You know what?” There’s different sides to people. There’s different parts to people’s personalities. The rainbow jacket was one part of my personality but the leather jacket is a different part of my personality so both are equally true but it’s just allowing this part to be in the forefront, to be in the spotlight.
Sleaze Roxx: Now in terms of the look, I reviewed some of the interviews that we did in the past. In 2015, you had indicated that the glam look that Lipstick had adopted was based on your love of Alice Cooper, KISS and David Bowie but when I look at the look that Lipstick adopted, it was more — I might not be using the right words — but more clown, more childish than the other bands. Do you think that if you would have adopted a more shock rock look like Alice Cooper or KISS, that maybe you would have kept the look that you had?
Greg Troyan: Not really because that was never really the part that appealed to me. I’m not into horror as a genre because I don’t like the victimization of the genre. So a lot of the shock rock things lead more towards the horror end. I think that if I am giving a more accurate and honest description of the band, it would be Slade in terms of visual appeal. Like Slade, Sweet, those ’70s era bands — pretty goofy wearing outfits that made them looks like sphinx and stuff [laughs]. Like for me, I like the cartoon image, the sense of humour, the sort of taking the piss out of the band thing where they knew that they were dressing goofy but that was part of the fun and they were in on the joke. Like ’60s Batman in a way but ’60s Batman was cool in the ’60s. People loved it then but when they tried to do ’60s Batman in the ’90s with the Joel Schumacher movies, people got upset that it wasn’t dark and gritty. Times change. I think that the look worked very well for us for the first album and I am very proud of the Slade influences. And the things is, a lot of our overseas fans, our British fans who grew up with Slade love that look. And so I have talked with fans about the new look , they’re a little bit disappointed because they were like, “Oh, I loved how you guys were like Slade, Like T. Rex and all those other bands.” And so there’s no pleasing everybody. We just had to do what felt natural, what felt right. We thought that we had taken that look as far as we could take it and it was time to move on to something different.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been rather up front. A lot of bands, they say, “I don’t care what people think. If they like the album, they’ll buy it.” But you’re saying, “We really want to consider what other people think of the band when we make our decisions going forward.” It’s quite refreshing.
Greg Troyan: Yeah. I think there’s a certain degree of… You know, life is about a balance. You can’t just be hard one way and hard the other. There’s a point where we have to recognize is valid criticism and what is not valid criticism. So you have to do your best to self-analyze and take a look at all the information that is available to you. I think that bending to the wills of the fans completely can lead to detriment and can lead to stale art if you’re just giving people what they want and never pushing boundaries. But at the same time, if you don’t listen to any feedback, you know, you potentially become this ego maniac unwilling to listen to the truth. So it’s all about a balance and doing your best to determine what is valid criticism, where you need to take a stand, where do you listen to that valid criticism and make some adjustments.
Sleaze Roxx: So Lipstick unveiled its new look and new sound. Well, I shouldn’t say new sound but new look at the Nashville Rock N Pod Expo. What was the feedback in that regard?
Greg Troyan: It was extremely flattering some of the feedback that we received. It was overwhelmingly positive. It’s kind of funny because in a way we didn’t really change that much. We played a lot of our old songs and so, it’s the same band, the same stage moves with a different coat of paint but it is amazing how minor tweaks can make a huge difference. And how you drop the songs about food in your set [laughs] and all of a sudden, everyone takes you more seriously. So people don’t notice the differences in minutia making a huge, huge difference. And so that’s why for me, [the] arrangement of a song is very, very important because one little change can make the difference between a song being kind of meant to be great. The same with image, the same with a set. So the response was overwhelmingly positive.
I got compared to Bruce Dickinson and David Lee Roth, which were huge compliments. It’s very flattering to be compared to two of the greatest frontmen of all time. It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around that. The first time that I met Bebe Buell, I was playing a small club in Nashville and she compared me to Steven Tyler. If anyone knows what Steven Tyler was like in his prime, it was her. So getting the compliments of getting compared to these amazing frontmen, it’s still hard to wrap my head around, trying to keep the ego out of it and just appreciate the compliment. We got compared to KISS a lot at the Expo as people have said, “Wow! You’re so much better live than you are in the studio like KISS.” And we’re like, “Yeah, yeah. I know [laughs].” In the 2019 internet market, the way to impress people is with your recorded music and we are like KISS where we are better live. It’s like, “Oh shit! How do I get that live sound out to the masses?” So we’re emulating KISS a little too much unfortunately [laughs].
