TOMMY PARIS INTERVIEW:
May 6, 2007
Britny Fox is the latest in a long line of 80s bands returning to the scene. Tommy Paris, who replaced original vocalist Dizzy Dean Davidson in the early 90s, has gotten back together with Britny Fox (www.britnyfox.com) for a summer tour. In this exclusive interview Tommy talks about the upcoming tour, his time in the band and the possibility of recording another album.
SR: I see Britny Fox is back, why did you decide to hit the road at this time?
TP: We’ve had offers to tour every year with other bands but usually just for the summer. We wanted to stay out for some time and build momentum when we go… This year we’ve had more interest than usual so we committed to touring for a long run and hopefully it will materialize that way.
SR: Do you think it might have been a better idea to wait until Michael Kelly Smith and Johnny Dee were available?
TP: They were both asked to go but had prior commitments. Billy and I wanted to do it. They are still in the band and there are no hard feelings between us. Down the road they may want to come out and that’d be great. Until then we really want to tour.
SR: Do you think things like Britny Fox going out with only two guys that appeared on their albums, two separate versions of L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat, etc will alienate fans and give critics of the 80s even more ammo?
TP: It’s only rock and roll. It’s a great time. I’m stoked to be going out this year. I sing my balls off every night. The rest is out of my control.
SR: How did you get the new version of the band together?
TP: Billy knew Greg D’Angelo and Tommy Krash from different projects he’s been involved in with them.
SR: Do you have the setlist figured out yet, will there be any surprises?
TP: We haven’t parked on the set list yet but it will include some tunes we don’t usually play. It will evolve as we go.
SR: How long do you expect the tour to last, and do you think Enuff Z’Nuff will be with you most of the shows?
TP: We’re doing most all of the summer with Enuff. The plan is to do some stuff outside the US in the fall. We’d like the tour to continue for some time and are planning to do so as long as we’re still enjoying it.
SR: Do you think this tour could lead to a new Britny Fox album?
TP: That would be great.
SR: Does that mean you have some ideas for a new CD already?
TP: I write songs all the time, as does Bill, so we have plenty of ideas.
SR: How did you first get involved in music?
TP: I started playing piano when I was around 7. My Mom bought an upright for herself and started playing. I used to pick out songs by ear and got more and more into it from there.
I took piano lessons for a few years but was more interested in playing other instruments. I ended up learning to play drums, guitar and bass. My brother Craig played guitar so I asked him to show me stuff. We were in bands together during high school. I made a crude cassette to cassette multitrack that kind of worked and we made lots of recordings together.
Later I would write songs and record all the vocals and instruments when no one else was available.
SR: Was Jillson the first band you released material with?
TP: I had done some independents years before that which didn’t stick out as much as that one. Nothing worth mentioning but I was getting my wheels about me.
SR: Have you thought about re-releasing albums like Jillson, because it goes for crazy money on ebay.
TP: I know it’s become a collector’s item to a few people. Re-releasing it would be appealing if a label approached me and wanted to do so.
SR: How did you first manage to get the Britny Fox gig?
TP: I sent in a CD and photo – heard nothing back – called and bothered Brian (Brian Kushner, Britny Fox’s manager at the time) with phone messages until he called me back, then got an audition and went for it.
SR: Did you feel a lot of pressure fronting an already successful band?
TP: No, I just had tunnel vision to do the gig for all I had.
SR: I think Bite Down Hard was Britny Fox’s best work. What was it like recording that CD and how pleased were you with how it came out?
TP: Thanks! It was a great experience. We recorded in some of the best studios in L.A. and worked with Duane Baron and John Purdell who had just finish producing Ozzy’s “No More Tears” album. We hung out with Zakk and Duane and John a lot, partying and causing trouble. It was a fun period. Did coke off of the lid to Elton John’s “Caribou” piano…
Anyone still reading?
Going in was a bit nerve wracking and anxious for me. I was presumed guilty of being on the producer’s side of the recording process and less on the band’s. It was probably a bit true but it came out of wanting to make a killer album. I was hell bent.
