INTERVIEW WITH LITTLE CAESAR SINGER RON YOUNG
Date: February 9, 2018
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
LITTLE CAESAR ARE AN L.A. BAND THAT WAS INTRODUCED TO THE WORLD AT THE END OF THE HAIR ROCK ERA. THE BAND’S DEBUT ALBUM WAS A GREAT MIX OF BLUES BASED HARD ROCK WITH A MOTOWN FEEL. OF COURSE, LOOKING AT THE BAND IN 1990, AT FIRST GLANCE YOU’D THINK THEY WERE MORE OF A BIKE GANG THEN A ROCK BAND. SINGER RON YOUNG WAS A BAD ASS LOOKING DUDE WITH MULTIPLE TATTOOS COVERING HIS ARMS AND BACK. UPON MY FIRST LISTEN OF THE DEBUT ALBUM, I WAS HOOKED. I THOUGHT LITTLE CAESAR HAD A VERY DIFFERENT SOUND THEN ALL THE OTHER GENERIC HARD MUSIC THAT WAS COMING OUT ON A DAILY BASIS.
AT THE TIME, AS I WAS NEVER ONE TO STRAY AWAY FROM LISTENING TO ANY GOOD ROCK BAND, I WOULD LISTEN TO MEGADETH THEN ONTO RATT, AND FROM THERE SOME JUNKYARD. OF COURSE, ALL THESE BANDS WERE KIND OF LUMPED INTO THE HARD ROCK/HEAVY METAL GENRE. TO THIS DAY, I STILL ENJOY LITTLE CAESAR’S FIRST TWO ALBUMS. OF COURSE, THE BAND REFORMED QUITE SOME TIME AGO RELEASING ‘REDEMPTION’ AND ‘AMERICAN DREAM’ RESPECTIVELY. BOTH VERY GOOD ALBUMS, BUT MORE OF ROCK FEEL RATHER THAN THE MULTI TRACKED GUITAR SOUND WITH HUGE SOUNDING DRUMS OF THE LATE ’80S / EARLY ’90S — TO ME VERY MUCH MORE NATURAL TO WHAT THE BAND INITIALLY WANTED TO BE. OF COURSE, I MUST MAKE MENTION OF THE BAND’S EARLY E.P ‘NAME YOUR POISON.’ THE STUFF HEARD ON THE LATER ALBUMS IS CLOSER TO THAT SOUND RATHER THAN THAT OF THE BAND’S FIRST TWO GEFFEN RELEASES.
AS WE MOVE FORWARD, IT’S AT THIS TIME THAT WE TALK ABOUT LITTLE CAESAR’S UPCOMING RELEASE ‘EIGHT.’ HAVING BEEN FORWARDED AN ADVANCE COPY TO LISTEN TO AND TALK ABOUT WITH SINGER RON YOUNG FOR OUR UPCOMING INTERVIEW, I THANK CHRIS MARIC FROM GOLDEN ROBOT RECORDS FOR MAKING THIS ALL HAPPEN. IN MY DEALINGS WITH CHRIS. IT WAS VERY OBVIOUS THAT GOLDEN ROBOT HAVE THEIR SHIT TOGETHER.
AS I SAT DOWN AND LISTENED TO LITTLE CAESAR’S NEW ALBUM, IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT THIS ALBUM IS REALLY WELL DONE. I WILL ADD THAT THIS ALBUM IS GOING TO BE SO GREAT ON VINYL, ESPECIALLY THE TRACK “TIME ENOUGH FOR THAT.” THE SOULFULNESS OF YOUNG’S VOCAL IS SO EMOTIONALLY CHARGED TO THE POINT WHERE IT ALMOST BRINGS A TEAR TO YOUR EYE. TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THIS ALBUM CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF THE GREAT ’70S ROCK BANDS — THINK THE AC/DC GUITAR SOUND, THE SWAGGER OF EARLY AEROSMITH, WITH THE SMOOTH VOCAL DELIVERY OF STEVE MARRIOT OR PAUL RODGERS. BUT THAT MY FRIENDS WILL BE UP FOR DISCUSSION AT A LATER DATE.
