JASON MCMASTER INTERVIEW:
October 30, 2009
Interviewer: Grant W.
Jason McMaster is one of the hardest working guys on the rock scene. I was amazed when I checked out his biography to see what bands he’s been in over the years. The first time I heard Jason was with Dangerous Toys around 89/90 when they supported The Almighty and Faster Pussycat on their UK tour and at that point I’d only seen the Teasin’ Pleasin’ video. But based on their amazing performance and Jason’s amusing stories, like what ‘sporting a woody’ actually meant in America, I went straight out and bought the album. For those who haven’t heard Jason live, I can tell you that he has one of the best voices around and isn’t one of those singers who shirks away from the high notes live, he can genuinely hit the notes that other vocalists just wouldn’t attempt unless they were in the comfort of a studio.
In this exclusive interview with Sleaze Roxx’s Grant W., Jason talks about his latest release Spider Queen with the power metal band Ignitor, the upcoming Broken Teeth album Viva La Rock, Fantastico and his upcoming tell-all biography.
Sleaze Roxx: Jason, firstly thanks for taking the time out for Sleaze Roxx. Let me take you back to the time when you first tasted shepherds pie and the tour I mentioned. What was it like for you just having released your first album, being very young and on a tour in Europe for the first time?
Jason McMaster: I always dreamed of touring Europe, growing up idolizing bands like Judas Priest, AC/DC and then Motorhead. It was those bands that I can say influenced me so much to write heavy metal and dark rock n’ roll songs. The tour we did there was like a kid doing Disneyland for the first time, serious fun and learning daily about Europe and the UK. The Almighty were great and Faster Pussycat had just put out ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ and had done a recent tour opening for Guns N’Roses in Europe. It was a perfect time for them to tour there, when we were invited on, it was like Christmas.
Sleaze Roxx: I believe you have a claim to some Scottish and Irish roots? What’s the connection?
Jason McMaster: While I was there, I checked into some of my heritage and looked up my roots. I’m the Buchanan clan. I bought some things with my tartan, that was inspiring. Me and Dangerous Toys bassist Mike Watson realized we were both from the same clan and in recent years realized a friend of ours named Lee Scott, who plays Bon Scott in an AC/DC tribute band, is of the Buchanan clan as well and lives in Texas. My great grandmother’s maiden name was indeed…. Scott.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve toured with some pretty big names throughout your career. Can you cite one tour that stands out more than others and tell us why it was memorable?
Jason McMaster: That’s easy – Motorhead, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Metal Church, 1991 on the American tour – Operation Rock n’ Roll, a Sony music summertime tour. I have toured with my idols. To be able to hang a bit with those people is an incredible experience, stories, and just being able to have friendly conversations as peers. I will never forget that time in my life.
Sleaze Roxx: I see that the first two Dangerous Toys albums are to be released on double CD. Do you still get all the royalties from the back catalogue?
Jason McMaster: Yes, and Malcolm Dome wrote the liners for the re-issue of that. I grew up reading his stuff. The thing is… now I need a couple of copies of that double disc…can ya buy me a couple and I can trade you some stuff??
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s move onto Broken Teeth. I recently got a copy of Electric and I was absolutely blown away. Ginger from the Wildhearts described you guys as ‘AC/DC, but pissed’ which is a great compliment and a spot on description. With complex riffs being the foundation, what’s the song writing process for you guys, is the whole band involved?
Jason McMaster: For the most part, Broken Teeth material was written by Paul Lidel (Dangerous Toys, Dirty Looks and formerly of Broken Teeth) and myself. I’d write the lyrics and a riff or two. That would’ve been the basic formula until the Electric record. It was almost the same but the band put forth more arrangement ideas as a group, which was interesting, and really made the work pay off.
The Electric record is an incredible ploy into what Broken Teeth stands for. We re-recorded versions of 5 songs from our early releases as well as 6 new songs, but that record came out a while ago in the States. So, our newest record, ‘Viva La Rock, Fantastico’, is in the can and we are waiting on artwork and liners, but the material is the first time I wrote without Paul as he left the band in 2006. He was replaced by Dave Beeson who played on Electric and he wrote some great riffs for the Viva record. Jared Tuten wrote a few kick ass riffs as well for Viva and then a lot of the riffs, about 70 percent, were done by yours truly. We had a blast puttin’ this record together. We wrote about 30 songs and tracked 20 of them, narrowing it down to 13.
Sleaze Roxx: When will the new album Viva La Rock, Fantastico be released and is it likely to be similar to previous albums or something different?
Jason McMaster: Only different in the way that Paul Lidel’s riffs won’t be present, although Paul sorta wrote the blueprint for Broken Teeth – that fired up nasty rock n’ roll. But I must say we threw a brick on the accelerator and sped up a bit. Electric and Viva are sorta having the same fire, but Viva is a variety pack of Broken Teeth vibe and no frills power. I cannot wait for people to hear this. Two songs also feature the mighty Danko Jones on guest vocals.
Sleaze Roxx: So what are the plans for touring and is there any chance that Broken Teeth will visit Europe in the future?
Jason McMaster: I dream of touring Europe with Broken Teeth. What I am worried about is, sleeping on floors – this old man can’t do that shit anymore. So, any promoters there want us to rock out some clubs and festivals? All we need is shepherds pie and hotel rooms!
Sleaze Roxx: I know that all of your bands such as Watchtower, Dangerous Toys and Broken Teeth have never officially split up. How do you decide what band is for ‘right now’ so to speak and know when it’s time to move back to another project?
Jason McMaster: I don’t, it sort of works out all by itself. I have a new band to add to the roster, Ignitor. So when I am recording with one, chances are, I am about to record with another, rehearse with another and tour with another. My calendar is first come first served.
Sleaze Roxx: How did the Shiprocked tour in November come about and how does it feel to being doing one of these several day events with classic old school rock acts like Tesla, Ratt and Skid Row?
Jason McMaster: The promoter saw Broken Teeth at the Rock the Bayou Festival last summer in Houston and called my agent to add us to the Shiprocked cruise – pretty awesome. We have played with most of the other bands featured before.
Sleaze Roxx: Okay onto the latest Jason McMaster project, Ignitor. For those of us who might not be too familiar with Ignitor, can you tell us a little more about who they are and how you ended up joining the band on vocals?
Jason McMaster: I play Rob Halford in a Judas Priest tribute made up of some of my friends and one of the guitarists is Stu Lawrence, aka Batlord from Agony Column and Ignitor. Ignitor lost their singer, Erika, in 2008. They released two records previously with Erika who is an excellent power metal vocalist but had to leave for her differences. I was hearing about the auditions Ignitor was having and they were all ill fated so I told Stu I would help him out.
The new material is a metal opera called ‘The Spider Queen’. It has been out in Europe for a month or so now. If you like King Diamond, Judas Priest and Accept, all put together in a Shakespearian opus, you’ll like what’s going on – but it’s straight up power metal. The record is available worldwide, in Europe on Cruz Del Sur Records and in the States on Heavy Artillery Records. There is a new video for a song called Construct of Destruction on YouTube.com and on myspace.com.
Sleaze Roxx: Would you say it’s a bit of a departure from your usual singing style? Did it challenge you to ‘act’ vocally (if you know where I’m coming from) or get into more of a character for the part?
Jason McMaster: As much as I wanted the characters to come out thru the story line using the vocals as a vessel, I didn’t really have to worry about it. It was naturally done from the verse, into a chorus, into another, as the story was unfolding in the lyrics. I just followed my nose.
Sleaze Roxx: How would you describe the sound of Ignitor now as the band was fronted by a female vocalist before?
Jason McMaster: It is very different for Ignitor. The old fans want it to sound like the old stuff with Erika and it goes a different way altogether for the reasons that it’s not Erika singing and that it is a concept/opera type of story. It is old school power metal with a twist, and another, and another. If you’re expecting something like the early Ignitor, you’ll not really get it right away.
Sleaze Roxx: Will Ignitor be touring and will you be with them?
Jason McMaster: Ignitor has done a bucket of shows, and will continue. We have plans to do a few runs in Europe in the coming year as well as the States, my calendar permitting.
Sleaze Roxx: Will you keep singing with them and add them to the list of ‘on-going projects’?
Jason McMaster: Yes, I love the Spider Queen record, its been so much fun.
Sleaze Roxx: What do you think about bands like Steel Panther who are getting a huge amount of air play for basically taking the piss?
Jason McMaster: Great players with the talent and the knowledge of that style, as well as the fun they’re having. It sounds deserving but it’s not really a serious way that I personally want my music to have going on in the vibe and feel, but taking yourself too seriously is also a very bad idea.
Sleaze Roxx: And what about Anvil? Have you seen the Anvil Story DVD? You have to take your hat off to those guys for trying right?
Jason McMaster: I love how real Anvil are, and will be to the world, after the success of the movie. I love the movie and saw it early on. I was already a fan from the 80s. The interview with Lars Ulrich on the DVD is a perfect look into the American metal scene and how Anvil were involved and the mention of the material by Anvil that he likes, is exactly my take on them as well. Metal on Metal and Forged in Fire have incredible moments and the other material did not translate well for a reason that seems elusive. At any rate, an incredible story and look into how the music business won’t be your friend just because you need it to be. It’s a true story about playing music and metal for the right reasons.
Sleaze Roxx: What’s going to be the next Jason McMaster project for you then because I hear you have a book in the works too?
Jason McMaster: My book is being written by Erika (ex Ignitor vocalist) and her husband Jeff (bassist for black metal band Averse Sefira). We will start doing press releases and talking about it when we get some of it in a manuscript of some kind. The idea is to tell the stories and or reveal my memoirs in a book that won’t sound like a bunch of name dropping.
Sleaze Roxx: Finally Jason, if there was one thing in your career you really still want to achieve, what would it be?
Jason McMaster: That’s the hardest questions anyone ever asked me at this point. I could be lame and say that if I could make a bit more money doing this, so I don’t have to sleep on the floor ever again. That’s all I ask.
Sleaze Roxx: Jason, can I just say thanks for taking the time to chat about bands past and present. If you manage to make it over to the UK, you can crash at mine, no floors – just a comfy bed and maybe some shepherds pie!
Thanks to Jason McMaster and Grant W.