Vince Gilbert, Keyboards, Interview, D’Priest, SIN, Jag Wire, Badaxxe, Rise
SIN, Jag Wire, D’Priest, Rise, The Cult
FIB MUSIC: What’s new?
Vince: I just finished developing a brand new media format that is being tested as we speak.
FIB MUSIC: What’s in your future?
Vince: My oldest daughter is a singer, and a good one. I would love to do an album of classic blues songs, some swing and some original soul stuff with her. My dad who made dozens of blues recordings heard her and commented “that girl can sing”, and from him that was saying a lot. Also one grandson is a really talented DJ. Love to collaborate there as well.
FIB MUSIC: Are you still playing keyboards?
Vince: Yeah, but not out. I check to see whether or not I’ve still got chops. I’ve continued in music in other ways too, not long ago I worked for a company that developed online music teaching programs and we would jam, and my company has been working on a new media format for delivering music securely.
FIB MUSIC: How did you end up playing keyboards?
Vince: My father was a professional swing and Jazz musician (trumpet), so I started reading music before I could read words. Originally I played trumpet as well, but 2 things made trumpet a problem for me as a kid. (1) I wore braces, and (2) I ended up in a lot of fights. So the inside of my lips looked like hamburger a great deal of the time. I played some piano as well as Trumpet (Classical piano) and at some point I switched focus. I played drums for a while in there as well (Actually still read drum music), but after hearing Jon Lord I decided to play keyboards full time. My first electric keyboard was a Vox Jaguar organ, which was the junior version of the Vox Continental, and had reversed keys. (White keys were black, black keys were white) I had a friend in high school that had a Mini moog which he graciously let me borrow, and I started learning about synths on that.
FIB MUSIC: What are 3 high points and 3 low points of your career?
Vince: The high point and low point were both the same thing. On the D’Priest tour, a beef with the company that leased the tour bus led them to seize the bus. So we were stranded in New Orleans with no ride, and all of our possessions behind a fence and locked gate. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, they sell alcohol from stands that look like Baskin Robbins. You go in, order a 32oz Hurricane (Or other drink), and walk out onto the street. So after a few trips to the ‘drink stand’, I found myself on Bourbon Street. There was a section roped off, and a blues combo playing there in the street. Don’t ask me how or why, but the guy playing piano motioned me to sit in, and I did. I think we played St James infirmary blues. I remember thinking at the time, wow Im playing with a blues combo on Bourbon St in New Orleans…. that was the high and low point of my career. Other high points….the first time I played an arena, listening to the Leslies sound as if they were spinning around this vast empty space. I auditioned for Alice Cooper, and after playing ths songs on the new album, he asked me If I wanted to do anything else, and we jammed on Eighteen. Definite high point. As for other low points, sounds hokey but I try and see things for what they are, not necessarily “low” or “high”.
Tom Araya (Slayer)
FIB MUSIC: You went to high school with Tom Araya of Slayer. What was he like at that time? I remember seeing somewhere that he was voted class clown….Kind of weird for someone who ended up leading one of the world’s most ‘evil’ bands.
Vince: Funny, from what I remember of Tom he was polite and seemed quiet, someone you would describe as a nice guy. Dave Richards [Azra records] was the one that showed me a copy of their first album as I remember, but I don’t know much about them other than that they did well. I’ve never heard a band being characterized as “evil” before. Labels yes, but not bands [Laughs]
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about a time when you guys crossed paths.
Vince: Our guitar player [Rise] at the time bought a Marshall head off of one of their guitar players as I remember, and we went over to their rehearsal studio to pick it up. I remember thinking that their place was like a mansion compared to our place. If I remember right it was a garage that faced a fairly large street that was nicely lit. I remember thinking they had a far lower chance of getting murdered while they rehearsed than we did. Something that you thought about in our neighborhood [Laughs]. Seriously we had people break in while we were rehearsing more than once. But other than that no, not really.
FIB MUSIC: Are you surprised that he has been in a successful band for more than 30 years?
Vince: Funny, our little school has produced quite a few celebrities, and probably more than its fair share of known musicians. My dad was in a school band at Bell with a guy named Stan Kenton, who went on to make a huge name for himself, so no reason why not!
FIB MUSIC: Have you ever talked to Tom since high school?
Vince: No, our paths never crossed after school.
FIB MUSIC: You also went to high school and played in a band with Kery Doll. What was it like working with him?
Vince: Kery was a drummer at the time, and a good one. Hard hitter. He ended up handling the vocals because neither Mike [guitar player] or I could sing at all. Dedicated musician, plus he had a really good working knowledge of the industry and a knack with merchandise.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us a little about your band that you had with Kery.
Vince: The band was called Rise, and it was three piece but a little out of the ordinary. Drums Guitar and keyboards, whereas usually you see drums keyboards and bass. We had a Guitar player named Mike Griffith, and later added a rhythm guitar, Tom Machingo. You can still find copies of the single, and I just found a 1/4 inch master that has songs on it that never saw the light of day. You can still find the single for sale. It was at that time that I started putting together the type of rig that I would have most of my time playing, basically some type of Hammond, some type of piano, and whatever synth was making the “sounds of the day”. At this time it was a Hammond M3, and a Wurlitzer electric piano, some funky string synth, a mini moog and an ARP Axxe. We were unique as we were (as far as I know) the only power trio in the world ever to have this line-up. Keys, guitar, and drums. Kery did all of the vocals, and I played bass with my left hand. Most bands at that time with keyboards did more ELP, or Yes influenced stuff, but we were definitely metal.
FIB MUSIC: What did you do after Rise broke up?
Vince: After RISE broke up, I went on the road with a club band (back when you could make a living as a musician, I was making $300 a week in 1978! Man that was HUGE money back then.) After that I was back ion Los Angeles and formed another band called Ripper with some other guys from Bell. Namely a guitar player named Brian Gormon, and a bass player named Phil Salvail. Phil is still playing, and I understand his current band rocks. We went on the road with a drummer from Georgia that I had met while on the road, and played the east coast club circuit for a while. This ended and we headed back to L.A. (It was on the way back to L.A. that I met Ron Keel). This was in Nashville I think. After returning to L.A. Brian and I decided to go to Phoenix instead where he had been living. Thats how I ended up playing for a club band there called BadAxxe. They had a huge following in the area. Good band (plus once again I was employed.) There were some other guys there at the time including Jason Newsted (Flotsam & Jetsam, later Metallica). Badaxxe ended up coming to Hollywood to record a single which was donethrough Dave Richards at Azra Records. Never released that I know of. Had a guitar player named Dave Boerst that was another monster. Anyway somewhere around 81 or 82, I came back to Hollywood looking for a Gig. I met a girl named Mimi Solomon through a mutual friend and she introduced me to some of the guys that were just starting to break, including Nikki Sixx, and Rik Fox.
FIB MUSIC: Band Association. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Vince: London is an institution. Like the Rock & Roll nebula from which stars are born. When you talk London you have to talk lineups and eras I think, but I don’t think there was a bad lineup.
Vince: Great band. I actually met Ron in Nashville before they came out to Los Angeles, again very personable guy. Voice that could shatter glass as I remember.
Vince: Great band, Ronnie was definitely a monster guitar player. Probably didn’t get the recognition that he deserved as a player in the general press. We had a band together with Joey C, Robin Kroft, JoJo (drums) that never got to the point where we played out. Too bad, it was a great line-up, and the catalog of songs we wrote was what rock became in a few years.
Vince: I actually had the opportunity to audition for Lita. Extremely nice, and very professional. I was sorry that I didn’t get the callback.
Vince: Despite all the crap that has been published over the name ‘SIN’, when the band was first started here in L.A., I couldn’t imagine a name that fit less. We never had a single Drugs, Sex and Rock & Roll anthem song, and the band really didn’t fit that mold. I think the Angel comparisons were overblown in some circles as well. Howard was a monster and went on to prove that. I think that everyone from that original lineup went on to do bigger things.
Vince: Good band as I remember. I still have flyers!
Vince: Great band. Another one that didn’t exactly fit the mold.
Vince: I remember hearing the first album and thinking how different they were. Of course that Genre really took off.
