INTERVIEW WITH KINGS OF DUST AND FORMER BADLANDS BASSIST GREG CHAISSON
Date: April 5, 2020
IF YOU’RE A FAN OF THE LATE ’80S / EARLY ’90S “HAIR METAL” ERA, ODDS ARE THAT YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH BADLANDS WHO RELEASED TWO FANTASTIC ALBUMS — ‘BADLANDS’ (1989) AND ‘VOODOO HIGHWAY’ (1991) — DURING THAT TIME PERIOD. BADLANDS BASSIST GREG CHAISSON IS BACK WITH HIS NEW BAND, KINGS OF DUST, WHICH ALSO INCLUDES LEAD VOCALIST MICHAEL BECK (EX-RED DRAGON CARTEL), GUITARIST RYAN MCKAY AND DRUMMER JIMI TAFT. KINGS OF DUST RELEASED THEIR ’70S ROCK INSPIRED SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM LAST MONTH AND SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH CHAISSON TO FIND OUT MORE.
Sleaze Roxx: I understand that Kings of Dust’s debut album has been a long time in the making. For how long has this record been brewing and what were some of the delays.
Greg Chaisson: While the band was formed roughly eight years ago, we didn’t become Kings of Dust until 2014. That was when Michael Beck, Ryan McKay, Jimi Taft and I got together for the first time. In August of 2014, we kind of put Kings of Dust on hold while I went on the road with Jake E Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel. Our intentions were always to keep Kings of Dust together, working it around Red Dragon Cartel’s schedule. Unfortunately, in April of 2015, I was diagnosed with cancer, so I had to quit Red Dragon Cartel and put Kings of Dust on hold. It took me a good three years after my treatment to have enough interest and energy to tackle Kings of Dust again. The motivating factor for me was that a couple of local musicians were saying “Is Chaisson still trying to float that Kings of Dust thing?” and “Kings of Dust is done and it’s never gonna happen.” They thought it was actually funny. So of course, that pissed me off and gave me the motivation I needed to get back to work. So, we got back together, wrote some more songs along with keeping some of the older songs. I think it’s a really good mix of songs. A lot of people have asked me why I would put 13 songs on a record and my response is that it covers a long time period. I thought all of those songs deserved to be heard. The funny thing is that the two musicians that made the motivating comments both ended up buying copies of the CD and saying that they wished they could have played on it!
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! How did you guys come up with the band name Kings of Dust?
Greg Chaisson: We had been toying with a lot of different ideas but couldn’t seem to come up with one that we all agreed on or that made sense to us. For some reason, I always envisioned having something with the word “dust” in it. One morning, I woke up and the name Kings of Dust was rattling around in my head. So, I called up Michael and said, “I think I have the name for us”, and he liked it as well. Everyone seems to like it.
Sleaze Roxx: What led to guitarist Michael Arms’ departure from the band last year?
Greg Chaisson: Yeah, that was a tough one. Michael is a real good guitarist, writer and a real nice guy. But in the end, he just wasn’t the right guy for us. We needed someone more spontaneous. Every song on the record is three takes or less with some of them coming in one take. We needed someone who could kind of go by that fly by the seat of the pants approach that we are so happy with. We asked Ryan to come in and play the slide solo on “Ya, That’s Me.” It’s a song that Ryan had co-written. Once that was recorded, we had him throw down a couple of solos to see what would happen and he nailed it right out of the gate. Ryan’s other band was not working as much, and he expressed interest in being back in Kings [of Dust]. As tough of a decision as it was to let Michael go, we knew it was the right decision. Ryan was kind of the missing link for us. As the saying goes, great minds think alike. Not that we all have great minds, but we do think alike [laughs]! I’m sure Michael will go on to have many great musical adventures in the future. He is still our friend and we wish him all the best.
Sleaze Roxx: Thank you for that answer. Too many times, people cop out when it comes to answering about the departures of past members by pleading the fifth or giving a politically correct answer [laughs]. Moving along, how would you describe Kings of Dust’s songs to a new listener?
