JOHN COVINGTON INTERVIEW:
February 22, 2007
Few bands are bringing the fun back into rock music like Big Cock (www.bigcockrocks.com). The band consists of former King Kobra and Lynch Mob members, and keeping the beat is the one and only John “The Pulverizer” Covington (www.drumpulverizer.com). From his early days in the Schoolboys (which evolved into Icon) and relocating to L.A. and joining the Greg Leon Invasion, John has seen and worked with some of the best. After some time away from the music business to concentrate on motorbike building, John is back with Big Cock and ready to usher in the new wave of sleaze rock.
SR: What’s up with Big Cock these days?
JC: The “Hardest Band in the Land!” is in pre-production of our 3rd release. Our first two 2 CD’s (Year of the Cock and Big Cock) both came together in such a magical fashion we’ve already decided we don’t stray too far from our original mission statement. We’ve found our groove and have vowed to continue to pummel it relentlessly, with our own special kind of finesse. One of the big differences on the next one is the cover art for the CD has already been finished before we’ve recorded one note, and the visual is very inspirational – if you catch my drift. This time our goal is to tap a vein even sonically BIGGER than the last two releases. We’re digging deeper into what drives Big Cock and it’s always a good time for everyone involved. The rest of the details at this time are top secret. Do you feel taunted now?
SR: Can you give us a hint of what the new music is sounding like?
JC: All I can tell you is the next one will be packed with more earth shaking, explosive, eruptions of sonic psychotronic aural debauchery cleverly delivered in the form of words set to music. Robert, Dave, Colby and I are on a mission to spread the love of Big Cock with all we Meat….and our third release will be the latest chapter in our life long devotion to our insatiable saga of Booze, Babes and Fast Cars…..what else would you expect from Big Cock, a tender sensitive ballad?
SR: A tender sensitive ballad isn’t so far fetched, have you forgotten about Hard To Swallow? I always have to laugh at that song, which makes me wonder, do you and the guys in the band burst out laughing at some of the lyrics you come up with?
JC: Dave comes up with the bulk of the words. I believe most of them are drudged up from his parochial school education. Dave’s high school math teacher was my big brother, who introduced us when he was 15 and a sophomore. I was in public school so I missed out on some of that mental repression. I was 16 and had a truck so I could pick him up and take him to rehearsals. We’ve wanted to do this type of stuff forever, and we finally found the time and the vehicle to put it out in public for everyone to be in on the gag. Everything you hear has been a lifetime in the making.
Sometimes he’ll call me in the middle of the night to read me his latest poem. He’s usually in tears laughing so hard he can’t get to the chorus before having to re-compose himself. I think Dave even surprises his own damn-self with how far he has been able to push the double entendre into the domain of Big Cock. This band has been an endless vehicle for our inner source of warped creativity. I think it’s pure genius.
Part of the program is to keep the whole vibe fresh on the recording. It’s almost telepathic to see Robert work with the lyrics and melodies. The hard part is editing out all the laughter coming from the engineer in the control room. That’s why he’s known as the Bad Mother Fucker, a true professional in the finest sense. The whole process is truly a beautiful thing – sheer magic. We are dead serious about the music though!
SR: You mention letting the public in on the gag, but how do you feel about the people that discard the band because of the name?
JC: We started this band because we wanted to do it our way, and we’re not going to go limp because of a few “Industry-types” who are afraid of two words that are not listed in the FCC guidelines as profane, but when used in conjunction with a filthy mind become intimidating to a person with a small Johnson. What’s wrong with a large rooster anyway….I just don’t get it?
I think the name Big Cock is perfect. It makes a statement, and for once really shows some “truth in advertising”. We’re not playing by anybody’s rule book but our own here. Without us, AND THE FANS who keep buying our CD’s, there’d be no Big Cock. If you’ve seen our mySpace page (www.myspace.com/bigcockrocks) you can’t miss the large number of hot chicks that affirm their love of Big Cock, along with dudes that are confident in their ‘hetero-ness’ and aren’t afraid to say they support Big Cock too.
For every naysayer who discards the band because of the name, we get 10 more that DO discover the band because of it – and then go tell their friends. I was just looking at the stats on our “Real Man” video on www.youtube.com and we’ve had over 23,000 plays in about 6 months and the number grows every day – purely because of word of mouth. There’s proof that Big Cock is the gift that keeps on giving.
SR: Your first major band was Schoolboys, tell us about the band and what those days were like.
JC: Dave and I were writing songs but couldn’t find a steady Bass player to complete the line up for a band. We were both just graduated high school and pooled all our money to record 4 original songs that we wrote. We recruited a guy from another band, Jim Seagraves, to sing on the demos for us. Dave played Bass and all the guitars. We eventually called the band Driver, and that’s when “Driver Wild” Records was born.
There was a small pool guys in all the surrounding area that were close to our age and could actually play their instruments. We had a rivalry going with a band across town called Ice. The brains behind their band was their guitarist wonder-kid Dan Wexler. Dan was livin’ the life and had all the money to burn on gear and a home rehearsal studio because his dad owned a concert venue in town called Celebrity Theatre. His old man was very supportive of his son making it in music. Wexler and Dave were the rival guitar hero kids of the day. We’d go out to their boon-docker/kegger parties in the desert which their band Ice would promote. One time they even had some of their buddies taunt us at a parties telling us how we sucked….”Ice Rules, Driver Sucks”. They knew we had something because we were writing our own songs, and they were having trouble writing original material. They did have the organization behind them to promote and do big live shows, which at the time neither Dave nor I could swing.
