INTERVIEW WITH DANGEROUS TOYS, BROKEN TEETH AND IGNITOR FRONTMAN JASON MCMASTER
Date: October 12, 2018
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Photos: Brian Ronald (first and third photos)
JASON MCMASTER IS NO STRANGER TO SLEAZE ROXX READERS. MCMASTER HAS BEEN PART OF UNDERGROUND LEGENDS WATCHTOWER, DANGEROUS TOYS, BROKEN TEETH AND MOST RECENTLY IGNITOR, AMONGST OTHERS. JASON CAUGHT UP WITH SLEAZE ROXX TO TELL US WHAT HE’S GOT COOKIN’ MUSICALLY AND TO PROMOTE HIS UPCOMING APPEARANCE AT THE FIRST EVER ‘HEADBANGER’S CON’ IN PORTLAND, OREGON, USA ON NOVEMBER 10TH AND 11TH, 2018. WE BLASTED THROUGH HIS MUSICAL HISTORY FROM THE WATCHTOWER DAYS TO THE PRESENT. ENJOY AND CLICK HERE OR GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ‘HEADBANGER’S CON.’
Sleaze Roxx: You worked with Max Norman on the debut album. Who suggested Max Norman and what was your experience working with him?
Jason McMaster: That was the label. We were so green at the time. We didn’t know what we were doing. We all knew who Max Norman was because we all read the back of our favorite records and the liner notes. We were all fans of the Ozzy [Osbourne] records that he worked on, but I was a huge Armored Saint fan and I loved what he did with them. When I heard his name thrown around, I was excited. I guess he was looking for work and so were we little to our knowledge [laughs]! So, yeah it was the label, they were the ones with the short list.
The same thing happened on the second record [‘Hellacious Acres’], when the label got Roy Thomas Baker. He has worked with Queen, The Cars, Cheap Trick, Bad Company and Journey. I personally think that we should have stuck with Max for another record. The label had more say in it than we did. We weren’t that demanding. I don’t think we were ready to record the second album. We were on the road. We were still selling units and we were out supporting The Cult. We were doing really well. It was like April of ’90 and we had started that tour the previous New Year’s Eve at Long Beach Arena. I remember we were in our dressing room and someone from the label runs in and says, “Guess what? You’re going to the studio to record the next one!” That was just the dumbest decision to make for us! Could you underline that? “Made for us.” That’s pretty much what happened.
We were ready to go home to write. We had a few tunes but we didn’t have an album. I will brag a little bit that those are the songs that people really like off that one — “Angel In You,” “Gimme No Lip.” We didn’t have “Line ‘Em Up” or “Best Of Friends” yet at that point. Personally, I think half that album is great and the rest of it is just filler. Then again dude, there’s people that say that it’s their favorite record, so what the hell do I know [laughs]?
Dangerous Toys‘ “Line ‘Em Up” video:
Music video by Dangerous Toys performing Line ‘Em Up. (C) 1991 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
Sleaze Roxx: There’s a lot of great tunes on that one — “Gunfighter” and “Sticks & Stones” were two my my other favorites.
Jason McMaster: Well, there you go. Those two came later on. Now you see what I’m talking about. People have their favorite songs.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned how you were rushed into the studio to cut ‘Hellacious Acres.’ Was the Bad Company [“Feel Like Makin’ Love”] cover thrown in to fill some space on the record?
Jason McMaster: No, how that happened is we were ‘woodshedding’ or working out songs in pre-production, essentially rehearsing and jamming. We were playing around with some classic songs and Roy happened to walk by and heard us playing that song. Next thing you know he’s saying “Oh, that’s going to be on the record! That was fucking great!” We were all looking at each other going “What?!” [Laughs] Next thing we know, we’re cutting that for the record. I have to say that I always fall back in the shit everytime I meet people who love that! I’m grateful, but I’m like what have you been smoking [laughs]! It’s just the strangest thing for a camaro, cock rock band to hear a fan come up to you and say that it’s the greatest thing. I don’t think it is, but okay cool, whatever!
Sleaze Roxx: You did the ‘Operation Rock ‘n’ Roll’ tour with Alice Cooper a few years back. I imagine he’s aware of “Scared?” What did he think?