I think Michael, Billy and Johnny had a real good mix in mind of just how far we COULD go and still be Britny Fox. Allowing the new direction in to a satisfying degree was tricky and they did a great job of that I thought. They wanted to move on some as well and yet retain the band’s trip, bridging the gap between the old and new.
I remember fighting for the song “Closer To Your Love.” It was and still is my favorite song on the record. No one could hear that it would be good from the shitty 4-track I had made of it with Billy so it was nearly cut several times. I held out and really pushed for it because I could hear it in my head regardless of how bad the cassette we had of it sounded. Anyway, when we were recording the background vocals on the chorus for the first time, I had recorded something like 16 tracks of background vocals, 2 part harmonies, and all of a sudden it started sounding like fucking Queen or something! I was so stoked cause that’s how I had heard it all along. Everyone started to like it more after hearing those vocals. The band reeled me in on the Queen sound and we made it more representative of the band’s vocals which is how it ended up on the record.
I’m proud of what we did for sure. Great time. Great period.
SR: Was there some tension in the band when the members thought you were siding with the producers and not them?
TP: Yes, there was some tension for sure. We were knocking heads a bit. It was a mysterious tug of war because we were chartering new territory and I know everyone’s exclusive goal was to make a great record but we were going there in different ways at first. After a month or so (we recorded for 3 months) we became acclimated to what the record was going to be and our trek became more unified. It was a matter of finding what worked and what didn’t and I suppose there was a lot at stake beyond the artistic expression. Billy used to bust my balls and call me “producer’s pet” during this period. I guess I was kind of a douche bag to be riding the fence. We pulled it off in the end because most all the reviews for that record were really complimentary. After the tour, I cut Bill with a shiv, sent him to the hospital. When he got out, he sliced off my left ear while I was sleeping. We’re all OK now though.
SR: Who did you tour with in support of Bite Down Hard and how was the new lineup received by fans?
TP: We toured with all the bands you can imagine from that time. We were received really well at 91% of all our shows. We would have toured for 3 years – (we did 7 months) – but the grunge scene did us in. Here’s a quick-digest of the wide variety of bands we played with:
GG Allin (I swear!! – look this sick MF up)
Ghost Dance Tribe
blah blah blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah……..it was great fun!
SR: The seven months you spent tour promoting Bite Down Hard was likely the longest tour for you personally at the time. What are some of the craziest things that happened during that tour?
TP: We visited Jeffery Dahmer’s place – the “Oxford Apartments”, at 924 N. 25 Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A radio station had a car take us there after an interview. It was bizarre. We did the same in Killeen, Texas – went to a place called “Luby’s” where a massacre had taken place. In Dallas, we were dropped off at the grassy knoll and spent hours investigating possibilities. In L.A., we went to Cielo drive to the Manson/Tate murder house. In New York we had falafel’s. In Florida, jet skis and hos. In Georgia, lemonade…and hos. At the hardware store, shovels and hos.
One day Johnny and I snuck into our rehearsal house’s upstairs tenant’s flat to disconnect his phone. He was pilfering our service in secret and charging up hundreds of dollars that showed up on our bill. I remember breaking in there in the middle of the day after he left and keeping a watch out while Johnny crawled under his desk. Lying flat on his back, he went to work on the phone lines with his wire cutters. All I could see were his legs sticking out from the bottom of the desk. It looked like 2 severed legs and I was pissing myself. We were CIA operatives in there. After all that hassle, he reconnected his phone 3 days later.
There was much more debauchery and laughs and tears and great and shitty times.
SR: When did you realize grunge was killing bands like yours off, and how disappointing was that at the time?
TP: When Nirvana was exploding in the fall of 91 it was obvious the tide had changed. It was a drag not to be able to make another record and tour again right away but the hair metal scene had extinguished itself. It became real predictable. I understood the change.
SR: I know you released a solo album after Britny Fox, but was it hard to get taken seriously as a musician in the grunge era?