Lipstick Generation performing cover of KISS‘ “I Stole Your Love” at Rock N Pod Pre-Party on August 9, 2019:
Lipstick Generation – I Stole Your Love (Live at Rock N Pod 2019)
Sleaze Roxx: Why do you think that people like your live sound so much better than the stuff on the studio albums?
Greg Troyan: Ummm [pause]. Ego aside, I think that I am one of the best frontmen out there right now. I know that it sounds like a cocky asshole thing to say but it’s true. There are very few people who can out perform me. There’s a bunch of people who can out sing me but very few people who can out perform me. And so when you have that live energy, it makes the songs sound even better because they are feeling the energy of you in the room. They are seeing you move around. It just makes it seem so much better. But beyond that, I have improved as a singer. I have been singing these songs for years so I am locked into the melodies, I am singing them with more power and more force. So I think that it’s a combination of just getting better over time but the live experience is something that is very difficult to replicate on record.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve also changed your band name from Lipstick to Lipstick Generation. How did the process go to changing the band name, which is a huge thing to do?
Greg Troyan: So we still own the legal rights to the band name Lipstick and every now and then, I’ll get a letter in the mail from the trademark office saying, “Hey, this band wants to register a name that is similar. They want to call themselves Pink Lipstick. Do you want us to deny this for you [laughs]?” I spent the money to secure the band name but it’s 2019. The internet is the thing. A band called Lipstick in the ’70s would have been awesome but in the internet age, where it’s all about people finding your band online. If you google Lipstick, you won’t find the band. You’ll find makeup tutorials on YouTube [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Sure.
Greg Troyan: So the fan club was called Lipstick Generation and we did a lot of interviews and press, and people would think that is the band name. And so they would call and they’d say, “Hey, this is Greg from Lipstick Generation.” And I’d say, “No. We’re called Lipstick.” And I’d have to keep correcting them. And all the social medias were “/lipstickgeneration” anyways. Facebook.com/lipstickgeneration. Lipstickgeneration.com. And we changed it on streaming services to Lipstick Generation because people could not find us. So you know what? Let’s just make it official. Call it Lipstick Generation. It’s already Lipstick Generation on most platforms. People confuse us for Lipstick Generation. Make it simple. And now of course, everyone is calling us Lipstick and not Lipstick Generation [laughs]. So you know, you try your best but you can’t win them all. We knew that there would be a transition process. We joked that you can call us Lipstick for short so that way, everybody’s right.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Fair enough. In terms of the new material, how is it going to be compared to the first two albums?
Greg Troyan: So I think that we were in an interesting process with working on the next album where we were going to do a really big self-indulging concept album with a lot of heavier stuff on it. And then of course, as is often the case, personnel changes and you have to re-evaluate what you are doing. So that’s why it took so long in between albums with this new look and image to what we are doing. We have maybe 60 to 100 songs written.
Sleaze Roxx: Wow!
Greg Troyan: And we had trouble picking what’s going to be the first one that we send to the world. And a lot of them had different aspects of sound that we think would be worth pursuing and it was very difficult for us to decide where to go from here. You know, which parts of the sound from the first album do we bring back and that’s how we ended up with the song that we did the video for to really help define what the sound is, what we’re going for, and really lock in what is the new direction of this band, which is apparently accidentally ’80s Alice Cooper era [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx [Laughs]
Greg Troyan: It turns out that’s just what we sound now. I guess something like that and something a little heavier, a little bit thrashier.
Sleaze Roxx: So I had a sneak peek at the video. Thank you for that. I noticed that it’s a lot more simpler — let’s say that — than your previous videos such as for example “Cha La Head Cha La.” So was that intentional to do that?
Greg Troyan: Ummm. Yes and no. It’s just fitting whatever is the concept for the video. So in the same way that I don’t think that a song needs to be complex to be good, I don’t think that a video needs to be complex to be good. I think that we did the right video for “Cha La Head Cha La” because it was a cover of the Dragonball Z theme song. So we made a live action Dragonball-esque video that fits the vibe of the show. This song, that would just not fit at all so we did what we thought was appropriate which was showcase the new image — a fun catchy little video.
Lipstick Generation‘s “Eyes of Love” (Eric Carr cover) video (from upcoming album):
Music video by Lipstick Generation performing Eyes of Love Song by Eric Carr, Bruce Kulick and Adam Mitchell Produced by Stephen Smith and Greg Troyan Lipstick Generation can be found on all major streaming platforms and at https://www.lipstickgeneration.com Featuring Kayla Nettles https://www.instagram.com/iamkaylanettles/ Director: Alex Baldwin http://alex-baldwin.com/
Lipstick Generation‘s “Cha La Head Cha La” (from album Lipstick II) video:
Music video for the Lipstick Generation song “Cha La Head Cha La” (the original Dragonball Z theme) from the album “Lipstick II”. In this music video, Lipstick Generation battles the living manifestation of Doubt. Will they succeed?