Jason McMaster: Yeah. That tour, Sony Music was cleaning house because the next wave of rock music was moving in. It’s funny to think because [ in] ‘91, ’92, ’93, people who were in Circus, Hit Parader and Metal Edge started to move over for more of a Soundgarden and Alice In Chains sound. So two years before that, in the summer of ’91, it was Judas Priest, Metal Church, Mötorhead and then us, Dangerous Toys. Alice Cooper and Judas Priest flip-flopped as headliners. That was a dream come true for a guy like me. I’m done! I got to tour with my idols [laughs]! It was [like] going to Disneyland everyday for two months!
So music was changing, fashion was changing. There were people that thought that a band like Dangerous Toys didn’t belong. I’m speaking for myself, I was like “I’m not buying a new wardrobe or changing the way I sing, I’m not changing shit [laughs]!” This just showed how this business is so fickle. If the guy across the street is selling apples and you’re selling apples too and for some reason people stop buying apples from you, you don’t stop selling apples! You’re an apple salesman! That’s not how rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to work. As a musician or as a fan, you’re committed to it. You don’t wear a costume because someone else is wearing a costume? It’s all pretty fake. There’s a lot of lessons learned on how the music business works. Nirvana is rock ‘n’ roll to me and you can bring them up without someone getting into a debate or argument about that. It’s all under one umbrella to me. That was just such a weird time.
People got the message early on that “Scared” was about Alice Cooper. It was more or less dedicated to Alice because of the color of the lyrics. I wanted to celebrate Alice. There’s the line in there, “Who’s the man in the white vest.” Well, that white vest is the straightjacket and Alice wears a straightjacket during “The Ballad of Dwight Fry.” So that was the starting point and the song just wrote itself from there on. He heard that no long after. He was on Columbia Records and we were on Epic Records. I remember we had been on tour and the label had bought out The Whisky and they gave away tickets on KNAC, which was the hot rock station out there at the time. That place was jam packed with fans. We were in the dressing room with a bunch of other artists that had been signed to Epic and Columbia.
So I’m upstairs in the dressing room and someone runs up the stairs and says, “Alice Cooper is walking up the stairs right now!” I looked like a ghost! I’m like, “What?!” So that’s the first time I met Alice. We spoke for a few minutes and we took a couple of photos. The video for “Scared” hadn’t been released at that point. When he did hear it, he was complimentary and was honored. So we carry on, we carry on and we’re doing some press for the ‘Operation Rock ‘n’ Roll’ tour and I find myself riding on a tank down Sunset Boulevard [Los Angeles]. I’m sitting next to Alice Cooper and Rob Halford of Judas Priest! On a tank! Rolling down Sunset! All I see is photographers, these photographers snapping away. I have one of the photos of that in my house. When people see that, I say,”You know what’s going through my head at that moment when I’m sitting on that tank next to those guys?” “Okay try to be cool.” [Laughs] I just wanted to man hug those two dudes! I’m a fan first and foremost and I have a mancave like you and everybody else. Man, I have to say this, I’m just so incredibly grateful to have gotten to the top of the mountain for just a glimpse.
Dangerous Toys‘ “Scared” video:
Music video by Dangerous Toys performing Scared. (C) 1989 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
Sleaze Roxx: Shifting gears I’m a huge fan of Broken Teeth. ‘Viva La Rock, Fantastico!’ is a fantastic record. The latest album ‘4 On The Floor’ is great as well and is on EMP, which has ties to David Ellefson.
Jason McMaster: I think that’s a great record if I do say so myself. It’s a really fun band and we try to keep that kind of rock ‘n’ roll alive. We do those songs the way we want to hear them. EMP has been great to us. ‘4 On The Floor’ is on that label, the reissue and Dangerous Toys’ ‘Pissed’ is on that label and I’m also part of this band called Ignitor and they are on that label.
Broken Teeth‘s “4 On The Floor” video:
Broken Teeth – 4 on the Floor. From the EMP LABEL GROUP Release 4 on the Floor. In stores 4/21/16 Distributed in North America by AMPED. Europe by SPV.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m familiar with Ignitor. They had a different singer. It was a female singer.
