INTERVIEW WITH MCQUEEN STREET FRONTMAN DEREK WELSH
Date: September 23, 2020
Interviewer: Mark Horvath and Mark Gregory
There are certain time periods and events in a person’s life that they remember like it was yesterday… even if they transpired close to 30 years ago.
In the fall of 1991, I was a bright eyed freshman at a college in Northern Michigan and was always on the hunt for the newest band. Metal Edge Magazine was my bible at the time and it kept me up to date with all the latest up and coming bands.
One incredibly cold mid-October morning I was at the local record store looking specifically for an EP by a then unheard of band called Ugly Kid Joe (a story for another time), and while they didn’t have it in stock yet, there was a CD cover that instantly caught my attention as I was browsing the aisles. The black and white photo on the cover displayed a beautiful Amazonian type woman laying waste to a country field while holding an old International K Series type truck in the palm of her hand. The perfect example of an album cover grabbing your attention and forcing you take a second look. The band was McQueen Street and although I had never heard of them, I was intrigued enough to look at the back cover. I noticed instantly from the band photo that this was going to be right up my alley as they looked like a cross between Dangerous Toys, Skid Row and mid ’70s Aerosmith. The other clinchers were that it was produced by heavyweight producer Tom Werman (Mötley Crüe, Dokken, KIX, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, etc) with co-production and co-writing credits going to none other than Billy Idol’s guitar slinger / partner in crime, Steve Stevens. Good enough for me! Sold!
When I hit play on the CD for the first time, it gave me that same “Wow” factor that I felt when I first heard ‘Appetite For Destruction’, ‘Shout At The Devil’ and Skid Row’s debut. It had that gutter-sleaze sound I craved with razor sharp guitars and vocals paired with anthemic melodies. A recipe for success right? Well, we all know what musical genre was lurking just around the corner, and for McQueen Street, it was sadly just not meant to be. A band that can be filed under the “Should Have Been Huge” category.
The band’s lead vocalist Derek Welsh was kind enough to chat with us at Sleaze Roxx to fill us in on the events surrounding McQueen Street’s criminally underrated debut, as well as the two new songs recently released that have caught fans by pleasant surprise.
Sleaze Roxx: So let’s start from the beginning Derek. You formed McQueen Street with your brother Chris [Welsh] on drums, Michael Powers [on guitar] and Richard Hatcher [on bass]. You managed to land a record deal with SBK Records, which was a subsidiary of Capitol-EMI, and received some mainstream radio play as well as video rotation on MTV. How did the relationship with SBK/Capitol-EMI come to be?
Derek Welsh: Well, it’s a bit of a long story but the short end of it is that we worked approximately five nights a week playing clubs across the Southeast. At the time, it was typically two or three long sets and we did a combination of cover songs we really liked as well as some of our original material. A good friend of mine, Scott Pringle, lived in New York City and worked in a studio. We put together a rough demo of around 12 songs and I sent it to him. He really liked it and invited us there to stay and record for a couple of weeks. This demo got into the hands of some industry heavyweights that loved it and attended a show and I guess the rest is history. Scott engineered it and and I would say had quite a hand in the production.
Sleaze Roxx: Did McQueen Street go out with any national acts in support of the debut album?
Derek Welsh: It seems like so long ago that it’s hard to remember everyone we played with. I do recall we did some shows with Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Dave Matthews Band, Widespread Panic, Bang Tango, Mr. Big and many others.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s quite a diverse list! How did producer Tom Werman and [Billy Idol’s] Steve Stevens get involved in the recording and production of McQueen Street’s debut album?
Derek Welsh: Steve Stevens first heard about the band through our A&R rep at the label. I think she gave him a live video of the band and he really liked it. I flew to New York and we wrote the song “Two Worlds” together. Steve initially wanted to produce our first record and we recorded a few songs at Triclops Sound Studios in Atlanta, Georgia [USA] with him. This is where the Smashing Pumpkins recorded the famous ‘Siamese Dream’ album. Shortly after we finished that, someone got some recordings over to Tom Werman and he said he wanted to produce us. At that point, it seemed like a no-brainer so that’s how it all went down.
Sleaze Roxx: Were you happy with the support that SBK / Capitol-EMI provided the band, or do you feel there was more that could have been done as far as radio, tour and MTV support?
Derek Welsh: There were some things I was happy about and other things not so much. I really liked Nancy Brennan that was [the] A&R who was responsible for signing us. The Marketing Department could have done a better job overall with radio, promo and overall MTV support.
Sleaze Roxx: When you toured to support the debut album, was it a full national tour or was it more of a regional tour of specific cities / markets?
Derek Welsh: From the best of my memory, we did quite a few one off shows in many different cities in the US. I wouldn’t say we did any long tours with any particular bands.
McQueen Street‘s “My Religion” video:
McQueen Street‘s “Time” video:
Sleaze Roxx: It seems like McQueen Street, along with so many other bands of the genre despite their potential and initial success, were swept under the rug in late 1991 / early 1992 when grunge started to become the “new mainstream.” When and how did you start noticing the change in the music scene/business?