TODAY, WE ARE HERE TO DIVE INTO THE WORLD OF LITTLE CAESAR SINGER RON YOUNG’S LAST THIRTY YEARS OF MUSICAL EXISTENCE. NOW IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT RON YOUNG HAS ENOUGH MATERIAL TO WRITE A BOOK, SO I COULDN’T EXACTLY PUT EVERYTHING IN. IN TERMS OF INTERVIEWS, THIS MAY BE MY BEST ONE YET. OF COURSE, NO OFFENCE TO MY PAST INTERVIEWS, BUT SOMETIMES YOU GET AN ARTIST WHO IS REALLY WILLING TO TALK. I FELT COMFORTABLE ENOUGH WITH RON THAT WE JOKED OFTEN. THERE WAS THE ODD SIDE CONVERSATION WHERE HE AND I WOULD TALK LIKE OLD FRIENDS ABOUT MATTERS THAT DIDN’T PERTAIN TO HIS MUSICAL CAREER. WITH THAT SAID, WHAT IS WRITTEN BELOW IS A TRUTHFUL ACCOUNT FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH (SORRY FOR THE PUN RON). FOR ME, THERE WAS ONE SURPRISING MOMENT THAT I DID NOT EXPECT, BUT IT CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF THE INTERVIEW. IT PROVES WE ARE ALL HUMAN. THE PUBLIC’S PERCEPTION, ESPECIALLY IN THE YEAR 2018 CAN BE JADED. I THANK RON FOR HIS TRUE HONESTY. ALL IN ALL, FROM MY CONVERSATION WITH RON, IT WAS CLEAR TO ME THAT THERE IS A SONG ON ‘EIGHT’ THAT CHARACTERIZES HIS PERSONALITY PERFECTLY — “STRAIGHT SHOOTER.” ENJOY!!!
Sleaze Roxx: Ron, great to talk to you. Congratulations on the new album ‘Eight’. Having heard the album already, I have to say it might be your best work to date. What can you tell me about the album? Where was it recorded, who produced it, how long did it take, etc. — all the pertinent information.
Ron Young: You know it’s interesting making records. We’re not in the big studio like the old days. You work hard getting material together. There’s no luxury of the big budget. We took four, six weeks scrutinizing everything as we went along. Back in the day, you played live. Now, you bring it to life in the studio. As we were about to record, we made a guitar change. We discovered it wasn’t the right fit. We went in with the first batch of songs. We did it in three, four blocks. Producer Bruce Witkin did a great job of coming in and doing some great guitar stuff. He has a really good knack for what fit perfect in a song. Then we got Mark Tremaglia as our guitar player.
Sleaze Roxx: He was in Bang Tango right?
Ron Young: Yeah, Bang Tango. Mark has played with Billy Gibbons, Slash. He’s a great player. He fit in. He came up with great parts. He came in and he’s gotta place where he can follow. So we re-recorded some parts. Moved from there in 25 days. With the way it’s done now, we can be our own critic. Nothing candy coated. We can say, “Dude that sucks.” We have time to scrutinize. We wanted that live natural sound like in a live setting. We’re that small to medium size venue type band. We play, mix down, not too fancy. It’s a delicate balance. A gorilla style approach. This band has never broken new ground. We’re a product of our influences. We come from the AC/DC, Bad Company, Skynyrd school. Motown on the verse. Show off what we do.
Sleaze Roxx: Was this album done digital or analog?
Ron Young: No it was done digital, but we used nice tube mikes, amps etc. You don’t have that time in the studio. It’s nice with digital, if you slubbed it, maybe the first four bars, you can drop it in. I remember on the first album with Bob Rock, we brought in this air light edit machine in the studio. It cost like $110,000. Now, it’s free in garage band. There’s no auto tune on there. I can hear that. Artists that are great are using it. You hear it and go ‘What the hell?’ I know you don’t sound that perfect. I know the artists that didn’t need it. There’s only like four or five that have that pitch — Allison Krauss, etc. It takes out every personality. You can’t fool people. You can only eat three bites of that chocolate.
