Greg Chaisson was talking with Greg Marra for the Iconaclast Music Podcast recently and while discussing the excellent new Album from Kings Of Dust which is out today, the conversation naturally turned to Badlands.
Badlands were a phenomenal band who, from 1988-1991, lit up the Heavy Metal world at a time when grunge was at the fore. Featuring the massive talents of Jake E Lee, Greg Chaisson, Ray Gillen and Jeff Martin (who replaced Eric Singer after he joined Kiss), they produced two studio albums and while a great creative unit, it was a flagship for Lee in his shredding prime.
Famously, they completed a six week tour of the UK having previously held a public spat in the Heavy Metal News of the day. The plan was to replace Gillen before the tour with Debby Holiday on vocals, but history suggests that promoters enforced the contract, so the 1991 Gillen fronted gig at The Astoria happened and was aired on BBC Radio One to boot.
Almost arguing on stage (at one point Jake wore a pair of socks, pretending they were sent from Eddie Van Halen as a dig a Gillens news quotes) it was an exhilarating gig.
Chaisson says “No matter what was going on in the dressing room, or what arguments we might have had in the bus, or whatever, and the English tour is well documented, it was pretty contentious. We never failed to produce on stage and I’m proud of that. That was the last show we ever did.”
It was a thundering show with all four musicians working to the full.
Chaisson continued “Regardless of how it ended, if Ray had stayed alive, in my opinion, I do believe that Jake, Ray and I would have done something, probably multiple somethings. There was just something happening when Jake and Ray played together and there was something happening when I played in that musical setting as well and I don’t think that’s duplicated very easily.”
While “Badlands” and “Voodoo Highway” have been out of print for a number of years, the recordings are still sought after, especially the vinyl versions. However, there is nothing on the radar for another release by the record company, even though Chaisson has demos and original songs never heard before.
As for the Kings Of Dust album, it really is a thing of beauty. Harking back to a 70/80’s style, the mix favours bass to the one ear, guitar to the other, with solos, drums and vocals sitting nicely in the middle.
From the opening bars of ‘Like An Ocean’, with its stomping bass and great chorus, you get a feeling of what the album will do for you. The track might be borrowed liberally from ‘No One Came’ by Deep Purple, but it is used as an inspiration and not the driving force for the song. The song flows nicely with a great tempo and any Metal fan should be able to spot the trio of nods to Woman From Tokyo, Immigrant Song and Iron Man at the end.
‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ is another standout track. From the opening riff, bass and guitar work gloriously in unison and vocalist Michael Thomas Beck shines.
‘My Piece Of Mine’ follows immediately and while at face value it is a ballad, there is a much, much more to it. Ryan McKay launches into a closing solo, with the band shifting up and down a tone, to finish the piece off with a beautiful energy.
‘Ugly’, with its elements of up-tempo Led Zeppelin, allow McKay to shine again over Jimi Taft’s solid drumming and Greg Chaissons tube screaming bass.
There should be a big mention also for ‘A Little Bit Of Insanity’, the track dedicated to Jake E Lee.
Recorded live in the studio, with no overdubs, the intention was to take the vibe that Badlands had when they played ‘High Wire’ live – research the live ending to the song.
One take shit or bust.
No rehearsal. Minimal planning. No overdubs.
Get it right first time, or bin it.
But listen to the wonderful playing from former guitarist Michael Arms. That is how you play a wah.
This is a Kings Of Dust album, but given Greg Chaisson’s history and style of playing, comparisons with Badlands are easy meat. But you can hear the influence Chaisson had on writing and contributing to all these great songs from both bands.
It is a superb album, of diverse and exciting songs and deserves to be played loud and in its entirety.
Imagine a tour with Kings Of Dust and Red Dragon Cartel…… I am salivating at the thought.
The Podcast is available below. If you like to hear your heroes talking in technical detail, then it is an enlightening listen.
Greg Marra is a Los Angeles based producer and the guitarist and vocalist for the bands Plenty Heavy and The Fess Up.
Endorsed by Sully Guitars, Fishman Pickups, Victory Amplifiers, The String Source, Punch Pedals and Chromacast Accessories, Marra is a also the host of the Iconoclast Music Podcast with over 70 episodes including the who’s who in the music industry and tens of thousands of listeners.
If you are a musician, or interested in the workings of the music industry, then subscribe as it is a very interesting resource.