Derek Welsh: I started noticing that so many hard rock or metal bands were all using the same formulas and things starting getting a bit stale across the board. I think the whole big hair, hairspray, spandex thing got really old. It was time for a change for lack of a better term. I remember doing a short radio promo tour where we would do interviews and play some songs acoustically. We were in the back of the limo or town car and one of the head reps said, “Hey guys, I want to play you something and get your opinions.” Halfway through the song, the other guys were hating the song and the band. At the end, she asked me specifically what I thought and to the best of my knowledge I said something like, “I don’t really hear the talent and I don’t think this will ever do anything.” Well, the song was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and you know who the band was. Damn, was I ever wrong on that one [laughs]! Anyhow, I am a huge Dave Grohl fan and I love Foo Fighters because they are a great band with great songs.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes, I think they caught everyone in the industry by surprise. You were eventually able to buy the rights back for the second McQueen Street album and release it on your own. It sounds like a natural progression from the debut album. Is it safe to say that McQueen Street 2 [eventually released in 2003] was written and recorded in 1992 but shelved by SBK / Capitol-EMI?
Derek Welsh: Well, it’s really a very long story but to keep it short and to the point, it was a natural progression. In 1992, things were really starting to get out of whack with rock and roll as we knew it. Additionally, all record companies were changing and heading in vastly different directions than in previous years.
Sleaze Roxx: Was the follow up recorded with Chris, Michael and Richard?
Derek Welsh: Yes.
Sleaze Roxx: How were you informed that the record was not going to be released?
Derek Welsh: I don’t remember exactly, but most bands in our genre were stopped dead in their tracks.
Sleaze Roxx: We were very sorry to hear about the passing of your brother Chris in 1994. Are you comfortable with shedding some light on what transpired?
Derek Welsh: Chris got very sick with some type of stomach flu and he literally passed away during the night. It’s really tough for me to try and re-visit this. We were very close all of our lives and it was extremely tough on my entire family.
Sleaze Roxx: When and how did you decide to call it a day for McQueen Street back in the ’90s?
Derek Welsh: When I realized that hard rock was replaced with grunge and had no idea when or if it would come back, I just changed directions entirely. I started writing in an entirely different vein, started a new band and moved forward without ever looking back. I never have lost my true love for hard rock and rock n’ roll.
Sleaze Roxx: What did you do during the remainder of the ’90s and into the 2000’s?
Derek Welsh: I wrote and recorded three albums with a band called The Rat Race. I believe they were recorded and released in 1993, 1995 and 1996. It was more of a ’70s kind of trippy rock and very different from McQueen Street. I toured heavily around the Southeast with this band and sang, played guitar, piano and harmonica. After that I kept writing, did a solo record and toured solo and with bands doing cover songs.
Sleaze Roxx: Your two new singles released in 2020 under the McQueen Street brand have garnered quite a bit of attention and excitement. What are your plans for McQueen Street? Can we expect a new full album and tour once the Covid-19 pandemic clears up?
Derek Welsh: It’s exciting to know that things have been garnering that much excitement. I will continue to write, record and do some touring with McQueen Street. It’s in my blood.
Sleaze Roxx: Fans have heralded your songwriting style on these two new songs as remaining true to the McQueen Street sound. Was this a conscious effort or did they just naturally turn out that way?
Derek Welsh: Honestly, I don’t really ever think about keeping my sound and songwriting a certain way. I just write what comes to mind and I guess that sound and style is just what comes out of me.
Sleaze Roxx: Are you still in contact with [guitarist] Michael Powers and [bassist] Richard Hatcher? Were they approached to participate in the new recordings?
Derek Welsh: I like Mike very much and we speak every now and then. He’s a phenomenal musician and always has been. I respect his playing, lifestyle, attitude and I like him as a person. I have no contact with the other guy and no reason to be in touch with him. There are a wealth of problems and bad memories that are tied to him.
McQueen Street‘s “Outside In” single:
This is the official audio for “Outside In”, a single by McQueen Street. Released on February 29th, 2020. This song is also available on all of the major str…
McQueen Street‘s “One Way Ticket” single:
Sleaze Roxx: You went through a very serious head injury back in 2014 after a fall on a tennis court. Has there been any lingering side effects to that or are you fully recovered?
Derek Welsh: It was really bad! I was diagnosed with a triple traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for a long time. I think I was in the hospital a couple of months and then had months of rehab after that. I am technically supposed to be dead but I’m up and kicking! There are no lingering effects and I would say I am more than fully recovered.
Sleaze Roxx: Thank goodness for that! The other obvious thing that the fans are astounded by is that your voice seems to have not aged whatsoever over the last 30 years and you still have your full strength and range. We’re still hearing a lot of aggressive vocals and screams. Do you do anything to maintain it?
Derek Welsh: Thanks! It must be the gallons of Comet, Mr. Clean and Drano that I chug daily [laughs]! No secret — live well, sing well.
Sleaze Roxx: What other projects are you involved with currently and what do we have to look forward to?
Derek Welsh: I am the vocalist with a new band that is out of Florida and these guys are phenomenal. They are all unbelievably great players and just good guys. We’re working on finishing an entire record and once things get finalized I should be able to give some details.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s great Derek. It sounds like there is a chance of new material from McQueen Street and a new project that you are involved with. Anything else you would like to plug before we sign off?
Derek Welsh: One thing you can pass on to everyone is that our website is www.mcqueenstreet.com and there is a section for “listen” which shows all of the streaming media services we can be heard on. Additionally, there is an online store where people can order shirts, CDs, books, etc.
McQueen Street‘s “Money” video: