Interview with The Claws guitarist Gary Martin and frontman Chad Cherry

Date: December 9, 2021
Interviewer: Olivier
Photos: Maya Kay


Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your two new albums!

Gary Martin: Thank you very much Olivier!

Sleaze Roxx: I am sure that this has happened since then but the one time that comes to my mind when two albums by the same band got released on the same day was when Guns N’ Roses released ‘Use Your Illusion I‘ and ‘Use Your Illusion II‘ back in 1991. Why did you decide to release your new EP and LP on the same day?

Gary Martin: During this recording session, we recorded 14 songs. No matter which songs were chosen for the LP, we wanted it to total 10 songs, no more, no less. We toyed with the idea of holding back four songs for a future LP, but since these are all from the same session, it made sense to put them all out now.

Sleaze Roxx: Were there any thoughts of switching some of the songs from the LP to the EP, or vice-versa at some point?

Gary Martin: Absolutely, yes. The sequencing of the LP & EP went through many changes, and any of the EP songs could’ve been on the LP, and vice-versa. ‘Ride’ was always going to be one of the singles, and we wanted to have a single from the EP, so that’s why it kicks off ‘Hazy Days’.

The Claws‘ “Ride” single (from Hazy Days Wasted Nights EP):

Sleaze Roxx: I feel that your album covers for your new EP and LP each have a story or at least an idea behind them. What’s the idea or story behind the album cover for ‘Stars And Broken Glass’?

Gary Martin: We were invited to do a photo session at Wolfpack Studios in Burbank, California. The set, backdrop, and props were all provided, and those beer steins were full & often re-filled, so we just went full Medieval era I guess. This cover picture is also similar to what our rehearsals tend to look like.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Those must be some rehearsals! How did you come up with the album title ‘Stars And Broken Glass’?

Gary Martin: We’re based in Los Angeles, and our headquarters/rehearsal is located in the heart of Hollywood. Sure, there is a glitz to this area of the world, but it is the big, nasty city, and things can get weird. ‘Stars And Broken Glass’ is a reference to the dichotomy of the glamour and the grittiness of our surroundings. The sidewalk is made of stars, and the glass is the reason that we wear boots to rehearsal.

Sleaze Roxx: What about the cover for the EP ‘Hazy Days Wasted Nights’? What is the idea or story behind that cover?

Gary Martin: I wanted to create an image that reminded me of a still life painting, but reflected moments experienced during 2020 and 2021. It’s intentionally ambiguous, but reflective of the songs on the record.

Sleaze Roxx: How did you come up with the EP ‘Hazy Days Wasted Nights’?

Gary Martin: ‘Hazy Days, Wasted Nights’, or “how I spent my pandemic”. The title comes from a line in one of my favorite tracks, called ‘Cheaper Stuff’. The tracks ‘Lost And Found’ and ‘One Little Slice’ belong together, despite their sonic differences.

Sleaze Roxx: You released your album ‘No Connection’ a few months before the Covid pandemic changed the world and pretty much brought live music to a halt in many countries including the USA. It seemed a lot of albums that were released last year just didn’t get the push that they could have had. Do you feel that ‘No Connection’ got a fair shake?

Gary Martin: A fair shake? Nope, not at all. ‘No Connection’ should’ve gotten us to the next level. I guess it is destined for the “lost gem” department at the rock n roll library. We are all super-proud of that LP and hopefully it will get rediscovered later.

The Claws‘ “Stumbling Around” video (from No Connection album):

Sleaze Roxx: This time around, you are aware of the ongoing Covid pandemic, which seems to change on a dime with the advent of the latest variant Omnicron. Nevertheless, you decided to release not one but two albums amid the ongoing uncertainty caused by the Covid virus. How did you decide to release your new EP and LP on December 10th? Did you consider delaying the albums any further?

Gary Martin: There was never a plan to delay these new releases. These songs represent a time and place and delaying them would feel like a betrayal. Our time alive on this rock can be surprisingly short, and I have always believed that you’ve got to make your mark while you still can. Besides, we already have another LP written.

