Angels In Vein's Chris VanDahl and Eric Stacy
By Jay Oakley
I wanted to start off with the formation of the band. Chris, my understanding is that you and Taz (Todd Anthony, guitar) had things going first and then the rest of the guys joined the fold, correct?
Chris VanDahl: Yeah, Taz and I were dating first. [Laughs] Taz and I are pretty much childhood friends. We've written and performed together, on and off, since before we were twenty-one. But yeah, we started writing this record pretty quietly about two years ago and it was something we started to do because I'd been performing as Steven Tyler in the Legends in Concert all over the world and I wanted to do something that was me, reestablish my identity and get back in touch with what I love about music. So, I reached out to him and asked if he was interested and the next day he sent me thirteen songs that he'd been holding on to and that's, kind of, how this thing started. One thing led to another and Stacey Blades and I have been friends for quite a while and he calls me from time to time and says, "Hey man, lets do this and lets do that." and up until recently I always had to say no because I had a contract, I'm going out of town, I'm doing this, I'm doing that. But, the last time he called he told me that he'd been talking with Eric (Stacy) and Eric was putting on a special concert honoring David Bowie, right after Bowie had died and they asked me if I was interested in singing for it and I told them yes because I was actually in town at that time. Due to extenuating circumstances that show didn't happen but it, sort of, brought us all together and that was really the true formation of Angels In Vein.
Eric, with everything going on with the Bowie show that you were looking to put together, was that your main focus at the time? What were you doing at the time when you got hooked up with everybody?
Eric Stacy: Yeah, basically I had been doing some shows out here since the end of last year with my own guitar player called the Vegas All-Stars and there was a lady out here that was promoting all the shows so when Bowie passed away in January I went to her and said, "It'd be really cool if we could do a Bowie memorial show." We'd get a bunch of rock stars up there and everybody could do a song or two and we'll also have a main band that would learn all the tunes. I went to her with the idea and she loved it and said go with it so basically I was trying to put a core band together to learn all the songs because Bowie's songs are definitely not easy songs and we had to learn like twenty-seven of them. I had been in a band in 2000, 2001with Stacey and Vik Foxx (drums) called Supercool so I had Stacey do this core band thing with me and we went to Vik and Vik was interested and then we needed a singer and Stacey said, "I know Chris VanDahl." I asked if he would be interested and we talked to him and he yes and he was in town and wants to do some songs with us. So, that was as core as the core band got for doing that show and like Chris said due to extenuating circumstances the show got postponed and didn't happen but that was how we all came together. So, indirectly, David Bowie is responsible for Angels In Vein.
How did Troy (Patrick Farrell, drums) get picked up and brought into the fold?
Chris: Troy? Oh, the drummer, the blonde guy.
Eric: The blonde chick.
Chris: He's hot and we needed someone in the band who was good looking. What happened was Eric brought in Vik Foxx from Enuff Z'Nuff to do the gig and he was committed to it and we had scheduled a video shoot for what we had planned to be the first single and that's a whole other part of the conversation but Vik was on board to do the band and at the last minute, right before he was supposed to come down to do this, he had a situation arise in his life that he had to take care of and it called him out of the country. He called us and said, "Guys, I'm really, really sorry. I can't do this but what do you think of Troy Patrick Farrell?" and they're friends so essentially Vik suggested his own replacement. Come to find out that Eric had been thinking about Troy for quite a while already for this gig so we called Troy up and he tours with Gilby Clarke from Guns N' Roses and he had just gotten home from a run and was available. he checked it out, love what we were doing and said, "I'm in!" and that's how he became part of the band.
Well, I certainly hope that whatever called away Vik went as well as possible.
Chris: Well, we don't know. Nobody's heard from him since then. We sent out people looking but so far nothing. [Chuckles] No, no. It wasn't the kind of thing that was life-threatening but it was important enough to him that he had to take care of it and we understand. That's how life is, family first.
Eric: There was no hard feelings. He had a family call and it's all good like Chris said. It's weird because I had jammed with Troy, years ago, in this LA jam band called Happenin' Harry and the Haptones so I'd known Troy for a long time. I had actually talked to Troy about doing the Vegas All-Stars last year so we were always in touch and would always talk about doing something so the night that Vik sent out a big, group text to me, Chris and Stacey at 1:30 in the morning I was thinking, "Oh, shit! I've got to get in touch with Troy." and I read further on in the text message to where it said, "But, my buddy out in Vegas, Troy Patrick Farrell might be perfect for the job." and there it is.
