INTERVIEW WITH JOE LESTÉ OF BANG TANGO
Date: October 27, 2015
JOE LESTÉ NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION TO MOST, IF NOT ALL, SLEAZE ROXX READERS. THE ENIGMATIC FRONTMAN HAS BEEN PART OF THE ROCK SCENE EVER SINCE BANG TANGO CAME ONTO THE SCENE WITH THEIR DEBUT ALBUM PSYCHO CAFÉ MORE THAN TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO. OVER THE YEARS, LESTÉ HAS CONTINUED UNDER THE BANG TANGO BANNER AND REMAINS ITS LONE ORIGINAL MEMBER. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE ENTERTAINING FRONTMAN WHO GRANTED A RARE INTERVIEW WITH RESPECT TO EVERYTHING BANG TANGO RELATED.
Sleaze Roxx: There is a Bang Tango documentary that your guitarist Drew Fortier has recently completed. At the beginning, you can be seen stating that you have no money but you guarantee that people know who you are. What did you mean by that?
Joe Lesté: [Laughs] I’ve said a lot of stuff. I think it was because it seems to me that I am one of those guys that I am always, you know — people know the band, they know the name, they know who I am for some reason but they always think of what I have done — the typical scenario being that they think I have a lot of money but… nah, that’s not the case. I am richly famous. No. What is it? I am famously poor.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] So what did you think of the Bang Tango documentary?
Joe Lesté: Well, in all honesty, it hit me kind of sideways. I wasn’t expecting it to be, this whole, you know… I can’t explain it. It kind of hit me sideways a little bit. You know, I never got into this business to… Really, I just like doing what I do. I am not really that guy. I don’t know why he would do a documentary on us. We are just an ’80s rock band that happens to be passionate about music, you know? There’s really nothing to it. I mean, I think that Drew is very passionate about Bang Tango and like I said, the documentary kind of hit me a little bit sideways because it kind of makes it seem like we are chasing storm chasers — you know what I mean by that? We’re constantly looking for something that we will never get or something. And I am like “Nah.” I’ve had a lot of fortunate things in my life. I am a very fortunate guy, very lucky. I am very content and happy with my band. It’s not like that but it portrays like that I think. But so be it. I hope that it gives people entertainment [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: When I interviewed Drew [Fortier] about a month ago, he advised that the first cut of the documentary that he did was just too brutal because it was just a straight up “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” type thing. Did you ever see the first cut of the documentary or did you only see the final version?
Joe Lesté: I have only seen the final version. I talked to the other guys, you know. It’s kind of weird with Bang Tango. I mean, we’re all at the end of the day brothers. It’s just like that you know. You’ve got guys that are bashing guys. Guys apologizing for bashing guys. You got all this but at the end of the day — like, I can call Mark Knight up right now on the phone and he’ll go “What are you doing? When are you coming to LA?” And then the guys that I have been with, going on 13 years really, they’re great guys too and they have a lot of respect for the other guys. Like I said, it’s really just one happy family. It just comes across like some sort of, you know — “Man. There’s a lot of strife in this band.” It’s really not! It’s funny though if you think about it [laughs]. It is funny.
Sleaze Roxx: Since the last time that you were interviewed by Sleaze Roxx, there have been some line-up changes, most notably with your guitarists. So you have Rowan Robertson…
Joe Lesté: Yeah. Yeah. Rowan Robertson and I have been buddies since he was a kid, you know. I met him when he was 18 when he first joined Ronnie James Dio and we live by each other. And then it was 20 years later and I saw him in Vegas playing and at that point, the guys knew that we needed to make a change. And we said “Hey Rowan” and Rowan jumped right in and he is happy as hell [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: What about Drew [Fortier]? How did Drew end up joining the band?
Joe Lesté: Well, Drew — the strange part about Drew was that I’ve always said and I know the other guys have said, “We got to get a second guy.” And it came about that unfortunately, we have not been able to have a second guy. Drew — I don’t know how to tell it to anybody except he just knew the songs better than anybody. He knows Bang Tango back and forth, you know. He is a funny kid man [laughs]! I love Drew. He’s always so positive and everything [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: He really is! So what do you think that each of Rowan and Drew have brought to the band?
Joe Lesté: Oh! Major forces! You get those guys onstage. Drew knows the parts so well . It frees Rowan up to do Rowan stuff, you know? And it just feels great man. It just feels really good.
Sleaze Roxx: When I interviewed Rowan [Robertson] a while back, he had mentioned that you were thinking of doing something in the vain of The Rolling Stones for the next upcoming Bang Tango album. Have you already come up with most of the songs for the new album or is this more of an idea of yours on where you want to see the new album go?
Joe Lesté: Well, I mean, the guys in the band and myself have always been like fans of certain music — a lot of ’70s stuff, The Doors, you name it. It’s been like a non-stop… You know, we’ve always like this and we are like, “Maybe one day, we can record an album like this?” That style of music but sticking to our own music. Does that make sense?
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. It does. So when can we except to have a new album out?
Joe Lesté: Well, what we have been doing right now is doing some writing here and there. We’ve been coming up with some really good stuff. Now, it is just a matter of getting the guys together and record. What we are going to do is record a few singles and do a video for it, and then follow it up with an album. Just to get something out there for people to realize that we are here and we got a lot of shows coming up and stuff like that. I think that is the first thing that Bang Tango is going to do. We were writing on the road even and it was awesome so we’re looking forward to it. Like I said, I am a very lucky guy. You know, Joe is a lucky guy [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: You seem very appreciative of what you have accomplished and where you are at.