Sleaze Roxx: Ha! That is great news! Let’s backtrack a little bit. I understand that you guys first formed an acoustic duo that later morphed into the current band. What prompted you to start The Claws? Take me through the evolution of the band.

Chad Cherry: Gary and myself did start out just doing acoustic music. Wooden stools and wooden guitars. Played out like that for quite awhile until we both got bored and decided it was time to get loud. Real loud. That’s when the universe introduced us to Terry Love. Then it started to get interesting.

Gary Martin: Yep, doing these acoustic gigs provided us with the opportunity to develop our dual-vocal approach, and fine tune the songwriting process. Basically, if a song doesn’t work acoustically, it’s not going to work well with the band. We went through quite a few line-up changes, but with Terry, Chad, and myself in place, we never got too discouraged. Tony Pacheco took over the drum kit in 2019, and Mike Gavigan locked in with us in time for the recording of the new LP and EP.

Sleaze Roxx: How did you end up getting Mike Gavigan in the band?

Chad Cherry: One night at the Redwood, a club downtown L.A. I ran into Mike and without even saying a physical word to each other we just used this weird sort of Rock-n- Roll mental telepathy to communicate with each other.. we just sort of looked at each other and that was it. I was like “See you at rehearsal , man.” Not kidding. It was as right as the rain.   

Gary Martin: Yeah, Mike said that he loved the ‘No Connection’ LP & the timing was right, so we had him come to HQ and it jelled beautifully. I knew Mike’s playing was excellent; we would see him playing around LA with the Blessings (great LA band), plus, he and I had similar backgrounds, both having grown up in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

The Claws‘ “High Noon” single (from Stars And Broken Glass album):

Sleaze Roxx: How did you come up with the band name The Claws?

Chad Cherry: Over cocktails in some Sunset Strip bar at a hotel in Los Angeles that probably doesn’t exist anymore. Or were we at the Foxfire? Hazy days. I’m still in disbelief that nobody had snagged that name before us!

Sleaze Roxx: Gary — In an interview with VoyageLA, you mentioned how there are many talented bands in Los Angeles that are all vying to play in the venues that don’t require ‘pay to play.” For the people who don’t know, can you describe the ‘pay to play’ scheme that many venues seem to impose?

Gary Martin: Pay to play is a scheme that gives the upper hand to the musicians with a better financial footing, rather than legitimate artistic merit. You agree to sell a set amount of tickets to your upcoming show, and this ticket money goes to the club. Once you’ve met the agreed-to amount of ticket sales (money for the club), you are granted a slot on the bill. Often times, those who sell the most get the higher billing on the gig. If you fail to sell the required amount, you need to pay from your own pocket, or you’re dropped from the bill. Some bands can afford to just buy these tickets themselves and simply give them away. Commerce uber alles. I feel that a music ‘scene’ is created by cultivating the best bands and musicians. You don’t create a ‘scene’ by milking the bands for every dollar so they can play these legacy venues. Venues, by the way, that became “legendary” because of the bands who played them, not the other way around.

Sleaze Roxx: How frustrating is it to have to deal with the ‘pay to play’ scheme and what can bands like The Claws do to get around it?

Chad Cherry: I’m not frustrated. Just won’t play those clubs, that’s all. We’ll go somewhere else and start up our own thing. We gravitate towards our own reality. Plus, a lot of those pay to play clubs don’t have any good music there anyway, most of the time it’s stuff that none of us listen to anyway, no point in that. There’s always gonna be some other dives that we can take over and invade with our friends and music.

Gary Martin: It’s the music and the people that create the vibe, not the name on the outside marquee.

Sleaze Roxx: Getting back to your new EP and LP, what are your favorite songs and why?

Chad Cherry: That’s like asking me which one of my kids I like the best.. actually I don’t have any kids but if I did I would like all of them. ALL of them are my favorite, especially when we play them live! Plus we have so many damn songs I can’t even keep track of them!   