Speaking generally on those days, it was a nexus. Like Liverpool in the 60’s or Paris in the 1920’s and 1930’s. There was a definite sound, and a definite….feel, and an energy that happens every so often and makes one place and time an artistic hotspot. I like to think that I got to hang out with the Picasso and Goyas of an age. No doubt people might think that’s an overstatement, but that music is still being played on mainstream radio and that’s one of the criteria for great art. Is it still being enjoyed by successive generations, By the 80’s if you wanted to hear Elvis, you had to find an ‘oldies’ station. I hear Motley Crue every day on regular rock radio. It’s unfortunate that whenever they do a retrospect on those days, the “Drugs, Sex and Rock & Roll” stories are all that they focus on, and so the real flavor of the times is lost.
(L-R) Carl James, Vince Gilbert, Rik Fox, Howard Drossin, Art Deresh
FIB MUSIC: You played in a version of the band SIN with Rik Fox. How long were you in the band?
Vince: 2 or 3 years I guess.
FIB MUSIC: Any good Rik Fox stories come to mind?
Vince: Not really, I am sorry that he seems to have come away with so many negative feelings.
FIB MUSIC: Are there any SIN shows that stand out? You guys seemed to be quite popular at the time.
Vince: We played an arena sized venue in Texas that was sold out, it was like 15,000 or so. I usually don’t like outside venues because your depending entirely on the monitor mix to get a sense of whats going on. The sound that your projecting just goes out and on forever, but this was a good show.
SIN – On the Run
FIB MUSIC: SIN Recorded the ‘On the Run’ single. What’s a good memory from that recording session?
Vince: Not many really.
FIB MUSIC: Where was it recorded? How long did it take to record?
Vince: A few days if I remember at a little 16 track studio in….I want to say Lakewood.
FIB MUSIC: What was it like working with Bill Metoyer?
Vince: As I remember he drove a 76 Trans am with a 455 Olds, and has a bumper sticker that reads “Cats flattened while you wait”? Great guy, great engineer. Really his credentials tell you all you need to know. Totally dry, hysterical sense of humor. I seem to remember him doing burnouts at 5:00AM, but that could be someone else.
FIB MUSIC: SIN did get signed but before recording the album, the band ousted Rik Fox. Why was he kicked out?
Vince: Contrary to other published versions, I was not the one that was responsible for Rik being fired, and I certainly did not lead any ‘coup’. In fact I fought the longest for him after certain issues were brought up while we were recording the demo, and they were brought up by production, not me. I remember actually going to Rik and asking him to work on the things that had been mentioned. I’m not going to say that they were correct points, or incorrect points, just that they came up.
FIB MUSIC: You changed the band name to Jag Wire and released one album, called ‘Made in Heaven’. How long did the band stay together after the album was released?
Vince: First, I’d like to clear up a mystery that I’ve seen brought up about the name Jag Wire and where it came from. Sorry to disappoint, but its not that mysterious. Hangover-induced, semi-literacy makes “Jaguar = Jag Wire” [Laughs]. Our manager at the time, Keith Dyson liked it, and it stuck. He had a point, it definitely stuck out from the rest of the bands that were playing in L.A at the time. I’d say the band was defunct by ’87 or so?
FIB MUSIC: Any good stories come to mind from those recording sessions?
Vince: Might have been that session, or it might have been a later one, but there was a point where I was doing a solo, and after 30 takes it became apparent that not only was I not coming any closer to nailing it, I was actually getting worse. Finally the producer hits the talk back and says drily, “Look, I don’t care if you hit the white keys, or the black keys, just stop playing in the cracks [between them]. HYSTERICAL. Come to think of it, that might have been a later session because it seems like that it was John Graves saying that. He was our live engineer and later started mixing and producing in the studio.
FIB MUSIC: Did you tour at all?
Vince: No “Tour” per se. We did Ad Hoc shows all over, but no real tour developed.
FIB MUSIC: Where was it recorded? How long did it take?
Vince: That was Track Record I believe. Maybe a week?
FIB MUSIC: What was the recording budget?
Vince: I have no idea, but probably more than a lot of semi-indies.
FIB MUSIC: What did you think about the final product?