Greg Chaisson: Seventies style hard rock with a little something, something extra. We wear our influences on our sleeves. We don’t hide from it. I grew up playing music in the ’70s. We all did, so we are influenced by all the great ’70s rock bands. The well-known ones, and the not so well-known ones. Bands like [Led] Zeppelin, [Black] Sabbath, Deep Purple, Mountain, and Humble Pie, but also the lesser known ones such as Stray Dog, Three Man Army, Cactus, etc. There’s a little bit of all of that in our music with our own special twist.
Kings of Dust‘s “Like An Ocean” lyric video:
From the KINGS OF DUST album (c) 2020 Shock Records
Sleaze Roxx: What are your favorite songs on the new album and why?
Greg Chaisson: That’s a rough one because I pretty much like them all. “Like An Ocean” because of Jimi’s relentless groove. The twist and turns of “Upon Reflection” and “The Devil Made Me Do It.” The light and shade plus Michael’s lyrical brilliance on “My Piece of Mine.” The Deep Purple vibe of “What’s the Other.” The driving riffs in “Let the Ugly Through” right into “Yours Not Mine.” The Stonesy / Mountain feel of “Ya, That’s Me” with Ryan’s slide playing really makes it work. The bluesy-swampy vibe of “Mama”, plus I got to do my little bass solo on the outro, which is kind of my nod to John Entwistle. The power and intricacy of “Wolves.” The reckless, live take on “A Little Bit of Insanity”, and the overall heaviness of “Spirit.” I think Jimi and Ryan did an incredible job musically. Both of them are two of the most versatile musicians I’ve ever played with. And I think Michael really proved himself as a vocalist and lyricist. I like songs that have a lot of moving parts. I think you can still have a lot of hooks and be able to say what you want as a musician at the same time. I think we achieved that. At least, we are very happy with it. The highest compliment I could give it is that I would buy it even if I wasn’t on it.
Kings of Dust‘s “Ya, That’s Me” lyric video:
From Track 8 on the KINGS OF DUST album (c) 2020 Shock RecordsPlease subscribe!Website:https://kod.band/Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/KingsOfDust/
Sleaze Roxx: Are there any touring or gig plans for the band?
Greg Chaisson: Yes, but just like everyone else, our plans are going to have to wait until all the craziness of this pandemic subsides. We had a number of gigs booked that we have had to put on hold until better days return everyone’s way.
Sleaze Roxx: It must be frustrating to have the album released just as the COVID-19 virus is crippling the world. Do you think that King’s of Dust’s debut album will get a fair shake given what’s going on in the world just as it gets released?
Greg Chaisson: Yes, it’s definitely a weird time because there are so many things going on that are more important than Kings of Dust. I think we have to put all of our differences aside as a human race and focus our energies on fighting the pandemic and keeping each other safe. I know it’s tough with everyone being stuck at home while all of this is going on. Maybe music gives people a little bit of a distraction from our everyday woes. For us personally, since we can’t go on the road right now, we are writing songs for our next record, which we will try and record in the fall. Then, God willing, when we eventually hit the road, we’ll be able to play songs off of both records.
Sleaze Roxx: Assuming there will be gigs coming up, will you be throwing some Badlands and/or Red Dragon Cartel in the Kings of Dust’s setlist and if so, which songs will you play?
Greg Chaisson: For the time being, we will just concentrate on Kings of Dust music. At some point we may throw a riff in here or there just to see the reaction, but hopefully our material is strong enough to stand on its own. I think it is.
Sleaze Roxx: The music scene has changed a lot since your days in Badlands. What are the pros and cons that you see with all the changes in the music industry including a seemingly more “do it yourself” approach to releasing albums?
Greg Chaisson: Back in the Badlands days, we had the big machine behind us. Record company, managers, lawyers, accountants, merchandisers, etc. For us personally, we are doing everything on our own, and that is by design. I wouldn’t be opposed to having a manager, and obviously we will have some kind of booking agent at some point. But right now, it’s just a lot easier for us to handle everything on our own. The advantage of nowadays is social media. It allows you to stay relevant even when you don’t have the big machine behind you. There are so many internet radio stations, blogs, online magazines, and musician sites, that it’s easy to stay in the public eye. The internet can be a mess, but it does have its advantages.
Sleaze Roxx: Were you surprised by how well your Kickstarter campaign went for your album and what prompted you to go that route?