Sleaze Roxx: Now, obviously, your partner in crime, Stephen Smith, is still in the band but what have been the changes line-up wise for the rest of the group?
Greg Troyan: [Sigh] So Lipstick — I mean Lipstick Generation — I am still getting used to the name change [laughs]. We’re in an interesting place where we have done just well enough that people are expecting to make decent money in the band but we are not doing well enough where we are doing decent money in the band [laughs]. Because we had the level of notoriety around Nashville where people remember how big our shows were, they expect it to always be like that and you know, there’s times of feast when you’re in a band, there’s times of famine. And so, it’s hard for us to keep full-time guys because they get offered better paying gigs than ours. If they can tour with Ace Frehley, they are going to make way more money with Ace than they will playing shows with us. So we have a lot of people who are sort of “on call” for shows but it’s difficult to find permanent guys. We’ve got a new guitar player who I think is the best guitar player that we’ve ever had. He kind of sounds like Steve Vai and he’s doing a great job working on new material. We’re going to see how it goes.
We’re looking for those permanent guys. It’s been myself and Stephen through the good times and the bad times, and we’re open to find guys that can be permanent but you know, look at the list of players on the last album. Guys who have played with Warrant and Gene Simmons [laughs]. We know a lot of great players and any given weekend, I can find a great player but it is very difficult to find permanent players and we are hoping that with this new video and new direction, it will be easier find people to hop aboard. We had a few band members that did not like the old image and I’ll be honest, I get it. It’s difficult to find people who want to wear rainbow lollipop jackets. I get how that is not an easy sell but we think that with this new image, I can find any random asshole to wear a leather jacket. That’s easy enough.
Sleaze Roxx: It must be difficult in terms of shows because if you want to book some shows, you have to make sure that people are available and find new people. It must be quite challenging.
Greg Troyan: Yeah. That’s been a big difficulty. And the thing is, we know a lot of great players and we’ve been able to make it work. We’ve played some great shows. Nashville is a city of hired guns. Like everybody I know is in like seven bands, gigging constantly, doing a million things. I myself did a film score over the past couple of months and on top of that was doing some basic side gigs to fill in. So I understand how busy everyone is and if someone had asked me, “Hey, can you fill in for this gig?” during that time, I would not have been able to. So everyone in Nashville is kind of in that same boat where you’re working musicians. You’re hustling all the time trying to get gigs and when you get a steady gig, you don’t have time to gig with Lipstick Generation necessarily. But like I said, we’ve got a lead guitarist. He is full-time. He is kicking butt and we are just hoping to get that full-time drummer so we can hit the scene hard with our new image and record an album. I am really happy with the material that we have but I’m really hoping to get that line-up solidified. I think that the new video will attract a lot of people because it’s much easier attract people with leather jackets and hot girls than getting punched in the mouth while wearing a lollipop jacket.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned that you have 60 to 100 songs written for the album and you’re still working on new songs with your new guitarist. So what’s the timeline for the next studio album?
Greg Troyan: What we’re really going to do is — I think the goal is to push the single and give that some time to breathe. We’re considering a few different options for how we want to pursue albums going forward. Because it’s 2019, the music industry has changed drastically, even within the last ten years where I’ve been really pushing hard Lipstick. So we’re thinking about doing a Patreon where we have people contribute one dollar a month and just have a new song come out every month basically till we die. A lot of people consume music digitally nowadays. We would just release a song every month, studio quality, the same quality as the single you heard and I think that might be a better way to do things. That way, we’re constantly recording, we’re constantly writing, constantly getting new stuff out there because I hate the three, five years between albums. It’s just become commonplace in the market and I understand why with just the way things are nowadays.
But if we could be releasing music constantly, I think that it would be a win-win for everybody. And if we did Patreon, that would be enough to cover the expenses of recording and enough to give us the incentive and push to get songs out there quickly. We did a Games of Thrones project. We released a new studio song less than four hours after watching each episode and that was our challenge to see, “Hey! How quickly can we churn out quality stuff?” And we were happy with that. If we have a whole month to work on a song instead of four hours, we’ll be able to get good stuff out there consistently and that’s one option that we are considering but we have to see how the video does, see what the market demand is and figure out the best route going forward is.
Sleaze Roxx: What about your friend Billy Morris [Tuff, Warrant, Quiet Riot]. Was there any thought of having him play on the third album to the extent that he played on the first album?
