Michael Hannon Interview

November 6, 2008

As a founding member of the 80s cult-band Salty Dog as well as his current endeavor American Dog, bassist/vocalist Michael Hannon obviously has a fascination with man’s best friend and sleazy rock songs. With a brand new American Dog (www.americandog.us) DVD slated for release on December 1st, Michael and the band are already planning their next moves which are set to include a new album and a second ‘Six-Pack’ EP. In part two of this exclusive interview with Jason L., Michael Hannon talks about the possibility of a Salty Dog reunion, his time in Dangerous Toys, American Dog’s future plans and much more. Also be sure to check out part 1 of this conversation at check out Part 2 of this conversation at www.sleazeroxx.com.

Sleaze Roxx: After Salty Dog broke up you did a short stint with Dangerous Toys right?

Michael Hannon: Yeah. They had an album called “Pissed” out. That is a great album by the way, I think it’s my favorite album of theirs. Their bass player Mike Watson couldn’t do the tour. He quit like 12 days before the tour was supposed to start. I was painting houses at the time, the inside of apartments rather, and doing custodial work at an apartment complex. Jason McMaster called me up and said, “dude we need a bass player.” I said, “dude I cannot afford to fly out to your place and fuckin try out.” He said, “dude it ain’t a try out, if you want the gig it’s yours.” So I put down the fuckin paint brush, picked up the new CD, learned the stuff, went out and slept on their couch, and then went out on the road for a year with them. Jason and I have been friends for a while. I met him for the first time when Salty Dog played the Back Room. It was the Back Room or Back Door (one of the two) in Austin. We talked and that was about it. We kept in touch.

Sleaze Roxx: So you played with them for a while and then you decided to move back to Ohio?

Michael HannonMichael Hannon: Yeah. I was touring with them during the grunge times. I can’t think of the exact year, probably ’94 or ’95, something like that. I saw that rock was dead on the East and West coast. But in the Midwest, where fashion wasn’t as important, it was still going strong. After that tour they decided they were going to do a more modern sounding album. That ended up becoming “The R*tist 4*merly Known As.” Jason played bass and I just said OK. We shook hands and I went to Ohio and started off brand new.

Sleaze Roxx: The band you started was called Hilljack. What was the idea behind that band?

Michael Hannon: I wanted to do just straight hard rock. It’s funny because everybody looks at people in the Midwest as like hillbillies. Hilljack is just kind of slang for the local yokel hillbilly kind of thing. We were just doing, ya know, kinda country twang blues hard rock. Basically we were just like American Dog with not quite as good of a guitar player. After about a year of that, maybe two years…we were playing a lot by the way. Now Hilljack’s CD, if you have that (I’ve got that for sale now at cdbaby.com), that was basically three different demos. At the time we were making cassettes and selling them at shows. We did all these different demos in trying to get a record deal and ended up with so many songs that we just put a CD together. If you read the liner notes on the Hilljack album you’ll see there are three different drummers on that album. What’s funny is the picture (we’re doing a Kiss trick) shows Keith Pickens who’s the drummer in American Dog of course. His picture is on it and he’s listed as the drummer, but he didn’t play on any tracks on the album. It’s like the “Creatures of the Night” album. They show Ace Frehley on it, but Vinnie Vincent played on it. Keith was our drummer at the time and it was just one of those things. What are you gonna do? Since three different drummers played, put pictures of all of them? I said fuck it I’ll put the line-up as it is.

Sleaze Roxx: You didn’t plan on being the lead singer.

Michael Hannon: No. I was looking for lead singers forever. Every one of them was a fucking asshole, just cunts ya know? Stuck up pieces of shit ya know? Just arrogant tweedle dumb fucking gaylord cocksuckers. It was like god dam! What I did is I just put my vocals on a bunch of tracks so I could send out these tracks recorded well to a bunch of guys I know who have rock newspapers saying here’s what I’m looking for, a singer who can do this. Every single one of them e-mailed me back or wrote me a letter back saying, “why don’t you just sing it, this sounds good.” I said “aw fuck.” So we really don’t have a singer we’ve just got me (laughs). I basically had to learn through baptism by fire. I learned how to sing by just doing it and being forced into doing it. Then we got Steve Theado in the band and changed the name to American Dog. Steve’s an incredible guitar player and probably the best I’ve ever played with. We’ve been together for 10 years now, this line-up.

Sleaze Roxx: After 10 years you’ve probably developed a comfort level with being the front man.

Michael Hannon: Yeah, I don’t mind it. I learned from watching Kiss and Alice Cooper. I’m a ham with cheese.

Sleaze Roxx: Can you give me a quick intro to the other two guys in the band?

Michael Hannon and American DogMichael Hannon: Keith’s a drummer. That’s about it. That’s all he cares about. He’s sober which is good. Drums drive any band. A sober drummer is paramount. That’s a wonderful thing to have. If the drummer is drunk the whole thing is wrecked. It’s like the axel of your car being bent. If the axel is always straight you’re gonna roll smoothly. So that’s a really good thing. That’s what I like about him the best. Steve, the guitar player, he’s phenomenal. The guy can play anything. He pisses you off. He can play piano, acoustic, he can do anything. He can pick up any instrument and learn it. He’s one of those guys who can just do that. I’ve know him for years back when I was playing in local bands before I went to LA. He was in one of the competitions in town. He’s just the ultimate musician. He can do anything.