Vince: Killed in the Mix. (No offense to Liam Stermberg he’s obviously done terrific work) but its so wet it takes all the edge off. The song “Made in Heaven” could have been an AOR hit, but I think I overplayed the piano intro. The left hand is so busy, that it ends up sounding rushed, even though its on tempo for a ballad. Compare it to the intro to MOTLEY CRUE’S “Home Sweet Home”. Simpler, and a better rock ballad. May sound funny coming from the keyboard player, but on most speakers the guitars are too far down. [Speaker size makes a difference when listening to music back]
FIB MUSIC: How soon after the album was released did you part ways with vocalist Art Deresh? Why?
Vince: Art obviously had a powerful voice which is seen in the fact that he went on to do bigger things. It was a miserable decision since no one in the band had any ill feelings toward one or another but it had come down to changing the direction of the music to a style that better suited Art’s voice, or finding a singer that better suited what direction the songs seemed to be going in. Art was having throat issues from singing in the style that we were leaning towards, and we were in effect ruining a really talented singer by making him sing outside his range. I was really happy that he had the chance to show what he could really do finally. Great front man.
Jag Wire – Howard & Vince
FIB MUSIC: Why did Jag Wire break up?
Vince: Funny, I don’t think I can pinpoint a moment when we said ” we’re breaking up” more like drifted apart. Fairly soon after getting Robin Kroft on vocals, he left music entirely so we were without a vocalist. We never found a replacement, and with no money to rehearse and other problems we just faded.
FIB MUSIC: Keyboardist Association. Again, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Vince: Again, an undersung artist. When you think of songs like “Rainbow in the Dark” whats the first thing you think of? That iconic synth lick. Claude was the only other keyboard player that I knew that still used an actual Clavinet D6, and I remember him showing me a great technique. I was using the C3 to fill in what would be the rhythm guitar, (to me nothing sounds nastier than the C running through those 2 147’s), but Claude used the Clavinet and (I believe) actually ran it through Marshalls. Anyway it distorted beautifully and had a great percussive attack, and I borrowed that technique here and there. From what I hear Eddie van Halen used an old Wurlitzer piano (naturally the most distorted keyboard on the planet) to get the intro to “Cradle Will Rock”
Vince: The man. I had a few Greg Giuffria comparisons, but really my main influences were Jon Lord, and Rod Argent, those guys. Listen to the intro on “Space Truckin” then listen to the intro on “Perfect Strangers” THAT’S what rock keyboards should sound like.
Vince: Another one of my favorites. I heard an unsubstantiated rumor that he had come into one of the clubs where we were playing when he was with Rainbow, on a night when I was having a….. rough time. I don’t know if its true, but I heard that he left muttering “that guy is having a bad night” Again, don’t know if its true but it makes a great story.
John Paul Jones
Vince: Not really an influence, being more a bass player, but didn’t he do the keys on “No Quarter”, loved the Rhodes through the Leslie.
Vince: Definitely an early influence. Yes was known more for its ‘ethereal sounds than forceful rock, but listen to the solo in ‘Roundabout’. THAT SCREAMS.
Vince: Of course the prototypical “left hand bass” rock band. Ray used a Fender bass piano for their live stuff. When RISE figured out we weren’t going to find a bass player and it was suggested that I do the bass, I went back and listened to how Ray phrased the bass.
Vince: Had the privilege of seeing Keith Emerson live on 78 or so, and I was slightly taken aback when I realized he was playing more with his left hand than I was with both hands – Also heard Jimmy Smith and realized he was playing more with his FEET than I was with my hands [Laughs]
FIB MUSIC: Sam McCaslin, owner of Retrospect Records, has released countless bootleg cds without the permission of the musicians or the original record labels. He also re-released Jag Wire, Made in Heaven on cd. Did you or any band members ever give him permission to release it? Or did you ever receive any royalties for sales?