Since we couldn’t seem to find a good bass player Dave and I decided to go to college. He went to San Diego (USD) and I went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Once we were out of the Phoenix music circle, Wexler started a long distance dialog with both Dave and I. They wanted both of us to join their band. A plan developed that if we’d drop out of school and move back to Arizona; they had the funds to produce a record quickly with our existing demo songs.
That was the birth of the Schoolboys. Things moved very quickly. Everyone in the band was 19 years old. They canned their original singer who was an old guy of 24 at the time. The line up was Dave Henzerling and Dan Wexler on dual lead guitars (inspired by dueling guitars in Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest) Tracy Wallach on Bass and Steve Clifford (the original Schoolboys drummer) taking over the lead vocals, and of course, me breaking heads, cymbals and sticks.
Within days from the time we moved back to Arizona we were in a pro-studio recording the Schoolboys album. 75% of the songs on that first release was material that Dave and I had already recorded demos of before we moved out of state to go to school. In fact, the song Mean Street Machine was on our first demo reel, the first Schoolboys record, on a King Kobra record, and then we pumped it out again for the first Big Cock record. That has to be the most re-recorded song we ever wrote. Holy crap! I promise NEVER to record any version of Mean Street Machine as long as I live!
In an instant we had a manager and a booking agent – along with lines around every club we played in. We opened for all the major acts coming through town. Remember this was pre-MTV and just before Def Leppard hit the states in 1979. We were the cream of the crop, top dog, punk kids who could really play and pack a club. The drinking age in Arizona was 19 so it was a magical time for all of us to be playing in rock clubs – this was Post-Disco and Pre-AIDS, and the stream of chicks was endless. At least that’s the way I remember most of it…I think?
We were the proverbial “Big Fish in a Small Pond”. The whole Schoolboys phenomenon was really lasted only for about a 9 month period before it ended. We were all very young and everyone in the band quickly had bloated egos, and some sort of newly found drug or alcohol issue. Chemicals along with the meddling of a divisive manager promptly imploded the Schoolboys.
With that local success, Dave and I started another band that lasted about a year before we both headed back to LA to get into the big pond in Hollywood and the Strip. That kind of intrinsic magic found in Schoolboys was hard to recreate. It still amazes me how many people still talk about that moment of a band.
Eventually the core of the Schoolboys, Wexler, Clifford and Wallach found another drummer and guitar player in Arizona, changed their name to Icon and got a deal on Capitol.
SR: Do you keep in touch with any of the old Schoolboys mates, and where are they now?
JC: Wexler is still here in the Phoenix area. A couple of years ago he put together a band called ‘Thieves in the Temple’ and released a CD. It was pretty good, but I think they had some internal issues and broke up.
Last I heard Steve Clifford was selling satellite time for a Christian Broadcasting network and also selling life insurance.
Tracy Wallach is a Med Evac pilot in the Mid-West, and that info is probably 5 or 6 years old now. If anyone knows what happened to any of them lately I’d love to hear from them. It’s a small world, until you lose your luggage.
The funny thing is, Dave started his family in Los Angeles in the 80’s, I started my family in LA back then too, and moved back to Scottsdale in ’92. Dave Moved back in ’95, I think, and now he lives about a mile down the street from me. It’s just a little too coincidental that we’ve been making music together for such a long time. We’re just tenacious about spreading the dogma of Big Cock. It’s really all about the good times, and we’ve had a bunch of them over the years. I’m really grateful that we’re still carrying the torch, and it’s burning brighter now than ever.
SR: Did it bruise your ego when Icon got a major label deal and make you feel like you might have missed out on something big?
JC: Sure, I always wanted the big record deal. The grass is always greener on the other side….but sometimes it’s because there’s more bullshit to make it grow.
The music business is very fickle, and it takes more than talent to hit the jackpot – it takes a ton of luck to hit it big. The closest to any of my peers who actually “Made it” is Jason Newstead. He was in a band called the Dogs, that used to open shows for our band “Swiss Banks” in Phoenix after Dave and I left the Schoolboys. He was totally into this obscure band called Metallica. He lived Metallica’s music before anyone thought it was cool. I didn’t get it. Then I was in LA, heard about the tragedy with Cliff, and next thing you know Jason was their new Bass player; total instant karma. He was that dude that they needed, and Jason was primed to fill that slot. It was sheer destiny for Jason.
I moved to LA, got a great gig with LA guitar legend Greg Leon, and thought I found my ticket. Tommy Lee was the drummer who played with Greg before me, and Motley Crue was GIANT! Greg had a band called Suite 16 with Tommy, then he was the guitar player in DuBrow as the predecessor to Randy Rhodes in Quiet Riot, then Greg did a European tour with Dokken before George Lynch stepped in. Greg was doing a solo project called the Greg Leon Invasion when I met him. It was a 3 piece Power Trio trip: Greg singing and playing amazing guitar, me on drums and one of the best bass guitarists I’ve ever been in a band with, Jeroenimo Bos, from the Dutch band Bodine. We shredded the 3 piece thing and I thought I had as good a chance as any of my peers to grab the brass ring. Murphy stepped in, Jeroenimo got deported back to Holland, and it sucked the wind out of that whole project.