Sleaze Roxx: So you guys are friends outside of the band?

Michael Hannon: Steve and I always hang out because we have the same interests. Which are the Cleveland Browns and drinking beer (laughs). So we get along on those things quite well.

Sleaze Roxx: In 2007 American Dog released the critically acclaimed album “Hard.” Can you go into a little bit of the background on that record?

Michael Hannon: I think that’s the best one we’ve done. You grow as a band and get better and better by playing together longer. It’s just a good record. We really just got it. There are no throwaways on that album. There’s one song on there called “Little Short” which it’s funny how many people said “man that’s the closest you’ve sounded to Salty Dog since Salty Dog.” The song starts with bass and it was written the same way as “Come Along” was. I just started a bass riff and then Steve came in with the guitar part. I love that album. To tell you how much we love that album, when we play live, we do at least 7 songs off it. Which is a lot, when you have 7 albums out.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s easy to see that you guys have a lot of fun and you don’t take yourselves too seriously.

Michael Hannon: We take it seriously but there’s fun. It’s like Van Halen, the rock years of Van Halen. They were always smiling and goofing around and that’s contagious. I love it when you see a whole crowd of people and they’re all smiling and having a good time. I’m not into the whole death metal black metal shit with all the goats and devils and shit. I love those kind of movies but…I hate mosh pits. You spill your beer and chicks leave. Van Halen could do “Big Bad Bill is Sweet William Now” right into “DOA.” They could kick your ass and then do something with a fuckin mandolin. It’s still Van Halen. They didn’t paint themselves into any kind of corner. And that’s what we’re trying to do. Take a song like “Drank Too Much.” That’s like funny country stuff. Then we have songs like “Magnificent Bastard” that could almost be called metal. It’s great we’re not painted into a corner. We’ve played with Overkill and David Allan Coe. Those are bands with two totally different audiences. We played with both of those bands within ten days of each other and both of the crowds liked us. The only other band I can think of is ZZ Top. They could do that. That’s what’s enjoyable about it. So when people say “you don’t take yourself seriously” we say “of course we’re serious about it.” We play good, we make sure it’s right, but we also want to add fun in there with smiling and stuff going on like Van Halen.

Sleaze Roxx: The video for “Sometimes You Eat the Pussy” is some funny stuff!

Michael Hannon: Yeah why not! With a song title like that everybody’s gonna think you’re just gonna have strippers and shit. We said “no no no, that’s far too obvious. What we’ll get is a midget, a midget stripper.” By the way, we’re working on this DVD now, wait until you see all the stuff we’ve got on that. We’ve got 10 promotional videos done now. Have you seen any of them? Probably not! (laughs) They’re really not on anything but the French DVD. There’s like six of them on that but it’s PAL. Nobody over here can really see it unless you got one of those all region players.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah I heard you guys were making the DVD then I looked on your website and it’s there, it’s out.

Michael Hannon and American DogMichael Hannon: That’s that one but we’re doing this other one called “All Over the Road.” It’s gonna be out in probably November. We’ve got 10 videos. We’ve got cable TV stuff that was done in France from 2001 and 2004. We’ve got stuff filmed on a cable show in Germany. There’s stuff from when we played Sturgis. There are things from Japan and Spain. We play so many big shows and stuff and we’ve been saving these tapes and videos for years. We have 10 years of stuff. There’ll probably end up being two DVD’s we’ve got so much stuff.

Sleaze Roxx: Do you guys have someone that kind of follows you around and does the recording?

Michael Hannon: Yes, my buddy Rob Kern. He’s one of my best friends. He’s the guy who filmed the “Sometimes You Eat the Pussy” video. He also did the “No Pity” video and the “Rock-N-Roll Dog” video. He filmed all that and edited all that by himself. He’s got editing stuff in his basement. Right now we’ve been taking a break from touring and actually I’m busier right now, not playing live, from doing this. When you see the band not doing anything that means we’re working our ass getting stuff ready for you. You just burn yourself out if you’re out playing live (we all have day jobs, you’ve got to do that) then every night working on the DVD. You just kill yourself. You need to concentrate on one thing at a time to put your 100% into it. So we’re just taking time off from shows to recharge the batteries and work on this DVD. We do have live shows booked for October and November which I will be putting up on the website real soon. And then we’re gonna start writing the new album. Writing will be around December/January time. Basically Europe is our big market and we tour the big festivals and stuff. The touring season over there is spring and early summer. So we’ll write and record this winter so it’s ready for spring. The new album’s gonna have a lot more textures on it. I’m thinking about putting a brass section with us on some songs. Like what I said about not painting yourself into a corner, there’ll be some really heavy burlesque blues type stuff. I want saxophone, trumpets and trombone for sure. I’m talking like “Same Old Song and Dance” by Aerosmith. It’s got sax in there. George Thorogood has saxophone in every song. People seem to think wimpy when they think horns but I don’t. I just want to add more texture to it. We’re gonna do this album as a more bluesy thing, we’ll put it out, and then tour spring/summer in Europe. Then we’ll come back here and do the summer thing. Summer is our big market in the States. We play all the biker outside things. We’ll do Ohio and Wisconsin. You can only ride your motorcycle those 3 or 4 months. So we’ll play the biker things then record a live show, another 6-pack CD. Then here’s what we’re gonna do, we’ll take the horn section with us on the road and record some live shows. We’ll call it “6-Pack II: Drunk & Horny.” So there’s the battle plan. We’ve got three releases already pre-planned.