Vince: Never heard of that one, but I have thought about all of the internet and other sales that I was never paid for. That’s OK, I figure in my old age I’m just going to show up at their house and start sleeping on their couch. I figure I bought it (the couch), if not the house, I should get to sleep on it [Laughs]
FIB MUSIC: You played one show with the L.A. band, London (before you joined a later version), which at one time or another featured Nikki Sixx, Blackie Lawless, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Fred Coury, Nadir D’Priest and a bunch of others. What year was that? Who was in the lineup at that time? Does anything stand out from that show?
Vince: Actually had this conversation just the other day and we figured the lineup was Nigel Itson on drums, & Donnie Cameron on bass, Izzy on Guitar and Nigel Benjamin on vocals. Actually did three shows, and on the last one I tried to play a Jag Wire show and a London show on the same night. London went on late and I missed the Jag Wire show. I felt like a total shit so I apologize to fans and bandmates alike for that one.
D’Priest / London
FIB MUSIC: After years of trying to get a record deal, London was finally signed at the tail end of the 80’s. How did you end up joining the band?
Vince: I was at the Rainbow and Nadir and Krigger were sitting at a table. They asked me what I was doing, and I said nothing at all at the moment. They asked if I was interested, and I asked if there was a paycheck involved, and they asked me to join.
FIB MUSIC: Were you a part of the decision making process to change the name from London to D’Priest?
Vince: No. Ive heard people make snide comments about that being an ego driven decision, but that’s horseshit. That was a label decision and a good one.
FIB MUSIC: How was your overall experience with the band?
Vince: Best actually. Truly nothing but good things to say about that lineup, and that says a lot because the tail end of the tour was truly miserable. Fighting[est] band that ever came out of Hollywood, which is good when your talking about the intensity it takes to play rock.
FIB MUSIC: What was it like working with Nadir D’Priest?
Vince: Very professional and a great voice. Nadir has a natural whiskey voice that makes you think its found its upper range, then keeps going.
FIB MUSIC: Surely you have at least one classic Nadir story!!!
Vince: You bet! The problem is that Nadir has dozens of ‘great’ Vince stories [Laughs]
FIB MUSIC: What are some memories that stand out when you think back on the recording sessions for the D’Priest album ‘Playa del Rock’?
Vince: Really professional and straight forward actually.
FIB MUSIC: What was it like working with producer Richard Polodor?
Vince: Great. A lot of the keyboard tracks had already been laid by the time I was brought in, and If I’m not mistaken it was actually Richard who did the tracks. (Excuse me if I’ve gotten that wrong) Really I just came in and laid down the Organ stuff, and some piano.
FIB MUSIC: I couldn’t tell if that was you in the video for ‘Ride Me Through the Night’.
Vince: [Laughs] You know….my Mom said the same thing! “Why didn’t those guys let you be in the video more”….Kidding…..Yeah that’s me. Actually I’m in there in a couple of places. That’s me playing the keys, and when the bikes come onto the screen, I’m the guy farthest from the camera. That’s a custom Triumph Thunderbird that I built and it was the Fastest/ Ugliest bike ever conceived……Rumored to have smoked numerous Japanese café styled pretenders to the throne.
Stand out memories? Well since we filmed the bikes on a dry lake bed I found out just how fast that bike was, and I found out that only an idiot with insured kidneys rides a rigid frame bike on “wash board” desert roads.
FIB MUSIC: What kind of rig/setup were you using when you recorded and toured for that album?
Vince: Cut back to a single sided rig. I always have, and always will, to the end of time use the chopped B3 or chopped C3 (once chopped pretty much the same animal). I prefer 147’s to 122’s [Leslies] because I think they have a warmer distortion at lower volumes. I’ve seen people drive the Leslies with Marshalls and other amps but really it doesn’t sound any dirtier than the Leslie tube amp. I’ve had dozens of guys come up and say, “Hey, you’ve got to hear this [latest new thing] It sounds ALMOST like a Hammond”, and I’ve always had the same answer, “you got to hear THIS thing, it sounds just like a Hammond” [Laughs] I had an M3 on top of that, and a DX7 on top of that. I also had a rack mount sampler and some other stuff. I used the M3 to duplicate the acoustic parts live so Sean could play the lead guitar stuff. This was a real scale back from my earlier rigs. Speaking of those bigger rigs, to every guy who was stage right and had to open for us, I apologize. That keyboard rig was so unpopular with openers I’m lucky I didn’t get lynched! [Laughs]
FIB MUSIC: Who did the band tour with?