Greg Chaisson: Yeah, it was a pleasant surprise. When you’re starting something like this, you’re never sure if people are going to be interested or not. The fact that that many people were enthusiastically supportive about my little hard rock band [laughs] was very gratifying. We went that way because we financed this ourselves. Michael owns a recording studio, Sound Vision Studios in Tempe [Arizona] — shameless plug — so the recording process was not something that we had to pay for. What we used the money for was the mixing and production costs of making the record, and we went all-in on the artwork and the eight-page booklet for the CD. I mean, if no one had been interested, than the Kickstarter thing would have failed, and it might have changed the way that we approached it. The fact that it was such a smashing success just made it that much easier.
Sleaze Roxx: When did the deal with Shock Records / Vanity Music Group come to fruition, and why did you decide to go with them?
Greg Chaisson: Our publicist Dave Tedder arranged a distribution deal through Orchid Music. In order to do that, we had to have some kind of record label to go along with it. I believe that Shock and Vanity are part of Dave’s music group and that seemed like the easiest way to do it while still maintaining complete control over what we had created.
Sleaze Roxx: I have seen on social media that quite a few people have suggested that Badlands reunite while using the fantastic singer Dino Jelusick who recently teamed up to release an album with George Lynch under the name Dirty Shirley. Have you heard Dino’s sensational rendition of Badlands’ “The Last Time”? Is a Badlands reunion something that you and Jake E. Lee have ever discussed in the last five or six years, and what do you think of Dino potentially fronting the band?
Greg Chaisson: Yes, I’m very familiar with Dino. Someone had sent me a video of him singing “The Last Time” and I thought he was excellent, and I even commented so. He reached out to me and told me he was honored that I would feel that way. As far as Badlands reforming with another singer, Ray was a once in a lifetime singer. In my opinion, the best of his generation and one of the best in any generation. I think he would be impossible to replace. So, I don’t actually see that happening. Jake has always said that he would never reform the band without Ray. I think the closest to a Badlands reunion was probably my short time in Red Dragon Cartel. Having said that if Jake ever changed his mind, I would definitely be on board for that. Jake’s my best friend and whatever he wants to do, I’m good with. You never say never but I leave it completely up to him. Badlands was his baby and I’m thrilled that I got to be part of it.
Sleaze Roxx: If there was a Badlands reunion, which drummer would you go with — Jeff Martin or Eric Singer who should be available when KISS’ ‘End of The Road World Tour’ ends in July 2021?
Greg Chaisson: Another tough question. They are both excellent drummers and both completely different. But as I previously said, I don’t see it happening, at least not any time soon. Jake has his own band and I have mine. I’m pretty sure he’s happy with what he is doing, and I know I am happy with what I am doing. But if he called me….
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] You didn’t really answer my question though about who you would pick — Eric [Singer] or Jeff [Martin]?
Greg Chaisson: I would probably pick Jeff Martin. He and I have known each other since 1975. He’s very easy for me to play with because I already know what is in his bag of tricks. But I doubt this is ever going to happen.
Sleaze Roxx: How do you think that Kings of Dust’s debut album measures up to the three Badlands records?
Greg Chaisson: Badlands was a great band, a once in a lifetime sort of thing, lightning in a bottle if you will. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t trying to compete with that in any way, shape, or form. I think the only similarities are the fact that Jake and my influences are pretty much the same and that we like music with a lot of moving parts. Neither one of us likes the paint by numbers corporate commercial approach. We both always look for the most interesting and adventurous way to tell the story. If people hear some form of Badlands’ vibe off of what we do in Kings of Dust, then I am honored.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
Greg Chaisson: To be perfectly honest, I am thrilled to be able to put out the Kings of Dust CD. After dealing with cancer, I wasn’t sure exactly where my head was at musically. But having finished this record, considering the response that we’ve received, along with the fantastic musicianship of Michael, Ryan and Jimi — definitely some of the best musicians I’ve ever played with — I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to getting out on the road, proving ourselves musically, and making a bunch of new friends. In closing, I will just say this — stay well everyone, and God bless!
Kings of Dust‘s “Keep The Spirit Alive” single:
Kings of Dust on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kings-of-Dust-367376990123633/