TP: Playing in an 80’s glam band during the grunge years was like Ann Coulter dating Michael Moore.
Putting aside the notion of my music being taken seriously (which is abstract and bizarre for me to fathom) – I don’t pay attention to that as much as to how I feel. I’ve not made my holy grail CD yet anyway so I would tend to agree with some of the critical reviews thus far; though many have been supportive.
I have a new album I’m working on right now that I’m really proud of. I’d like to see it come out one day when I feel it’s all it can be. It’s a departure from Britny Fox in that the vocals aren’t parked in the upper registers so relentlessly and the music is a bit more experimental; sometimes heavier, faster, more progressive. It’s still hard rock and not so completely different from Britny Fox that it’s an abrupt about-face.
I don’t care to try and bury what I’ve done in the past. I’m proud of Britny Fox and all we’ve done. I’m Swedish, I’m white, I’m lame and proud of it. I love hard rock/metal and always will. I’ll never be in fashion in the music industry. I’ll do what I want and fish in my homeland of Norway when my wares get the kabash. Have you ever sat on the beach during high tide with your fishing pole fully baited; sweet Lebanese flowing through your veins like a perfect electric blanket? Heaven Skid, Heaven!
SR: How hard is it for an artist such as yourself to experiment without pissing off your hardcore fans?
TP: I’m not sure. The music I make on my own outside of Britny Fox isn’t so different that it’s a complete shock. It has different elements but it’s in the same ballpark. If I made a rap album, that might be hard to swallow.
SR: Do you feel hard rock is making a comeback thanks to the internet and gigs like Rocklahoma?
TP: I’m not sure. I think a lot of people miss music that’s fun. Music that’s not so serious; just loud, kick ass rock and roll. There’s a void out there for sure.
SR: What do you think has to happen to get kick ass rock can get back into the American mainstream?
TP: I don’t know Skid. If record labels would stop shoving the prepackaged bullshit down everyone’s throats we may get some better music out there. People need to stop buying that shit and they’d stop putting it out. Labels need to have a lot more artist development. It’s ONE CD and if it doesn’t sell a skillion units you’re done.
Labels need to let bands build their careers over a few albums and tours. That route would cost them less and wouldn’t be as short sided as the way they do it now. Hopefully people will continue to be burned out by the choices out there and start looking for something new.
SR: Do you think major labels are making themselves obsolete by fighting against mp3 technology and asking for outrageous internet radio fees?
TP: Absolutely. Other national chains are entering into the carrying and selling of music on their own which is great. It hasn’t eclipsed the major labels for the tide to change in a massive way just yet but some bigger artists have gone directly to these chains, bypassing labels altogether. Labels are great when you’re their priority but short of that it’s death.
SR: I know there are a few Britny Fox demos floating around with you on vocals, have you ever thought of releasing an album of unreleased stuff or re-releasing your solo CD?
TP: Not really. I’ll do a new solo CD sometime down the line. I have a lot of new material and when I find the right inspiration I’ll get it rolling. I’m also looking forward to doing a new album with Britny Fox.
SR: Looking back, do you think Springhead Motorshark was the right album for Britny Fox to return with?
TP: It wasn’t meant as a return. We don’t think that way. We give every album all we have and make it all it can be. It was experimental which was fun but it was made under less than ideal circumstances. I’d like to avoid that in the future.
If you listen to the whole CD from the beginning of “Pain” to the very end of “Sri Lanka” LOUD on a good system – I think it’s a killer album. It’s not as easily digestible as some of the other albums but you just go for it and let come what may. The next album we do will be completely different as I think we’ve entertained all of our cerebral desires on Springhead. Raw meat next time.
SR: When your musical career is over, how do you hope to be remembered by others?
TP: I’ll be doing music for the rest of my life in some capacity or another so it probably won’t be over until I’m dead. When I am dead, if people put on any of the music I’ve created and enjoy it, that’s all I can ask for… and I’d like people to enjoy my books on glue and it’s many forms of entertainment.
Thanks to Tommy Paris