About this time, Icon was about to release their second album on Capitol. A huge production, Ron Nevison was mixing it and Eddy Kramer engineered it. Just about the time it was to be released, their singer Steve Clifford became a born again Christian, quit the band and blew their whole deal right out of the water. That was an amazing album, and very few people got to hear it. That would suck! I can’t imagine that kind of frustration.
Dave went through the LA grinder and played in Keel and then started up King Kobra with Carmine. I was really happy for him and his success, but I never saw him with the big house, fancy cars and all the other trappings of the successful rock star. He worked his ass off and then saw a lot of his efforts turn into the Bullet Boys.
Robert Mason has his saga of how he got her too. Somehow the cosmos in all it’s infinite wisdom lined it all up where we all decided that this is something that we all believe in, and we’re all going to make the most of it – just because we can!
The message here is it really doesn’t’ matter what other people are doing. What matters is that you’re happy doing the best with what you’ve got. What ever is dished out is meant to be, and I’ve been blessed with some pretty amazing experiences to get to where I am now, and would never trade them for anything else. Everyone has their own path, and I’m glad I’m on this one. It’s all good.
I’m a drummer, because I find joy in playing drums. It’s that simple. If it was all about fame and money, I’d do a lot of other easier things to get that. Drums are what make me want to get up in the morning, and I dream about them at night and play them in my sleep. That’s what it’s all about.
The number one reason anyone truly begins to become passionate about creating music is because it brings joy to yourself, and then if you’re lucky, that joy is spread to people who enjoy the music that you’ve created. That’s the whole point of Big Cock. This is the band we always wanted to be in. The stars lined back up for old friends to make music and we’re riding the lightning. I’m having more fun now playing music than I’ve ever had my entire life. People who’ve found our music know it’s real, and that’s why it’s working this time around. Making music is magic. Yeah, we’re old guys, so fuckin’ what? The name could be a handicap if we ever wanted to be on MTV, but so fuckin’ what? We started this band because this is the music that we want to make, and we’re doin’ it. It just so happens that other people are getting the magic of what we’re doing and the energy is contagious.
SR: What was it like moving to LA and being a part of that huge metal scene?
JC: Totally humbling. I was in my early 20’s and came from a pretty successful string of bands in Arizona, and then thrust into the Hollywood meat grinder was quite an adjustment. There was a lot of Top-Raman and grilled cheese sandwiches…every once and a while you could get butter for the bread sandwiches….no really, it was challenging but a total blast at the same time.
I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. Hanging at the Rainbow, playing all the clubs, Roxy, Troubadour, Whiskey, Gazzarri’s, Music Machine, Madame Wong’s, FM Station and then all the other clubs down in Orange County. It was an incredible time.
I think the most difficult part was trying to find players that could play, and not just pose. Weeding through all the bands that sucked to find guys that rocked was the hard part. Then once in a band, finding guys that were committed and had their heart into it was the next challenge. There are so many variables that have to come together to make a band work when it’s run like a democracy – and nobody was getting paid. When it works it is magic.
When I first got in that scene, bands that were good got gigs. As time rolled on it turned into the “Pay-to-Play” situation at all those venues, and the quality of the acts began to suffer. All you had to do to play was buy the tickets. So any suck ass-band that bought the tickets could then play to a half-empty room. The greed of some of those “Promoters” (I’ll use the term loosely) and their pay-to-play policies totally wrecked the healthy competition of good bands drawing a crowd and finding their audience. The industry A&R types got jaded and the scene became totally screwed up by the end of the 80’s. It collapsed because it all became a parody of itself. Spinal-Tap became reality.
I think it’s much easier now for musicians to network with the internet. You can check out what they look like and how well they play by just sitting in front of your computer. In the old days it took lots of time driving, and trading tapes, and driving and trading tapes, and driving….it’s easier now to cull through all that stuff and focus on playing with like minded musicians when you can sift through all the noise on the ‘net.
The same goes for presenting your bands material now. If it sucks, and you put it out, people won’t buy it. It’s that simple. I think it’s raised the bar, it’s all good. There’s more variety to music now with the proliferation of the internet, and a way to find your world-wide audience. This is a very exciting time to be making music again.
I spent most of the 80’s hustling working day jobs while playing at night to make ends meet. I never got the big record deal. It simply wasn’t in the cards for me then. By about ’92 Grunge and pay-to-play had wiped out what was happening in LA. I’d been at it for the best part of the 80’s and needed to find a little financial security for a change, so I opened a motorcycle shop in ’89 with a big rehearsal room in Burbank, and then the motorcycle business took me over; building custom bikes. After the riots I’d had enough of LA for a while so I moved back to Arizona in ’92 and put the drums in the garage while I focused on building my motorcycle business. Many of the lessons learned while busting your ass promoting and trying to make a band work dovetailed directly into promoting, branding and building my motorcycle business.