I know that you've commented on this but when I found out about your band and started reading about the formation I was super excited because I very familiar with all of your respective catalogs and bodies of works with not only L.A. Guns but Faster Pussycat and White Lion because I am a fan and a member of that scene. My biggest issue with what I was reading was everything I read, whether it was press release or just an article, kept referring to you guys as a "super group" which I couldn't stand because to me a "super group" could be over in a week. I wanted this to be a band but you all have these respective pedigrees so what's you take on the whole "super group" talk?
Chris: We're sitting here laughing because we saw this around the corner.
Eric: We knew the words you were going to use.
Of course, I know.
Chris: Here's the thing because you pretty much nailed it on the head. We think it's great, we love it, we're happy to embrace it if that's what the fans want to call it but as far as the press and the media and us personally, we don't look at it that way. We look at ourselves as a band. You know what I mean? We love what we're doing, we love each other but we want to move this thing forward and while we're not ashamed or embarrassed of our past, everyone in this band has done some pretty great things and they have every right in the world to be proud of, we're not leaning on our pasts either, it's not a crutch. It's not really what we want anyone to be focused on. So the term "super group" just like you pointed out has a real "temporary" feeling to it. Joe Perry and Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper that's a "super group." At the end of the day, Alice is Alice, Joe is going back to Aerosmith and Johnny's going to go do Edward Scissorhands Part 2, I'm making that up, I don't know if that's true but it's a good idea. None of us want anybody to get the idea that we're going to disband over night.
The other question we get a lot is, "Is this a real band?" It's absolutely a real band. This isn't something we through together with the intention of doing a money grab or giving people the impression of, "Hey look, this guy's in this band, that guy's in that band." It doesn't matter. What matters is what we're doing now. The music is there and the guys in this band were chosen for just the reason you think when you see a picture of the band. You've got five really, well four really cool dudes and me. [Laughs] They're killer at what they do and there's chemistry, man and that's the most important thing.
Eric: And another this, this might sound a bit naive but when we were putting the band together and I was talking to Stacey about doing that whole Bowie thing and when this thing fell into place I never saw it coming together as a super group. I was like, "OK, Stacey plays guitar, I play bass. OK, we need a singer, well there's Chris. We need another guitar player, well Chris has got this guy Taz. We need a drummer, well me and Stacey played with Vik and Vik was gonna do this Bowie thing. Hey, that makes five, that's a band.
Chris: We just look at each other as the guy on my left or the guy on my right and that's my bro. So again, it's great. People are going to call us what they want to all day long but at the end of the day, what we are and we become, that's up to the fans.
You've recently just released "No One Gets Out Alive" as your first full single for people to download, correct?
Chris: Technically...you're right but it's a pre-single. We call it that because the original single that was slated to be released was a song called "1973" and "1973" we intended to release it with the video in the beginning July sometime. But, so many people were so hungry for something and demand for this thing blew up so quick we were really surprised by it. So, we decided that we needed to put something out now so the fans and people that were interested realized that this wasn't about image, it wasn't about selling something. The band looks cool and there are T shirts available and you should definitely go buy a T shirt because you'll be the coolest kid on your block, ya know and I'm making joke out of it but the truth of the matter is, we didn't intend to release "No One Gets Out Alive" as quickly as we did but we listened to what the people are saying and the fans were like, "We want something now!" So, we made the executive decision, as a group, to pre-release "No One Gets Out Alive" before "1973." "1973" will be out sometime in mid July with a video.
I remember you guys talking about the song "1973" as part of the trailer you put out a while ago and with the release of "No One Gets Out Alive" I thought that song killed.
Eric: It's actually funny that you said that about the trailer because that's, kind of, another reason why "No One Gets Out Alive" was released. The song on the trailer was "No One Gets Out Alive" but because the trailer said, "Coming soon...1973 video" a lot of people just assumed that what they were hearing was the song "1973." So, that's kind of, another reason for the pre-released single. To give people what they wanted, music but to clarify that what they were hearing was not "1973" it's "No One Gets Out Alive."
Chris: It might have been a little confusing but the press actually ran with that. They were like, "New teaser clip, "1973" and we were like, "No!" [Laughs] That might have been a judgement error on our part, using that as a background clip but, in any event, it all worked out real well because it seems like people are pretty responsive to the song.
With the first two songs you're releasing, you have definitely set fans up to get excited about new music. With the thirteen songs that you and Taz already and rocking for this project, do you have a rough time frame for an album or is it more about making sure the gears are turning and everything's clicking for everyone?