Jason McMaster: I’m the guy that replaces the female singer. Dangerous Toys had a female singer and Ignitor had a female singer. That’s right. It’s just ironic that both those bands were female fronted prior to me. I started performing with Ignitor in 2007. The new record on EMP is titled ‘Haunted By Rock & Roll.’ There’s a song on there on the ‘Victor Crowley Lives’ which is part of ‘The Hatchet’ franchise. I wrote a song called “The Ballad of Victor Crowley” and it rolls during the credits. It was pretty cool to be sitting at home and seeing that on Cinemax.
Ignitor‘s “Hatchet (The Ballad Of Victor Crowley)” video:
The theme to the film VICTOR CROWLEY. From the album HAUNTED BY ROCK & ROLL In stores now on EMP Label Group/ArieScope Records FEATURES EXTREME SIMULATED GORE AND VIOLENCE. PARENTAL GUIDANCE IS SUGGESTED.
Sleaze Roxx: All three of those bands are so far removed from one another. Dangerous Toys is a gritty rock band. Broken Teeth is a a stripped down sound that merges AC/DC and punk rock while Ignitor merges Judas Priest and New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
Jason McMaster: Those are very good descriptions. I love those! There’s another band that I’m working with that’s called Evil United. We just finished our third record. Our first two records were issued by MPV. They are still in print. They’re great and incredibly viable. Ignitor has a ‘thrash’ element, but Evil United has a modern thrash element to it and they too are on EMP. So technically, that’s four bands on EMP. I’m also in a band called Howling Sycamore. Have you heard of them? We’re on Prosthetic Records.
Sleaze Roxx: I have not. I’m familiar with the label. They release a lot of extreme metal, hardcore, deathcore and metalcore records.
Jason McMaster: That’s right. It will give you an idea of what the hell is happening with Howling Sycamore. The sound is like a cross between death metal and progressive metal. We have one record out and I’m about six songs into the second record. The next album will have a lot of special guests in it.
Sleaze Roxx: You were in the band Watchtower. How did your time come to an end with them?
Jason McMaster: That band was my stepping stone into what I would become and I got a feel for what was within my wheelhouse. That’s how I developed as a singer and where I learned how to sing. I looked as my time in Watchtower as my vocational school for singing. I joined Watchtower in May of 1982 [laughs]! That was before the dam broke [laughs]! I was still in high school and I didn’t even know what the world had to offer. I was in that band for a decade before I even began to moonlight
in other bands for fun. Some of the best memories in my life are those moments of discovery and learning about what I could do with my voice. “That didn’t hurt [laughs]!” You know what I mean [laughs]?
The band was not setting out to change the world even though I think we did. The core writing team being guitarist Billy White and bassist Doug Keyser, who were writing the lyrics as well, they had this strange start stop riffing with this maniacal drumming going on the entire time. It was like almost everyone was doing an entire solo on every song for the entire record [laughs]! I’m exaggerating a little bit but the band was exaggerated compared to what was going on. You can probably imagine the playlist from band member to band member would be completely off. You have pop music to noise to jazz to punk to classic rock. It sounds like it was all over the place because it was [laughs]! We were all Judas Priest fans, Accept fans, Queensrÿche fans and Mercyful Fate fans when that stuff was starting to bud!
I was around long enough that I was able to write for what would become ‘Control And Release’ which was released on Noise International Records. It was recorded in Berlin, Germany almost immediately after my confirmed departure from the band, which was only after Dangerous Toys management deemed it a conflict of interest to be in both bands. I understand. I do understand and [have] no regrets. I was also part of the second album and I helped get Alan Tecchio the gig singing in the band. He was based out of New Jersey singing in Hades.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re going to be at Headbanger’s Con in Portland, Oregon [USA] this November. The convention takes place on November 10th and 11th, 2018. Will you be there both days and how did you get approached about being a part of this?
Jason McMaster: I’ll be there both days. I’m going to be on a panel and there will be a moderator. What I’m really looking forward to is talking rock ‘n’ roll to people that are so passionate about rock ‘n’ roll. I’m excited to be there with people that I have a lot of respect for. It’s a great concept. It’s like church or a fellowship for people that love rock ‘n’ roll. That’s how I envision it in my mind. Let’s see if I’m close.
Headbanger’s Con: https://headbangerscon.com/