SR: What were some of the bands you saw in those old clubs that really kicked your ass?
JC: There was only one band that stands out that I wish was playing with, and that was Rhino Bucket. They’d play all the time at the Coconut Teaser, which was basically a house converted into a club. They rocked! I’m a sucker for that simple AC/DC thing when it’s done right, and they knew how to do it. The Four Horsemen came around right after I left, and I never got to see them, but loved their music – now there’s a tragic story. I did some work with Autograph, and played drums with them for about a week one time when Kenny was missing in action. They were really great guys. I also saw Zodiac Mindwarp at the Ford Theater, a tiny outdoor venue just north of the Hollywood bowl. What a trip those guys were – holy crap, talk about over the top. That was a show I’ll never forget. I hear that Zed and the crew are still doin’ it in Europe. Some of the bands I played with would share rehearsal space with everyone from Rick Springfield to Faster Pussycat and that’s where I’d hear most of the music, not at shows, but at rehearsal rooms. Ahh, to wax nostalgic….where are they all now?
SR: Autograph is quite a bit different from bands like Rhino Bucket and Zodiac Mindwarp. What were those guys like to work with?
JC: Steve Plunkett the songwriter/guitarist/singer from Autograph was one of the kindest guys I met. I designed some stage rigging for Icon, big stainless steel metal racks that held all their speakers and amps. Autograph did some dates with Icon and wanted something similar, so I designed all that excessive red painted rack system that they used on tour too. I was playing in the Greg Leon Invasion at the time, and designing stage rigging helped with the bills. I also painted the flames on Kenny’s drums for one of their videos – I think it was “Blondes in Black Cars”. Plunkett turned out to be a cool bud, and he’d help me wire up my hot rod car stereo stuff. I don’t think there really is a huge musical span between Autograph and Rhino Bucket, especially from a drummer’s point of view. Throw in some pop harmonies, a keyboard patch and Rhino Bucket could have had the same MTV radio hit with plenty of their stuff too. Plunkett was a huge AC/DC and Bon Scott fan, but he also knew just how to write the songs that would get on the radio too, and he never apologized about it either. I think he’s made a pretty successful career in songwriting post-Autograph too. God bless ’em.
SR: I’m sitting here listening to the Greg Leon Invasion picture disc, and it’s a cool album. What do you remember about the recording of it?
JC: I didn’t play on that disc. I think I saw one of those at Greg’s house. I’m sure I heard the recording, and played those songs live, but that was just before Jeroenimo and I were in the band. You certainly can tell where Don Dokken got a lot of his shit from, and Kevin Dubrow took a page or two out of the Leon play book too. Greg is another of those guys that lives to play and he’s still doing it. I talked to him about 6 months ago. He’s got a guitar and amp repair business in the heart of Hollywood, and he does mini tours of Europe and Asia with a 3 piece line up, just like the old days. I keep in touch with Jeroenimo too, he turned me on to the ‘Skype’ phone, where you can talk in real time over your computer – just like a phone, but FREE. When we find the time to talk, it goes on for hours, and that saves a lot of dough over long distance calls to the Netherlands.
SR: Is it true that Greg Leon sold the Invasion name to Vinnie Vincent?
JC: This I do know. That was one of the very last straws before I moved on. Vinnie Vincent’s manager had been talking to Greg before Jeroenimo got deported back to Holland about working with the band. Once we lost our bass player and were looking for a new one and weren’t having much luck at the time finding the right guy. Vincent’s manager just ‘took’ the name and figured there wasn’t much Greg could do about it at the time – and in reality there wasn’t.
It was the Greg Leon Invasion, and the Vinnie Vincent Invasion is actually a completely different name, but we all know where the inspiration came from. Greg was extremely pissed when this came about and it really did knock the wind out of all the energy we had going at the time.
I never formally left the band, we just all of a sudden didn’t have much happening without a bass player and the confusion about the Invasion name, so I found other projects to keep me breaking cymbals, and busting drum heads. Greg eventually picked up the pieces, he’s a trouper. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the whole business of Rock N’ Roll is built upon adulation. Wasn’t there something called “British Invasion” that had something to do with the Stones and the Beatles? Nobody is really guilt free from ‘borrowing’ stuff – this is show business you know. You just build on what you like, and make it yours.
SR: What were some of the other projects you worked on while the Invasion was dormant?
JC: Right after the Greg Leon Invasion period, I spent 5+ years with about 4 different personnel line ups in a band called Doctor, PLEASE! Doctor, PLEASE! Was a complete departure from the typical metal scene of the day. The Singer/Guitar player was a very twisted and creative soul. His name was Dok Buzzelli, and the band had a Bowie – Ziggy Stardust/Mott the Hoople feel to it with real heavy pop songs with a dark undercurrent. Don’t shoot me, but I think you’d label it EMO now! It was probably a little ahead of it’s time. When I first got into the band Stevie Ray Vaughn had heard about the buzz with the band and was a fan of ours. We did a show with him at the Music Machine. Stevie had just finished the Bowie sessions on the Let’s Dance record. I didn’t really know much about Stevie at the time, he was just breaking his solo career with the Hendrix cover of VooDoo Chile on the radio. He was in town and asked if we’d like to have him sit in with us for a few songs, and we did a very memorable set with Stevie!