Sleaze Roxx: I remember back in 1989/90, I was watching this segment on Much Music. On comes this piece about this new band who are gonna be the next big thing. Of course, it was Little Caesar. So I got the album immediately after it was released. I took it home and thought ‘Wow! This isn’t what I expected but it’s so cool.’ It was a ’70s rock blend with a Motown feel.
Ron Young: It definitely has that. It’s that passion. When it comes to the first album, it was a blessing and a curse. When we first started talking to Bob Rock about doing the album, we told him we wanted to make a straight ahead ’70s rock album. Pay tribute to our influences — Bad Company, Skynyrd, Motown. We were different. People didn’t know what to think. We were these long haired biker looking dudes with three part harmonies. He was all for it. Staying true. This was just before Mötley Crūe’s ‘Dr. Feelgood’ album came out. All of sudden, our record became his album. Nope. He wanted a perfection record. We’d have fights about it.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Eight’ is being released on Golden Robot Records. How did you end up going with Golden Robot?
Ron Young: A few years back, we were contacted by Frontiers Records. They wanted to work with us, but do an album like the first album. I was not onboard with that. Derek Shulman was working for them at the time.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s the guy who worked for Mercury Records.
Ron Young: Yeah, Polygram, Mercury. So we walked away from that. Then Derek left Frontiers. Started working with Golden Robot. We sat down with them. It made sense. To me it’s really different compared to back in the day. When we were talking about the album, they started mentioning bonus tracks. I was thinking, what is that?
Sleaze Roxx: Will this album be released on vinyl as well as CD?
Ron Young: Yes, the label will. We did a small pressing of ‘American Dream’ with an Italian label. People gobbled it up. The tough thing with vinyl is you wait so long for it to get it out there. There are only a few production plants. Everything’s limited edition. It’s weird because when the trend started happening people were freaking. Back in the day, when the vinyl age died, the pressing plants destroyed the machines. You know where they started saying it’s a dead format. So there are only so many presses available to press with. It’s interesting that it’s made resurgence.
Sleaze Roxx: Like I said, the EP is very different from the debut album. Did the band change or was it the record company making the band change to fit the scene?
Ron Young: With Geffen, we knew we were in trouble. It caused fights. There was so much hype. There was John Kalodner, David Geffen, Jimmy Ivy fighting amongst each other. The label saying if it doesn’t sell. All these egos. So much backstabbing took place. You’d go to a record store and it wouldn’t be there. It looks like we’re not selling. The albums were all in Warner’s warehouse. Then they said we’ll fix that. Then people were fired at the label three months later. The label was sold. In come all these hatchet guys. They sold to Interscope. Why are we caught in this? The planets just didn’t align. As this is happening we’re up in Vancouver with no one to fight for us. Bob would come in and just want to do guitar overdub over guitar overdub. Meanwhile, he’s wheeling and dealing to get that next big record. “Hey man! C’mon! What about us.?” Then it was “I gotta make it this.” We’re fucked.
Sleaze Roxx: Although it may not have been a hit, I think those that own it still really love it.
Ron Young: People still really like it. It was the time before grunge. They wanted us to wear nicer clothes. Lose the biker look. We were wearing flannel. We were honest blue collar. We were saying you can’t keep throwing the same crap out there. It’s the same band over and over. All the same personalities. The drums sounding like cannons. Six months later, it all exploded. Every ones got goatees. I remember Gene Simmons saying “Guys, what’s with the facial hair?” Gene, this is who we are. Then, seriously three weeks later who walks in with the beginnings of a goatee but Gene. Right then, I knew things were changing. I’d turn on the TV and there’d be Chris Cornell. Long, curly hair with a goatee. We’re fucked. He’s groundbreaking, not us. The music was about honesty. Down to earth. It was Seattle, not corporate. No matter how you feel about it. We sensed it.
Sleaze Roxx: So Bob Rock was in and out of the studio? I believe Randy Staub engineered that album.
