Red Dragon Cartel's Anthony Esposito

By Jay Oakley

How did the end of the tour wrap up?

It was alright. It was the end of the tour, it was pretty much over with the singer which went kind of weird but it was good, I guess. Knoxville, Nashville and Little Rock were all good shows, they were fun.

How's everything going in preparation for going over to Japan?

We're going to Vegas to rehearse for two days then we'll play LA at The Rainbow Labor Day Barbecue. We'll play outside on a stage they'll have built, then we go back to Vegas for two more days, then we go to San Jose and then we go to Japan. So we have two shows in California before we head to Japan.

I've never played with Darren (Smith) yet, I mean I'm sure it will be pretty easy to have him step right back in.

When it comes to the singer situation, how did that really go? When I talked to Jake (E. Lee) at the show (Fish Head Cantina in Halethorpe, Maryland) he was pretty up front about this whole "using different singers thing" was kind of a plan.

Yeah, we never used different singers. That's the whole misconception. None of those guys were ever in the band. They basically had a shot to audition and we kind of wanted to see what people would be like 24/7. When you audition someone at rehearsals they come in for an hour, they sing the songs and that's it but when you're on a bus with someone for twenty-four hours you really get to know them. Then it's also how they interact with the crowd, with the songs, how they act on stage and there's all these other intangibles that come in to play. We had dates booked and we're like, "OK, lets go five, six shows with a guy at each one and see how it works out so none of them were ever in the band, we never made a band announcement saying, "This is my guy."

Alright, I think that's definitely were the misconception was because it seemed like you had this guy who didn't work so let's try this guy and then he didn't work out so I think that's where all the talk started happening and people wondering why it seemed like you guys just couldn't keep a singer.

Yeah, ya know Greg (Chaisson)  brought in one guy and then management brought in another guy and Jonas (Fairley), the drummer, brought in one guy and then I had known one guy so I brought him in to do a couple shows so were were just going by people telling us that we should try this guy out and try that guy out and we had dates booked because we were fulfilling all the cancellation dates from previous tours, when the booking agent over booked the tours and some shows Jake had to cancel because of his back so we decided to do a trial by fire and see how these guys work out. We'd do one or two rehearsals and we'd just go for it and see how they sound.

I mean, the people that come to see us, come to see Jake. They're not really coming to see who's singing, ya know what I mean? The lion-share of the people want to see Jake play again because it's been so long. No one complains at the shows about why this guy sang and not this guy because it's all about Jake. It's basically a solo thing, it's not even a band.

I gotcha man. With the footage of the singers I saw and then seeing all of you perform with Shawn Crosby, I liked Shawn and I thought he fit well for your band. I wasn't personally super stoked on Darren but with him coming back into the band and the set up for a new record, I'm interested to see how that plays out now that some time has passed.

Well, I don't think Jake is 100% sold on him doing the record either. That's Jake's call, Jake's band, Jake's decision and I think he just wanted to bring Darren back into the fold because he believes Darren was better then any of the other guys that came after him. I believe that he just wants to see. He just wants some one to came in and make him go, "Wow! That's the guy!" and nobody has done that. They all have their good points, they all have their bad points but nobody has come in and grabbed the fucking bull by the horns and been that front man.

Look, Jake played with Ozzy Osbourne and Ray Gillen, those are tough shoes to fill and to come into a band that is pretty much a solo band situation with a phenomenal guitar player so it's not an easy job to be a front man in that situation. We want some who's ballsy enough and talented enough to fucking just blow us away and nobody has. It's really been agreed upon by everyone involved that they aren't the guys. It hasn't been Jake coming to us asking what we think about this guy. It never even came to that. It was always decided that after this run we'll get somebody else. It was never clear cut that anyone was "The Guy."

I can understand that and appreciate it too. Again, Jake was very open when I talked to him about liking the idea of using different singers. But, also having such a high-profile rock guy like Jake and having different guys coming in and out of the band, people talk. It's kind of the headache of the business, I guess.

Well, Jonas has been there since day one. As far as the bass playing goes, he had Ron (Mancuso) and there were other issues involving that. I don't think Jake every really wanted Ron to be the touring bass player and that just ended up working out that way. Then Jake got Greg and Greg's a phenomenal, a great, talented bass player but it worked out that his personal life didn't leave room for him to do this. So, he left under his own accord because of his life and that's just the situation on that and that's when I got the call to come in and play so it's just been the singer issue.

Everything else has been pretty normal like in other bands but it just seems to be that and we appreciate all the attention we get, we love it. It's great to see these magazines and people posting and caring, even if it's negatively because they're still interested in what we do which we think is amazing and we're lucky that people even talk about it because there's so many bands out there touring and nobody cares. It just seems that every move we make is being commented on and scrutinized and don't get us wrong because we appreciate the concern by everyone out there.

Since you've been in the band, how do you feel? Are you happy? Do you enjoy playing?

Oh my God, I love it! For the core pack of people that make up Red Dragon Cartel, that's the management, tour management, techs and band members, top to bottom, I love them like family. It's great, I've never been around a greater group of people who are really caring and considerate of each other and it trickles down from Jake. Jake's an amazing boss to work for, apart from his talent which is obvious, he's a phenomenally, amazing human being. He's a person I'm lucky to have in my life and top to bottom everyone around him, it's just so much fun. I love playing music as well. That's the bonus because I get to hang out with these people and travel the world, enjoy life with them and then for an hour or two I get to go on stage ad play some great songs. It's a great situation, I really enjoy it and I'm really looking forward to making a new album and being a part of something that will be out there for ever.

There was one other thing I wanted to touch on. When you and I talked at the show, we talked for a while and one of the things we talked about was your relationship with the guys in Lynch Mob. Would you talk a little bit about what you wanted to do in regards to the Wicked Sensation album?

It's the twenty-fifth anniversary of Wicked Sensation this year and I figure what better timing to do something with the band. I wanted to put the original band back together, go into the studio, record a new album with producer Max Norman and then tour the world once. One time with the original lineup and just do songs off the first album and songs off the new album. Everybody was gung-ho and excited about it except George (Lynch) for whatever reason he had. I don't really know what it was. I just know that he shot it down immediately, he wasn't interested. I talk to Oni (Logan), I talked to Robert (Mason) a lot, I talk to Mick (Brown) occasionally and I very rarely talk to George. Maybe once or twice a decade. [Laughs] But, that's just the way it worked out, I guess.

After your run in Japan, what do you have planned?

We'll, I think we're going to regroup. [Laughs] I know for sure we're going to start working on new music. Jake's got a lot of ideas and I think he just wants to get into a room with me and Jonas and start flushing out some of these ideas that he's got in his head for these new songs. No idea who's going to be singing on it as far as that goes but Jonas is a very talented singer in his own right. Talented enough that if we need to lay down some scratch-melody ideas and what not Jonas could completely, complete that task. So we're going to start writing because the label's pretty much riding our butts about when are they getting a new record but we've been trying to hash out the singer thing so I think we're going to kind of go ahead without a singer and who knows maybe Darren comes and blows us away and that would be the end of that but I know that definitely the three of us are going to start working on something when we get back.

Anthony, I don't want to hold you up to much from your day but it's great getting to talk to you and I appreciate you letting me set this up with you.

Yeah, my pleasure, anytime. Like I said, we're really happy and we definitely realize the blessing of people caring about what we're doing. It may seem at times like we're going through rocky times and trying to figure stuff out but in the big picture it's all about putting together that lineup that we see and hear and feel and making a record that we're really proud of. The end result will definitely pay the dividends. [Laughs] As we're going through these trials and tribulations.