Greg Troyan: Errr. Billy. The thing is, we still chat. We’ll have a phone call once every couple of months and so Billy has told me that he’s excited to play on ‘Lipstick III.’ He said, “Tell me where and when.” So it’s a matter of figuring out what is going to be , what is going to make the most sense for everyone’s schedules. Billy, although he lives in Cleveland [Ohio] is very much a national musician where he is gigging constantly and is busy. But the guitar playing on the latest single was actually done at his studio by a mutual friend of ours named Dougie Manross. He’s a really great up and coming guitar player. Both Billy and I took him under our wing and taught him a lot of things about music, and now he’s just a phenomenal musician in his own right. So we had him play guitar on the track from Billy’s studio in Cleveland. So Billy is still involved. It’s just a matter of what makes the most sense for everyone’s schedule but at the bare minimum, he is at least going to be doing a guitar solo on this album and if it’s the kind of thing where we are streaming songs every month, you know, maybe he’ll play guitar on a few songs per year. Right now, the goal is just to get the video out, do the best we can with the video and then figure things out from there.
Sleaze Roxx: You had a lot of guest musicians on your last album. Are you still thinking of having so many guest musicians on the upcoming songs?
Greg Troyan: Once again, it’s sort of the life of the Nashville musician where you have so many friends that want to collaborate with you and people might not have time to commit to being in the band full-time. They’ll say, “Oh, I’d love to play on a song. I’d live to appear on a track with you.” So we’re hoping to move away from the guest musician thing but if I have a phenomenal guitar player that wants to appear on a track, I’m not going to tell him “No.” I’m not going to turn down, you know, my buddies from the Ace Frehley Band and say, “No. You can’t play on a track.” As long as the other full-time guys are happy with it, you know, if we can make things work out and especially if we’re releasing a song a month, I am open to whatever quality musician wants to appear on my tracks.
Sleaze Roxx: So what happens to Mr. Cool, your mascot? Is he retired?
Greg Troyan: You know, Mr. Cool is on a vacation in the Bahamas relaxing and enjoying a nice catnip martini. I am sure [laughs] he’ll re-appear. We just don’t know what form that he will be in but I think there’s a large portion of the fan base that loves Mr. Cool. It’s a lot of our younger fans, the fans that buy stuffed animals at our shows. And so you don’t want to retire a character like that completely because he is so beloved and purely economically, we sold way more t-shirts when we push his face on them [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Greg Troyan: So Mr. Cool is not gone forever. I’m sure that Mr. Cool will appear at some shows and join us for some misadventures and antics. So he’s not gone forever but right now, he’s enjoying a well deserved vacation.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything else that you want to add that we have not covered?
Greg Troyan: One thing that I would add, a good part of this soul searching process has been the weekly podcast that we have been doing called the Lipstick Panel. Examining different albums and really dissecting the songs, the production, the playing — all of those things has really helped guide us in figuring out what people like about us in the first place. You know, as we are listening to KISS albums and Loudness albums, and all these other bands, we realized that’s what people like about those bands and then we take a look at ourselves saying, “What do people like about us?” I think that is where things have really helped us settle on the direction.
I think that I need to give a shout out to the late great Eric Carr. The song we chose to do — ironically, we wrote 60 to 100 songs — and we’re like, “Hey! We should do a cover [laughs].” So we covered an old Eric Carr demo for the new single because something about it felt right and it felt right in that Stephen and I weren’t fighting over, “Is the song that Stephen wrote the best? Is the song I wrote the best?” Allowing it to be someone else’s song and doing it to the best of our availability, I think allowed us a lot of freedom to focus in on figuring out what we want the sound to be. Once we knew that this song was the direction that we wanted to go in, how do we make that song sound the best we can and then do that, and everything else will fall into place in that even though we may not be releasing an album right away, we now know which songs out of those 100 songs are at the top of the list.
The Lipstick Panel‘s Peter Criss — One For All Part 1 podcast episode:
On the latest episode of The Lipstick Panel, Greg, Steve, and special guest George Kellas listen to the Peter Criss album “One for All”. Be sure to listen along at home! Listen on Apple Podcasts https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-lipstick-panel/id1334435410 Lipstick Generation www.lipstickgeneration.com
The Lipstick Panel‘s Peter Criss — One For All Part 2 podcast episode:
The new podcast is out! This week, Greg and Steve are joined by Victor Krause (James Gameboy) to rank the songs on the Peter Criss album, One for All, but first, they read a fanfiction written by Gavin from Bent Knee.