Dr. Please had 4 line ups, and the only thing constant about them through the many years of incarnations was Dok and me. We did the 2 guitar bass and drums deal. Then ditched a guitar player for keyboardist Greg Arcuri, and then we went 3 piece, let go of the bass guitar, added sequenced bass, (kind of like one incarnation of Montrose) Arcuri on keys and synth, and Dok doing all the guitars and vocals. We were really pushing the envelope with the technology of the day, the bass was sequenced by a deal called the Human Clock. Dok pushed the showmanship envelope added big theatrics to the live gigs. We did a show at the Roxy where Dok came off a giant cross at the top of the program, long before anyone really was doing anything quite that sacrilegious. There was a point and a message to it all, but not everyone got it. Then we went back to a classic rock line up – (dumped the technology and keyboards) with Paul Rose added on guitars, and AJ Pascal on a real 4 string Bass guitar. With that line up towards the end of ’91 we had a development deal with MCA, and we were recording with one of their staff producers. When we were about half way through a 10 song demo, most of the people we were working with at MCA went to start up Geffin Records and we got lost in the shuffle. This was also about the time Nirvana broke, so the whole record industry was about to make a left turn. With the right break I felt Dok could have been giant star, and that’s why I devoted so much energy into that project. You can hear one of the Doctor, Please! tracks, “Adolescent Games”, on my personal site www.drumpulverizer.com in the “Pulver-Sample” section labeled “eclectic” for a reason.
In between the Doctor, Please! stuff I wrote a bunch with a guitar player from Washington DC named Jon Agunon. He was an Army brat and giant Red Skins fan who was originally born in Guam. The writing process was really cool with Jon and we were very prolific in a short window of time. We recorded a bunch of demos and were going to call the band Blood Brothers, but couldn’t quite get it all together. He introduced me to the Rhino Bucket shows at the Teaser. If anyone out there knows what happened to Jon, please let me know.
I also hooked up with Dave Henzerling again for a project (then also known as David Michael Phillips) between his King Kobra gig. Bryson Jones stepped in on vocals and we did a couple of songs that really were the DNA for the Big Cock of today. One of the songs we recorded, King of Cool, ended up on the low-budget Rock N’ Roll horror movie, Black Roses. We re-recorded King of Kool for the first Big Cock CD, Year of the Cock, with Robert Mason delivering the goods.
SR: When did you realize that the whole scene you were a part of was going to burst, and how did it make you feel knowing that the type of music you were involved in would soon be swept away thanks to grunge?
JC: I was ready for a change. I witnessed the quality of the whole scene deteriorate with the Pay-to-Play fiasco, and everyone was going so over the top to get attention to the point where the music really began to suffer. The Sunset strip became so inbred with rehashed stuff that that it became a parody of itself. When Grunge came around everyone knew the change had arrived.
Change is good. I had just about had my fill with the struggles of being a musician in LA, and my peers that appeared to be making money weren’t making it for themselves – but everyone around them. Most of them ended up eventually working construction.
I had always been resourceful and creative in the ways I supported myself, and after the LA riots I could see that it was time to get out of there myself. My motorcycle business was blossoming, and that seemed like the right path to take, move back to Arizona and let the drums rest for a while.
The music never died. There’s always been and always will be a need for raw heavy rock n’ roll, and the fans for metal are tenacious and loyal, as are the people who continue to make it. That’s why you’re here, right? I think this whole interview today is happening because you can’t kill this stuff. It’s just too cool, and as long as musicians can make the magic, and people out there want to support it, it will never die. There are more choices of great music going on right now than ever before in history thanks to web sites like yours and the availability of new technology to produce quality recordings and videos economically.
The public is the gate keeper now, not some guy in a suit at a record company guarding the door. The public is getting tired of what the corporate machine has been pumping down their throat lately and the revolution is in full swing now. That’s why all of us die-hards are able to put together a band called Big Cock. We’re very thankful for all the encouragement and support of all people buying our CD and merchandise. The fans are what keep this alive! Can you imagine Budweiser as the corporate sponsor of a band called Big Cock? This is the real deal baby.
SR: It seems that the majority of musicians from that scene that I talk to ended up with drug/alcohol problems. Did you get mixed up with all that as well?
JC: It was around, but I never delved too deeply in any of that because I saw the damage it caused, and what a complete waste of time it is. I had my brush with some of that as a kid in the Schoolboys, and I witnessed how it was very unproductive and destructive to the whole creative element. I didn’t have much of a tolerance for guys being screwed up in rehearsals and wasting my time…so that didn’t fly with the people I chose to work with either. That’s kind of tough to do anything productive when you’re loaded all the time.
I was also always working some side venture for myself to make income – since, I’m sad to say, playing drums was never an income producing venture….I didn’t like the whole starving musician role, and didn’t have a stripper girlfriend to support me.
No real horror stories to tell post 1981….sorry!
SR: What are some of your wildest stories about life on the Sunset Strip?
JC: One of my most memorable Sunset strip experiences is fully documented in the song “I Want It Now” on the first Big Cock, Year of the Cock CD. I’d like to remain married so I let Robert vicariously tell the tale!