Vince: Actually headlining what would be an ad hoc tour. Everything from Arenas to backyard parties. The band adopted Anywhere Anytime as a motto, and stuck with it.
FIB MUSIC: What stands out when you reflect on that tour.
Vince: Topeka Kansas. The entire band, and I mean the entire band, got in a fight with an entire club. And I mean the ENTIRE club. You know those scenes in the western movie, where something triggers a fight, and all of a sudden everyone in the bar is fighting? Just like that. It was so bad, that I and our security guy fought our way to the front door, we found cops standing there, and the security guy yelled “why don’t you get in there”. The cop answered, “what are you kidding, I have a wife and kids” No Shit. It was so bad, that my keyboard roadie who was just getting to town, was in a cab and trying to find the venue, and the cabbie heard it on the police band and knew where to find us because of the “riot”. Our bus driver was a guy named Terry Tony, 7’3″ tall 300lbs, and we found him stuffed under a Volkswagon, Literally. The only way I knew it was him was because I recognized his Cowboy boots. Later we were in the hotel trying to figure out what this strange bruise on his back was, and one of those ‘whodunnit’ true detective shows came on with an identical bruise on a corpse. It was an old fashioned bumper jack . We had a roadie, a young guy called ‘Critter’. Lot of heart. For some reason he decided to ‘protect’ our head of security, so (as I heard it) he wrapped a belt around his fist and jumped in between the security guy and a bunch of “bar patrons” and Yelled “You don’t want any part of me”. We found him across the street laying there seeing his dead relatives coming to get him [Laughs]. Like I said, D’Priest was the fighting[est] band ever. Most other bands would have run.
FIB MUSIC: You also played with the Cult on tour. How did you get the gig?
Vince: They had called Claude Schnell but he was booked, so he suggested me.
FIB MUSIC: How long were you on tour with them?
Vince: The last month of one leg of the Sonic Temple Tour.
FIB MUSIC: Then you must have worked with Matt Sorum (Cult, Guns n Roses, Velvet Revolver), right?
Vince: Absolutely, great drummer. Real heavy hitter and a truly nice guy. Hysterical sense of humor. I think he might of felt I was nervous the first few nights going straight in with no rehearsal. So he broke the tension by throwing sticks at me all night – Up over his kit towards the side of the stage where I was set up – It worked and I managed to not throw up! I was truly a little freaked out at playing in front of that many people with no rehearsal.
FIB MUSIC: The Cult were huge at the time. How many people were you playing to a night?
Vince: Medium to large arenas, so 15000 to 25000 maybe?
FIB MUSIC: Did you guys hang with Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy backstage or did you have a separate dressing room?
Vince: There were 2 buses, which roughly equated to Billy’s bus and Ian’s bus, but I don’t really remember specifics about dressing rooms. We were opening for Metallica, and one night I remember seeing Jason backstage warming up. Talked a little bit about Phoenix, but most tours are a blur of buses, fuel stops, and food cooked on sterno.
FIB MUSIC: Was it fair game on the chicks, or did Astbury & Duffy get first dibs?
Vince: I mainly tried to pay attention to playing the songs. Big difference when your hired to play someone else’s stuff, than when your playing your own. Plus I had to go straight into the first show with no rehearsal. So no girls.
FIB MUSIC: If you had it to do all over again, during the same era, same mindset…..what would you do differently?
Vince: Music wise? Insist that they re-mix ‘Made in Heaven’.
THE FAST 5
FIB MUSIC: What is your most disgusting habit?
Vince: Disgusting to me, or others [Laughs]
FIB MUSIC: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Vince: Me and feminine behavior aren’t really concepts that you normally associate with one another [Laughs]
FIB MUSIC: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Vince: The almighty and I have remained tight over the years, so we’re pretty well caught up.
FIB MUSIC: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Vince: Can’t answer greatest, how about favorite? Shit, cant do that either, how about favorite(s)?
And many more….
FIB MUSIC: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Vince: Writing computer code that defines a brand new way of delivering music and video content over the Internet.