Ron Young: Yeah, Randy Staub. He was great. With Bob, he would come in. You know he has perfect pitch? I can point out pitch, but Bob’s different. He’d say to one of our guitarists, “Your guitar is out of tune.” “But I just tuned it.” He’d make the guitar player do 30-40 cuts, but he doesn’t like it. He grabs a pair of wire cutters. He cuts all six strings. Now start again. It became not about the performance. Dude, it’s about the music. The process. There are some albums where the one guitar is out of tune with the other, but it gives it a nice chorus effect. I have never been afraid to speak my mind. I developed a bad relationship with John Kalodner because of it. I was at Geffen one day when the new Blue Murder song came in. All these guys in suits are sitting there bouncing to it. There’s one guy who of course doesn’t get it. When it was done, they asked me what I thought. I said “There’s no hook.” Oh you shouldn’t have said that I am thinking. Hear those drum sounds they’d say. But there’s still no hook. I couldn’t lie. I was making enemies.
Sleaze Roxx: Now the second album ‘Influence’ was produced by Howard Benson.
Ron Young: We co-produced with Howard, yes. We brought in Earl Slick on guitar. By that point, it was kind of done for us.
Sleaze Roxx: The first two albums I have on vinyl are both European pressing that I bought from eBay years ago before the vinyl craze took off again.
Ron Young: On ‘Influence’, we had a lot of interest over there. We were gaining momentum. We booked a tour over there. It was doing very well. Then Geffen said, “Come home. It’s done.” We’re like “What the hell? What do you mean we’re done? The tour’s doing well.” “Come home, it’s done.”
Sleaze Roxx: Years ago, you toured with The Four Horsemen. Was there ever talk of continuing on after that tour and doing an album? I have heard a few demos that guitarist Dave Lizmi has posted. It was a very cool combination.
Ron Young: We did record a few demos when we got back off the road with Rick Chychki, but it was hard to get us all together. Randy [Cooke], Pharaoh were busy. So we kind of just called it a day.
Sleaze Roxx: How many dates do you do up here in Canada? What do you remember from that tour?
Ron Young: I remember it being cold. I think 12, 16 dates. From east to west. It was good, but hard with the situation with Frank. Drunk guys would come up to me and say “Hey Frank, great job.” I’d say, “I’m not Frank.” They’d say it again. They just never got it. We were out doing it as a tribute to Frank. I recall in Banff, Calgary one time, we were set up in this hotel that was at ground level. Got into my room, pulled back the curtains and there was this moose staring me straight in the eye. One of the other guys from the band comes in and says “Dude, if that thing comes through the window, we’re gonna have to pay for damages!” I wasn’t worried. There was no danger. It wasn’t looking for its baby or anything. We must have sat there for about an hour and just watched it. We tried to entertain ourselves, Dave got into this thing of going to pawn shops and buying guitars. One day, he comes back with this Danelectro I think it was. Something was wrong with the pot, so he opens the back up. In it is this black case. We open it up. There’s a ball of hash. Seemed like whoever owned it may have been on the road touring. We find this book of phone numbers in it too with girls’ numbers in different towns. So for fun, we start calling them and inviting to the shows. Some actually did show up.
Sleaze Roxx: I saw a show on that tour. The Pines in Bridgenorth, Ontario. Buffalo Brothers opening. Did they do the whole tour.
Ron Young: I know they did Toronto, Peterborough [Bridgenorth]. It’s kind of a blur.
Sleaze Roxx: What was cool about the Buffalo Brothers was that they had this huge B3 Hammond Organ. It sounded great, but must have been a pain to carry from gig to gig.
Ron Young: I remember looking at it and thinking I didn’t want to move that thing.
Sleaze Roxx: I’d like to ask about the Manic Eden album. I seem to recall that originally House of Lords singer James Christian was doing vocals. How did it so happen that you ended up doing the album?
Ron Young: Yes, James had originally been the singer. He didn’t work out. He was more of a melodic type singer. So they moved on from him and they called me. They wanted to make more of a Jimi Hendrix type album.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you ever do any shows with the band?
Ron Young: We did a few acoustic things in Japan but that was it. Adrian [Vandenberg] got the call from Whitesnake. It was pretty much done from there.
Sleaze Roxx: Was there ever conversation about doing another album?
Ron Young: No. It was a weird time back then. Guys started to get scared. They were being pushed aside. Work was scarce. So they ended up going back to what they knew would pay the bills. Going back to your Quiet Riot’s, Whitesnake’s, etc.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of that, what did you do in that time when the scene changed?