SR: How did you get into the motorcycle business, was that something you always did?
JC: I bought my first bike in 1987. It was a Harley FXWG ‘Wide Glide’. I had no idea how to even ride it home! I just knew I had to have it and the whole motorcycle thing took me over. Riding and the comaraderie with friends that had motorcycles was very cool at the time. It didn’t’ take long for me to start customizing my bike, and within a year I had the bike stripped to the frame and re-built it ‘my way’.
One of my friends worked at an ad agency in LA and heard through the grapevine that Harley-Davidson was looking for one more bike for their calendar, and gave me a contact number. I ended up calling the guys that produced the HD Calendar, and that day rode over for them to see the bike, and they shot it for the Official Harley Davidson Dreamgirls calendar about a week later.
Soon my friends were asking me to work on their bikes and I didn’t really have a place to do it. My band at the time, Doctor, Please! were spending a ton of money on a crappy rehearsal space. At the same time my long time friends, Henzerling (from King Kobra) and Wexler (from Icon) were putting together a band called Tom Cats, and needed a rehearsal space too. So I took the risk and rented an industrial building in Sun Valley, which is the armpit of the San Fernando Valley, and was in the landing path of the Burbank Airport. Overall the place was about 2000 square feet with a 25 foot high ceiling. With about a month of hard labor I was able to convert the space into a bike shop and rehearsal room.
So both bands pretty much covered the rent on the building and I partitioned off a place where I could work on bikes full time. The bands spilt the rehearsal space and the building was rockin’ just about every night. Go figure, a Harley shop rehearsal space?
Soon I was building bikes for Thunder Road, a trendy bike shop on the Sunset Strip. I also was able to build 4 bikes in the following year that ended up in the Harley calendar too. The whole motorcycle business really took off, while the Hollywood musical career started to fizzle with the advent of Grunge.
The LA riots hit and my step daughter was about to start high school. I was ready for a change and a more secure business venture since the rehearsal space was about to lose both bands as tenants. My wife and I found a location in Scottsdale, Arizona to set up a REAL motorcycle shop with a service, custom and retail store and I had a pretty good run at it for 17 years. Originally the shop was called Surgical-Steeds and then I shortened the name to Steed Musclebike when I became a full blown manufacturer of my own brand of American Motorcycles back in 1997 called STEED motorcycles. There’s a ton of info up on my bike site www.musclebikes.com along with the full story of the company. I had a lot of good times, met tons of great friends and had some truly amazing experiences that I’ll never forget in the bike business. Good times!
My wife Deborah and I started the business in 1989 in Burbank, and we just sold it in 2005. I stopped working for the people I sold the business to in 2006 and now I have plenty of time to get back into playing drums full time again in Big Cock along with other projects that may come along.
I just rented a place in the Hollywood Hills this week up above Sunset in Laurel Canyon. So right now my plan is to split my time between Arizona and LA playing drums on everything that comes my way.
SR: What do you think about shows like American Chopper making the motorcycle industry so popular right now? Is it a good thing, or does it bring too many wannabes around?
JC: Just like anything in life the whole American bike market has had some real highs and lows in the last 20 years. When I got into it in the late 80’s is really wasn’t that cool to have a Harley. The motor company was in the process of buying back it’s ownership from AMF. Harley had a real disaster to deal with regarding the quality of their bikes, and the Japanese imports were beginning to kick their asses. It wasn’t cool to buy a Harley and they were sitting on the dealership’s floors with discounted price tags.
At the first of the 90’s that had totally changed and people were paying thousands of dollars over retail to buy a new bike, and used bikes were going for a premium. At this time I was about 3 years into my bike business when I opened my new store in Arizona. It was an amazing time, and people couldn’t throw their money at their machines fast enough. Then by the end of the 90’s the fever for a Harley had kind of chilled out a bit. Then the bike market hit a huge dip with the 9/11 attacks, and the stock market took a dive and nobody was spending money on toys for a while.
We weathered through that financial storm, designed some great new proprietary Steed bikes and by late 2003 people started to get interested in the custom bike market and were buying them. We had hit another little boom and the TV shows all helped educate people on the surface as to what custom bikes were all about, and they were not Harley’s.
Along with the popularity of TV bike builders, a few jack-asses (who will remain nameless) took ‘reality’ and made it way too entertaining to be working in a bike shop by yelling at each other all day. They inspired a whole new group of people to open motorcycle shops. Right now, the motorcycle industry is in a little bit of slump. I think some of it is a back lash to the TV bike shows. Right now the fun money for custom bikes is pretty tight. Part of the problem is that the quality of some of the bikes being built by the new-comers wasn’t comparable to the prices they were charging, and it gave the whole industry a black eye.
I’m sure the custom bike industry will come back around in a couple of years. The motorcycle market is very trendy, and similar in a lot of ways to the music industry. When the core of what makes it cool gets eaten away by opportunists, ultimately the public has a way of sifting out all the crap by not spending their money on it.
Motorcycling is a great sport, and riding is a hell of a way to clear your head and unwind – kind of like Rock n’ Roll. Both have been pretty good for me so far and neither of them is going to vanish as far as I can tell.