Gary Martin: Exactly. I think these songs play off of each other. Hard to pick a favorite, because I love ’em all. As a guitar player, the riffs to ‘Ride’ and ‘Down In The City’ are good, filthy fun. Sleazy, if ya will..

Sleaze Roxx: Will you be releasing any videos in support of the new EP and LP? If so, how do you choose which album gets the first video [laughs]?

Chad Cherry: Can’t have a cool song without a cool video to go with it. We usually try and put vids to most tunes we release. There will be the usually debate about which vid to do first, then we change our minds 100 times, drink three more PBR‘s, and then decide not to do anything we talked about and just flip a coin.   

Gary Martin: I think ‘Strange Rumblings’ is first in the queue for a video. But, like Chad said, we’ll see how it shakes out.

Sleaze Roxx: Chad — As you likely know, The Last Vegas have had a big impact on Sleaze Roxx since the album ‘Whatever Gets You Off‘ landed the #1 spot on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2009. It seems that the Last Vegas have been on hiatus since your move from Chicago to Los Angeles about five years ago. What’s the status of The Last Vegas? Will there be another album in the future?

Chad Cherry: This question has nothing to do with how Gary and I maintain our fashionable dress code or how we’re constantly coming up with new music that seems to have a life of its own like The Blob taking over ever city on the planet! But I digress. TLV is still a thing, lurking in the shadows. Time will tell when we decide to shed light on the beast again. Nate (TLV drummer) also lives out here in Los Angeles and I talk to him on the weekly. Nate also played drums on The Claws first EP in 2018. We’re all still close and connected with each other. Time will tell.

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

Chad Cherry: I would like to take this opportunity to let everyone know how extremely hard it is to be in a band in this day and age. On that note, I’m blessed. The Claws are ALL on the same page and there’s no room for complaining or diva rockstar, attitude bullshit. These guys are the real deal and we’re like a Special Forces team of Rock-n-Roll.. and that’s a hard thing to come by. We work hard and we love it. Gary and myself started out as a two man team and to see it grow into a band that’s firing on all cylinders is quite amazing. We create music with our friends.   

Gary Martin: Hopefully we can make it over to the EU and UK in 2022. Stay tuned! Thank you for chatting with us, Olivier! You rock.

Sleaze Roxx: Thank you for doing the interview! I do have one more question for each of you. What are your top three albums of all-time and why?

Chad Cherry: Damn man, that’s not fair to the other 100 all-time albums I have! I’m sure this answer will change the next time someone asks but here we go. Iggy and The Stooges’ Raw Power — This record set the foundation for me to be a bastard son of rock n’ roll! This album created me somehow. The Rolling Stones’ ‘Let It Bleed’ — To me, this is the devil’s music. Saturated with blues and swagger. I’ll never get enough. Alice Cooper’s ‘Love It To Death’ — As a kid I thought Alice Cooper was a glam rock version of Night of the Living Dead. Two things I loved then and I love now.

Sleaze Roxx: I love Alice Cooper’s ‘Love It To Death’ as well!

Gary Martin: ‘Exile On Main Street’ by The Rolling Stones — I was gonna go with ‘Let It Bleed’, which is probably my fav LP ever, but Chad took that one. ‘Exile’ is freaking masterpiece. The Stones channel blues, country, rock, Americana, and probably every substance known to man. No better songs out there than ‘Tumbling Dice’ and ‘Torn And Frayed.” The Replacements’ ‘Pleased To Meet Me’ — I absolutely love Paul Westerberg’s songwriting. In my opinion, this one blends the raucous sound of early ‘Mats with what would come later in his solo career. “Can’t Hardly Wait” should’ve been a huge hit. ‘Van Halen II’ — Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth together were absolute magic from ’78 – ’84, and this one is my favorite. Some of the loudest pop music in history, and damn that guitar playing is mind-boggling. “D.O.A.” feels like it takes flight, so killer. Seems crazy to leave out [Tom] Petty and The Beatles, but you only wanted three [laughs]!

The Claws‘ “Strange Rumblings” video (from Stars And Broken Glass album):