Sleaze Roxx: The fans will love that.

Michael Hannon: Oh yeah. If you look at the last 10 years, we’ve got 7 albums out. That’s all with day jobs and touring. We’re not lazy.

Sleaze Roxx: You guys sell through CD Baby (cdbaby.com/americandog).

Michael Hannon: CD Baby is fantastic! Anybody in a band reading this, I highly recommend them. They’re easy to work with for customers who want to buy. They have a really great track record. They send you stuff packaged well. All my customers love them.

Sleaze Roxx: Customers can review the albums. It’s really cool.

Michael Hannon: Yeah it’s a fantastic thing. With record companies falling like flies it’s a great way to go.

Sleaze Roxx: Have you guys focused at all on satellite radio?

Michael Hannon: We’re on a show called “The Boneyard” on XM. They’ve been playing “Sometimes You Eat the Pussy.” It’s the love songs that always touch people’s hearts you know.

Sleaze Roxx: A song title like that is going to catch people’s attention for sure.

Michael Hannon and American DogMichael Hannon: What’s neat about satellite radio is they say, “we don’t have to answer to the FCC. So we’re gonna play this one.” It’s not something you’ll hear on what they call “real” radio. It works. “Pussy” got their attention and they played it. My track record with Salty Dog and Dangerous Toys has really helped us. They’ll look at us more seriously than a band that doesn’t have any track record.

Sleaze Roxx: Do you see yourselves playing some of these bigger festivals like Rocklahoma or Rock the Bayou?

Michael Hannon: Yes I would like to. We just didn’t get it this year. We toured a lot and then we took this break here at the end of summer. It’s OK. We’ll get to those eventually.

Sleaze Roxx: In 2006 Jimmi Bleacher did an interview with Sleazeroxx.com and he said at that time you guys were really close to reuniting Salty Dog. Has there been any interest since then?

Michael Hannon: It’s funny you say that. Nobody really knows this, I’ve only told one other person this in the press, in August I went out to LA. So did Jimmi. We met with Khurt Maier and we called Pete Reeven. We were all going to get together and practice and see how it worked out because we had been offered a few shows to reunite. Everyone showed up except for Pete. He pulled out at the last minute and didn’t want to do it. Me and Jimmi both came all the way from Ohio to fuckin Los Angeles. Our drummer booked the studio time then at the last minute Pete said no. He didn’t want to do it after he told us yes. So that kind of fucked that in the ass.

Sleaze Roxx: That would probably put a damper on it then for the future?

Michael Hannon: Well you know I’ve got a couple offers and one is a European thing, a Scandinavian thing. I said, “hey here’s my problem, would you be interested in 3/4ths and have Steve, the guitar player from American Dog do it?” They said yeah no problem. It’s kind of a joke how there’s two LA Guns and two Faster Pussycat’s and all that horse shit going on. So I’m thinking 3 of 4 would be really good. I’d rather do it with all 4 but…there’s so many people interested in Salty Dog and I know they’d come see it. If they want it with 3 of the 4 we’re gonna do it like that.

Sleaze Roxx: Obviously you guys don’t mind having a few cold ones from time to time. What’s the brand of choice?

Michael Hannon: To be quite honest I’ll drink about anything. I mostly buy Milwaukee’s Best Lite. It’s cheap and I’m a quantity guy. $5.49 for a 12-pack, I’ll take that over $8.99 for a 12-pack any day. It gets the job done. I like it, I think it tastes good. Right now I’m drinking a Rolling Rock. Which is a Budweiser. So it’s a Belgian import I’m drinking right now (laughs). The Belgians bought Anheuser-Busch. I’m drinking a Rolling Rock imported Belgian brew right now.

Sleaze Roxx: You’re making me thirsty.

Michael Hannon: Well get yourself one dude!

Sleaze Roxx: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far as a musician?

Michael Hannon: Not surrendering. If you just throw a few elbows and fight it out your gonna make it man. We’ve always played by our rules. When we first started, all these clubs were like “no, we need you to play some songs everybody knows.” All these cover songs. We never did. Why? To me there are two types of bands. There’s the bands that play all the songs on the juke box and there’s the bands who put the songs on the juke box. Even if I fail miserably at least I can say look what I did, I did this. What are you gonna do after 10 years of playing fuckin ZZ Top and Bob Seger covers? Say “oh boy didn’t we do Her Strut fucking great?!” Who gives a shit? All those years of working your ass off was for nothing. I’d rather fail miserably doing something I did than succeeding in a cover band.

Thanks to Michael Hannon and Jason L.