SR: Motorcycle helmets, should they be mandatory or the individual’s right to decide?
JC: Without a doubt that should be your decision whether you want to wear a brain bucket or not. Motorcycles are about freedom. Motorcycles are dangerous and people get killed on them everyday wearing helmets or not. I think helmets are DOT crash rated at 15 MPH to be effective.
I don’t know about you, but most of the time I ride my bike faster than 15 MPH. I own 3 or 4 helmets. Full face to little skull cap beanie helmets. Personally, I like to see and hear what’s going on around me when I’m riding. Arizona doesn’t have a helmet law for riders over 18, so I only wear one when I want to, which isn’t very often. In California, I have to wear one whether I want to or not. It’s a dumb law.
Just about everyone that I’ve ever known that was injured or killed on a motorcycle was drinking or high. Dead friends of mine were wearing helmets, and some of the ones that survived wrecks weren’t wearing a helmet – but one thing is for sure – 80% of the dead and injured ones were drunk or stoned.
Robert Mason (Big Cock singer) was going 70 MPH on the freeway out here a few years back and got hit from behind on his bike by a drunk driver. He was not wearing a helmet, and miraculously survived his accident with lots of cuts and bruises, but not any broken bones. Why? Because he’s the Bad Motherfucker, that’s why! There’s no other logical explanation! Simply stated it wasn’t a good day for him to die. If he had an 8 pound helmet on his noggin he might have ended up like Christopher Reeves with a broken neck. God only knows? He got his crushed bike fixed and still rides. He wasn’t drinking at the time of his motorcycle wreck, and guaranteed he’s not going to be drinking when he’s out riding now.
When it’s your time to die, it’s your time. Motorcycles are a great way to kill yourself especially if you don’t have the respect for the energy that a rapidly moving carcass can dissipate upon hitting a stationery object. Helmet or not, it’s gunna sting. Ask Robert if you doubt it.
As one of my early guitar hero’s Chris Spedding said in his song Motorbikin’:
Listen to me and I’ll tell you no lie.
Too fast to live, too young to die
I got a new machine today
Whew, it takes my breath away
IF YOU GOTTA GO, go motorbike ridin’
Part of the thrill of riding is knowing that you have your life in your hands, and if you make a mistake you’re going to get hurt.
Here are my pearls of motorcycle riding wisdom:
1. Dress for the fall (not the season).
2. Always ride alert, and constantly be vigilant for the guy in the car that’s going to attempt to kill you.
3. Never ride beyond your abilities.
4. Don’t be stupid and take dumb chances while riding. The dumbest thing to do on a motorcycle is to ride impaired.
There, now I’m off my soap box!
SR: What is it about Leedy drums that make them your personal favorites?
JC: It’s the nostalgia and history of the Leedy brand. My older brother had a Leedy kit at home when my folks brought me home when I was born. The rest of it is that nobody else can really have a collection of these drums like I’ve built in the last few years. They don’t make them any more!
The Leedy drum company started in 1895 and went out of business in the early 1960’s. Just for fun, back at the turn of the century, I was poking around on eBay and discovered nobody was paying much for these old Leedy drums collecting dust from the 1940’s and ’50’s so I started to buy them up. I made it a quest to get every size available, and ended up buying lots of mixed up junky sets and selling off the stuff that was a duplicate or parts that I didn’t need or want. I have collected every size drum from a 12 inch tom to 28 inch bass drums, it’s just crazy. The process of hunting them down really over took me. I also had the motorcycle shop facilities to custom paint the shells and get all the hardware re-plated to make them all playable and look good again.
Recently more people have discovered them. Now you have to pay a fortune to buy them when they appear on the ‘Bay. They’re priced out of my league now. So my timing was right when I started to collect them in 2001. I have more Leedy drums than I really ever imagined ever wanting, but I’d never part with any of them. So it’s really cool to have some drums that have old world craftsmanship and quality, and at the same time are very custom and unobtainable.
Leedy was supplying private label drum shells to both Ludwig and Slingerland when they started their operations. Those two power-house drum makers bought most of the tooling from Leedy when they went out of business. It was a family run company out of Indiana, and the founder, Ulysses S. Leedy passed away in the 50’s. His heirs decided to sell off the company.
Fred Gretsch now owns the Leedy brand and I did some promotional stuff with them at the NAMM show a couple of years ago. Gretsch keeps on threatening to bring the Leedy brand back to life, but so far they’ve just dabbled at some high-end really expensive custom one off drums, but have yet to really produce and market them. One day, if Fred Gretsch decides to bring Leedy back full force, I want to be the first guy on the block with the “NEW” Leedy’s.
There are lots of photos from the NAMM show up on my personal drummer site www.drumpulverizer.com of my collection of vintage and custom drums- please go check it out!
This month I was recruited to do a drum sample library at a top secret studio featuring my Leedy drums. We got some really amazing tones out of these old tubs. Troy Lukketta from Tesla and his Tama drums were also a part of this project. We all put a ton of energy into the tuning and performances on this session along with the ears and recording skills of Ryan Greene who’s producing it. I can’t say much more about the project until it’s released this summer, but it’s going to be very cool and state of the art as far as drum sample library’s are concerned.