Joe Lesté: Oh yeah man. I am very much so. I mean, I am very lucky. I get to play these festivals, that ship rock thing and I see all my friends. We play [to] nice crowds and we play clubs. We do what we do but you know, like I said, I look around and realize the mentality… You know, I know where we are at as far as music is concerned. So I am very happy where I am at — very, very stoked.
Sleaze Roxx: I am sure that you have talked a lot about the first three Bang Tango albums over the years so let’s talk about the last three. It’s been 11 years now since the release of ‘Ready To Go.’ What do you think of that album looking back on it now?
Joe Lesté: That album is great. I love that album. I love ‘Ready To Go.’ I think it kicks ass. It’s got great song ideas. We recorded it pretty well, you know. I like that album.
Sleaze Roxx: What about ‘From The Hip?’
Joe Lesté: I try hard not to think about it [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Joe Lesté: That album, to be honest with you, it felt like I kind of got talked into it by the band members and people that were around me. We went for it. It did not turn out nearly the way I thought it would. To be honest with you, I thought that there were some great songs on there — song ideas — but recording wise, we did not stand a chance. I mean, we were trying to record an album in one day. I did all the vocals for that whole album in one night.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s crazy!
Joe Lesté: That is crazy!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That takes us to the last one — ‘Pistol Whipped In The Bible Belt.’ What do you think of that one?
Joe Lesté: I think that is a really great album. I think it’s very eclectic. It moves around a lot. It’s a fun album. It is raw — as raw as can get. It just shows that we can still do it, you know. I like that album a lot. Just not a fan of, again, ‘From The Hip’ [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of ‘Pistol Whipped In the Bible Belt’ — I was wondering whether you were aware that there was an IndieGoGo crowd funding initiative through a company called Blastzone Entertainment to release the album on vinyl. And…
Joe Lesté: Oh, I heard about that. Yeah! I think that is awesome!
Sleaze Roxx: But what I was surprised was that the band hasn’t advertised it and I think that the crowd funding would probably work if the band got behind it…
Joe Lesté: No, no, no, no. That’s changing. We got Drew taking over. You’re going to see a whole new Facebook page and all that stuff. That will happen for sure. I am excited about the vinyl. I am going to put that on my wall. I am going to go out and buy a record player [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Joe Lesté: Where are you at man?
Sleaze Roxx: I am in Toronto.
Joe Lesté: In Canada! Oh wow man! How is the weather up there?
Sleaze Roxx: It’s not bad right now. It’s probably not as nice as where you’re at but…
Joe Lesté: It’s showers. I’ve just got hale going, coming down. Crazy. Yeah in Phoenix — it’s like this big storm is hitting. Pretty cool though — we need it.
Sleaze Roxx: In terms of the vinyl release, when speaking to the Blastzone Entertainment owner, he told me that it is Trent Anderson that owns the ‘Pistol Whipped In The Bible Belt’ release. Is that true?
Joe Lesté: Yeah, yeah, yeah — pretty much. Well, we had to have somebody be in charge of the whole thing and Trent was my drummer. He’s still my buddy. We talk every once in a while but Trent is, you know, taking care of that whole thing.
Sleaze Roxx: Aside from a new album, what are the plans for Bang Tango in the future?
Joe Lesté: We got some shows coming up just like always, you know. We’ve got a great agency — Big Time Entertainment — and we’ve got shows. We end up doing things with Queensryche once in a while. We have something coming up with them. We are playing the Whisky for the Sunset Music Festival. Other than that, I am not quite sure. I’d have to look into it. But you know, we still have shows coming up and we are still kicking ass man!
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! You have probably answered this one before but how did you guys come up with the name Bang Tango in the first place?
Joe Lesté: That was me [laughs]! When the band first got together, they were doing something else and when I joined the band, it never changed. Then, we got it going and things were getting close to stuff and they started talking, “We need a name.” I was going down Ventura Boulevard [in the San Fernando Valley in California, USA] . It was a sunny day. I looked at a billboard and it showed this huge dance with this hot chick and it said “Do the Tango.” I thought, “Tango” — that’s kind of cool. Aaaah. But our band, you know, we’re heavier. We’ve got a bang to it. It’s got a heavy kind of vibe — like a “bang” — like a “bang tango.” And I go, “I’ll throw that at those guys and see what they say.” And Kyle Kyle — I’ll never in my life forget — going “Ah. People are going to hate that! Let’s do it! [laughs]”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Joe Lesté: I thought it was awesome. We always had that thought in our head is — just like a lot of guys out there — you know, it’s not the name, it’s the band that makes the name.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — what are your top three all-time favorite albums and why?
Joe Lesté: Oh geez Lord! Ummm. Oh boy! Well, top three — man, that’s a hard one! Wow! That is a really hard one. Let me see if I can do this. Geez. Well, I’ll go with Led Zeppelin’s ‘Song Remains The Same.’
Sleaze Roxx: That’s a good one.
Joe Lesté: So that’s one. And then, I am going to go with Nazareth’s ‘Hair Of The Dog.’
Sleaze Roxx: One more.
Joe Lesté: And number three would have to be — oh Lord — oh, what I am saying? The Rolling Stones’ ‘Exile On Main Street.’
Sleaze Roxx: So why did you pick those three?
Joe Lesté: Well, they are all [from] the ’70s and they are all music that I have grew up on — that I could come closer to and that I still listen to it to this day. You know, it’s one of those things. That song comes on and you’re like, “Oh man. I remember that shit [laughs] — you know what I mean?” That’s how I am. My wife listens to a lot of hip hop and rap. So I kind of get into that shit because of the lyrics sometimes, Like I like Ice Cube. You know, I like NWA and stuff like that too — just with the beats and the attitude.