Chris: Well, let me clarify something first. Taz sent me thirteen songs, they didn't all end up being Angels In Vein tunes. That was just how things got rolling. We had about half a record or so when everyone else came on board but everybody is contributing, this is a band record. So, from that point forward it was a collective effort and even moving backwards, everybody has their ideas and their input so we're writing as a group. As far as a time frame...you want to field this, Eric?
Eric: One the great things about Angels In Vein is we don't really have any rules or any restrictions on when something's going to come out or what's going to come out. We're, kind of, doing what feels good and what feels right for us and so, we're focusing on putting out a single and a video for "1973" and we actually did two videos that day. We also did a second video for what will probably be the followup single to "1973," "With Me Tonight" so we have a couple videos in the can and there will be a couple singles with videos that will come out. We just released "No One Gets Out Alive" and what we do beyond that or if it comes out as a record, a full-length record or an EP, kind of, just remains to be seen at this point. We never sat down and said, "OK, this is what we're going to do on this day" or anything like that. We're, kind of, just going with what feels good. We're still constantly writing and we're still constantly feeling each other out as a band. This all happened really quick so we, literally, had this all happen in the last five or six weeks. It's, kind of, mind boggling how much stuff has really, actually happened in such a short period of time.I know there is going to be a good amount of music for fans. By the end of this year, there will definitely be a good amount of music out there for the fans to have and enjoy. How that gets to them is anybody's guess at this point.
When you guys collect the kind of buzz that you guys collected in such short notice, do you ever take a second to sit back and look at each other and say, "We've made the right decision. Lets rock out!"?
Chris: We've been collecting buzzes for thirty years. [Laughs]
Eric: [Laughs] Causing buzzes is not a problem here.
I can't argue that point.
Chris: I guess the question, in a nutshell, is, "Did you see this coming?" No. You do the best work you possibly can. You want to create something you love yourself because how can anyone else love it or get behind it if you don't. You put it out there and you see what happens and I think the timing for this band is perfect, man. I think the response is due in parts to the fact that the general public what's a really bad ass, hard rock band. It's been really diluted, man. Hasn't it?
Eric: It has.
Chris: There hasn't been anybody for people to really get behind. There's always exceptions to the rule. You've got your Dave Grohl's and he's a bad ass but as far as the rock and roll whole package, you have Sixx:A.M. that's just come out. They've been doing stuff. They're a great band. I don't know, I think it's just time and I think the response is in accordance with that. Personally, we're like, "Hell Yeah!" We wanted it. Eric and I talked about this. If I was fifteen years old and I heard this band for the first time, I'd be all over it. I'd be drawing the logo on my notebook if I went to school. And, that's the band I think we are. That's the band we want to be.
Eric: That's the best barometer for what feels right. When we look at what we're recording and what we're doing on video, that's the best barometer. You can look at that as a fan, step outside the band and go, "As a rock and roll fan, that's the kind of band I grew up digging." Whether it was Aerosmith or The Stones or Cheap Trick or Kiss, they all had a killer visual package and a great sound. Together it just made a great package and I think this band has a great package. Chris has a great package, no doubt about it. [Laughs]
Chris: The point is we have fun, man.
Eric: But, it's also what Chris said. It's also a response to what's out there in the rock and roll business right now. There hasn't been a lot of cool stuff out there for so long that I think that's why people latched on to us so quickly is because they're so starved for something really cool and we're gld we can fill that void and I think that's why there's that big buzz going on.
Chris: The great thing, I think, is because we can back it. We were getting a lot of, "OK, we've seen the pictures. We've seen the logos. Where's the music?" Now, we've actually released something and the feedback that's coming back's been killer, man.
Eric: It's killer and it's scary to think that we as a band thought "1973" was the first release so to us "No One Gets Out Alive" is a great song but as a band that wasn't the first thing we chose to release as a single. So, that just tells you how we feel about what we're doing. Like, if you like "No One Gets Out Alive" wait until what we've chosen for the followup single in "1973."
We're definitely stoked for the music coming out and I can speak for myself that I can't wait for you to hit the road so I can see the collective package.
Chris: Us too.
Eric: Thanks, man.
Chris: We're looking at it, we're looking at it.
Eric: We'll be out there. We're not exactly sure when but it will definitely happen sooner rather then later.
Eric, Chris thank you so much for letting me set this up with you. It was really great.
Chris: Thank you, brother.
Eric: Right on, man.