I can tell you that nuthin’ but vintage Leedy drums were used recording both Big Cock CD’s and I use them live too. So it’s pretty cool to think that all these drums were collecting dust in someone’s attic for 50-plus years, and now I’m having a blast playing them – plus now Leedy drums are being heard by people all around the world who can enjoy what they sound like on our CD’s.
SR: It seems like you’ve had great timing with the drum collection and motorcycle business, do you think the timing is also right now for Big Cock?
JC: My dad had this plaque in his office that said “Opportunity is often disguised as hard work”. He’s dead now, so and I’ve had a little time to re-think his whole program. I think opportunities are based on timing and your ability to see the opportunity. That means being prepared, but not forcing or pushing to “make things happen”. So yeah, I think the timing is right for Big Cock to reach more people and find a larger audience. We’re working outside the box now doing it Smarter, not Harder. We’ll leave the hardness to speak for itself in the music of Big Cock.
If we would have done this 10 years ago nobody but our friends in town would know what we were up to. The internet has opened a whole world of ‘friends’ for us to expose Big Cock to. Certainly 10 years ago there wouldn’t be a record label that would even think about signing a band called Big Cock. Now the technology has presented itself giving us the freedom to produce our music and distribute it world wide without waiting for some guy in a suit at a record company to give us his ‘blessing’.
Dave and I were talking about our timing just the other day. We both agree the timing is perfect right now for what we’ve been scheming to create our whole lives. We’ve proven that the band has an audience with our first two CD’s. We’ve proven even though we’re no spring chickens, (and we’re not hiding that we’ve been around the block a couple of times) we’re not some rehashed nostalgia act either. The timing is right for what we’re doing and it’s proven to be relevant. We’ve proven Big Cock has a giant demographic that support our music from college hotties, MILF’s and rockers of all ages who continue to show their love of Big Cock with all they meat, err, meet.
We’ve decided to start producing our own “Club” night dubbed “Club Sleaze” (www.myspace.com/clubsleazeaz), thanks Skid for the inspiration. Our first event here in Arizona on March 2nd looks like it’s going to be an amazing success. Our goal is to find venues for Club Sleaze events in cities within a 3 hour flying distance or Arizona, and do them about once every 3 months in select cities on Friday nights. We’re looking into 500+ seat venues from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Southern California. (club owners should contact us via our web site www.bigcockrocks.com for booking information) We’re gearing up to whip Big Cock out for even more people get a live load of what we’re doing. This gives us the opportunity to play in front of our fans in at least 8 repeat markets to continue to build our following without commercial sponsors or record company tour support. As the love of Big Cock grows we’ll be able to take the show on the road to cities even further from our base of operation.
As Sammy Hagar so eloquently stated, “only time will tell if we stand the test of time”. Well we’re still standing, what’s that tell you Sammy? There were plenty of industry insiders who initially told us this was a horrible idea to call the band Big Cock. Look who’s having the last laugh now.
When Dave and I sat down about 3 years ago and decided to record the album we always wanted to make, purely for our own satisfaction, we had no idea it would take us this far. Robert and Colby joined us for the journey and Big Cock is headed into the studio for our 3rd release in 3 years. There aren’t a whole lot of bands that can make that claim anymore. Big Cock’s original line up remains committed to delivering the goods – the magic is all in tact.
We’re all doing this because we’re truly having a good time and the pieces keep fitting together. It’s all about the good times, and I think that’s reflected in our music. We haven’t been forcing any of this to happen. Big Cock’s fan base is swelling. We believe we’ve tapped into something that is becoming Bigger than the four of the sum of its members. Big Cock’s just hitting its stride. We’ve proven our stamina over and over. Timing in show business is all about hitting your mark at the right moment. There’s no end to the marketing puns (and we’re certainly not going to apologize for that either). We’ve proven Big Cock is the “Hardest Band in the Land” and we’ve shown over and over that we’ve got timing and the balls to back it up!
SR: What are some of the newer bands that you really like and would fit into the Club Sleaze idea?
JC: The first band that pops into my head is the Veins of Jenna…4 guys with tons of swagger from Sweden..I’ve seen them play a couple of times when they’ve come through town and they’re the hardest working band in Sleaze-Biz that I’ve ever seen. Two of the guys are 21 and the other two are 20, so once the show’s over two of them have to wait outside the club (since they’re underage) while the singer and guitar player round up the women for them to shag. Great dudes, lots of energy and soon more people will be hearing about them. I think Bam Margera is sponsoring them or Managing them or something. Those dudes are everything that’s rock!
SR: Any last words for the fans out there?
JC: Absolutely! We keep making Big Cock CD’s because of our fans. Plain and simple, without the support of the people reading this right now, we wouldn’t be doing it. I hope that you continue to enjoy the music that we’re making, so we can keep on making the Rock Hard. The love that’s been shown for Big Cock by our fans is simply astounding! I know I can speak for Robert, Dave and Colby when I say thanks for sharing the love of Big Cock with all you meat! We read every comment that comes in on our band page www.bigcockrocks.com and our MySpace page www.myspace.com/bigcockrocks. Keep it coming! And Thank you Skid for supporting new and original music. You ROCK my friend!
Thanks to John “The Pulverizer” Covington