Ron Young: I got hooked on heroin for five years.
Sleaze Roxx: For real? Seriously?
Ron Young: Yeah, I ended up in rehab. I’ve been clean ever since. At first, I started using. It was under control, then it progressed. I just loved getting high. It was just before going over to Europe with Little Caesar. I sat the band down and told them I was going to rehab. They couldn’t believe it. I was always the straight one. Louren, said “Dude, you were the guy in the corner who was always sober.” It was my way of coping with the failure of the band. Nobody knew. It wasn’t like I would get high, and then pass out in front of anyone. I wasn’t that type of heroin user. My wife didn’t even know. When I went on tour with The Four Horsemen, I was staying clean by covering it up with drinking lots of Jack Daniels.
Sleaze Roxx: Wow, good for you for staying clean. Getting back to Manic Eden, it was never officially released in North America, but I was able to track it down regardless. I believe on the Japanese label Victor.
Ron Young: It was released on JVC in Japan and SPV in Europe. We thought going with JVC in Japan would be a good thing because then it would help to get distribution in the States. It’s funny with that album because in Japan, they were expecting in to be a Whitesnake type album, but it wasn’t, so people were surprised. But it did fairly well over there once people took to it.
Sleaze Roxx: The ’90s were a strange time. I just did a review of Poison’s ‘Native Tongue’ album. It’s funny, I think it’s their best work. I always read the comments to see what the readers are saying about the album. You’ll get those who love it and then those who hate it.
Ron Young: The same was said about Mötley Crüe when John Corabi was the singer. John’s a friend of mine going back to his days with The Scream. Even Nikki Sixx has come out and said negative things about that album.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, Nikki commented that it took forever for John to come up with his lyrics.
Ron Young: That’s right. John is a great singer, but great guy as well. Down to earth.
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve met John a few times. He’s great. He actually came to a backyard BBQ at my buddy’s place when he was in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada for a show about six years ago.
Ron Young: That’s the kind of guy he is. Little Caesar did a show years back with Ratt, so a few of the guys weren’t getting along, John would just say,”Screw it. I don’t any part of the drama,” and he’d just come and hang with us.
Sleaze Roxx: There was actually a Ratt show I was at when Jizzy Pearl was singing for them. We ended up running into John outside the venue. We got to talking. We ended hanging with him for about an hour. He told security we were with him. He brought me and my buddies to the front of the stage. Knowing we were huge Crüe fans, during his guitar sound check, he started playing all these Mötley riffs for us. He is so awesome.
Ron Young: That’s John. He loves to meet new people. In reality, we all grew up the same way as fans of music. So being down to earth makes sense. Everybody has a job to do. The sound guy who works hard who doesn’t get recognized. We’re just the guys on stage. There’s guys that I am friends with — John, Adrian, Rudy, Jeff Scott Soto, Brian Tichy, Derek Sherinian. Really down to earth guys. On Adrian’s Facebook site, you’ll see myself or Rudy going on there and posting. Making jokes.
Sleaze Roxx: John once told me when a friend of mine was a little awestruck by his presence that “I put my pants on one leg at a time like everybody else.” To this day, that holds true to me.
Ron Young: Exactly.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s so nice to see John doing so well with The Dead Daisies.
Ron Young: Yeah it’s great. Good for him. It’s about time he got noticed for his talent. He sings, writes, plays guitar. Very talented.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned Jeff Scott Soto. I just interviewed him a few months back. He was really cool. He’s playing in Buffalo next week, but worried about trekking down there in February. It can be brutal. I want to get out and support him though.
Ron Young: That’s a tough call [laughs]. I didn’t actually know Jeff until we started talking on Facebook. We started messaging back and forth. That’s the great thing about social media. Back in the day, you might leave a note for someone at the club if you knew they were coming into town. Then a year later, you’d go back and there’d be a response.
Sleaze Roxx: Well Ron, I think that’s all I’ve got for now. Thank you very much.
Ron Young: No problem. I am sure we’ll be talking on Facebook. Later!!!
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