Badlands Bassist Greg Chaisson Interview – The full in bloom Podcast
The full in bloom interview with Badlands bassist Greg Chaisson is now available. LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW VIA THE CLIP ABOVE OR ON YOUTUBE.
An excerpt taken from the beginning of our interview has been transcribed below. You can listen to the entire interview via the embedded YouTube clip above or at this location. Check back for more video / transcribed excerpts from this interview.
full in bloom: Tell me about your new band, it’s Kings of Dust?
Greg Chaisson: Yeah, it’s called Kings of Dust. I’ve had the band for awhile. I actually had the band when I went out on the road with (Jake E. Lee’s) Red Dragon Cartel in 2014. But when I got sick and when I was doing all my cancer treatment and all that stuff, I just put it on hiatus. I really didn’t have the energy until probably last summer and by then we had changed drummers and guitar players. So, it’s me and the singer is Michael Beck, who was part of the Red Dragon Cartel cavalcade of singers when they went out in 2015, when they had singers that would do like two or three weeks with them. He was one of those guys…one of my best friends here in Phoenix. We write well together. So, it’s me and him…I have a drummer named Jimi Taft, excellent drummer. I always tell people, had Jake and I decided to do another band or another version of Badlands back when the band broke up, because we were talking about getting a new drummer and a new singer, Jimi would have been the guy, really great, versatile drummer. Then I got a young guy, a 26 year old guy plays guitar with us. His name is Michael Arms and he’s a really good guitar player. He’s a young guy but he’s got kind of an old soul. He has his finger on the pulse of a lot of ’70s music where a lot of my inspiration comes from when I’m writing. So, I’m pretty excited about it. They’re actually doing guitars this week. Bass and drums are done. They’ve been doing guitars all week and I think they’ll probably go until the middle of next week. Then I think they’ll start vocals or maybe solos, I don’t know what the plan is. I don’t go in to hear what they’re doing until they have enough stuff down for me to go yea or nay.
full in bloom: Something will be out a few months from now? What do you think?
Greg: Worse case scenario, early summer. The singer owns the studio so we have the luxury of unlimited studio time. That’s his full-time job, the studio, he’s always recording…and he also kind of works at one of the few studios in Nebraska. So, because he owns it, we took six days to do basic tracks. A lot of people go in and they only have two or three days. We’ve had no budget as far as the recording. So, I think late spring / early summer. I’ve had a number of smaller labels approach me about it but I haven’t even had a conversation with them. They’ve just sent me messages about it saying, ‘hey, we heard what you posted online.’ So, everyone seems to be pretty favorable. So, I’m looking forward to doing it.
full in bloom: Very cool. I’m assuming it’s rock n’ roll?
Greg: It’s very reminiscent, musically, of Badlands. That’s one of the things about Jake and I is I like the way that he writes. I kind of always wrote that way, too. So when we were doing Badlands I thought, ‘well, if I’m ever going to do something on my own I would probably stay on this kind of course.’ It’s not exactly like it but it’s got a lot of the same flavors that Badlands had. No one could replace Ray (Gillen), and Michael doesn’t sound anything like Ray, and I didn’t want anyone who sounded like Ray. In my mind, I haven’t heard anyone who does it right. I’ve heard a lot of guys who could hit the notes but it doesn’t sound like Ray. Ray had a certain tonality to his voice that I’ve never heard that many people do. The guy who sings with Jake now, Darren James Smith, I think he does a good job on the Badlands material. He doesn’t sound like Ray but he has a certain Ray-like quality that I really like. I mean, Oni Logan could get a little of that going on and Robert Mason does a good job with it. If I was going to say, ‘hey Jake, let’s put Badlands back together and get one of these guys,’ that would make sense. But for what I’m doing, I don’t want to have too close of a comparison to what Badlands did, other than the fact that I happen to write the same kind of music that Jake does. But I don’t want a Jake E. Lee clone, and I don’t even know if there is one. I don’t want a Ray Gillen clone. So, I wanted it to have its own qualities as well. I think I’ve achieved that, I’m pretty happy with it.
full in bloom: Are you guys gigging?
Greg: No, we’ve never done a gig. Once we’re done with the record, and once we see what’s going to happen, I’m sure we’ll gig locally. I’m obviously not looking to go on a three month tour or anything like that. I have commitments here at the store that I have. But I could see where maybe we could go out on some weekend stuff. We’re all looking forward to playing. We all have connections. As a matter of fact, Red Dragon Cartel just played here on Sunday and we got offered to open the show and I turned it down.
full in bloom: And you guys turned it down?
Greg: Yeah, I turned it down. I didn’t want to do it because I haven’t actually seen Jake, except one time, since 2014. I didn’t want to be distracted doing a gig, having to get our equipment torn down. I just wanted to spend the time and just kind of hang out and watch their show. I ended up going up to play a song; he called me up to play a song. I went up and played “High Wire.” There’s a video of it on YouTube I’m told. That was real fun. My wife and kids were there, so they got to watch me go up and do that. The response was real nice.
full in bloom: Did you say you had been diagnosed with cancer?
Greg: I was diagnosed with cancer in April 2015, stage 4 tongue cancer. In April of 2015, they said I had between eight to ten months to live. I said, ‘no, I don’t think so.’ I had a sixteen year old daughter at that point and I wasn’t checking out while she’s sixteen years old. I’m kind of a fighter, anyway. So, I just said, ‘nah, ain’t gonna happen.’ I had to quit the band (Red Dragon Cartel) and quit a lot of other things. I quit my job that I had at the time. I took the treatment, which was they took out all my lymph nodes on the left side of my neck. And then I had forty-one doses of radiation in my mouth and fifteen doses of chemo. I went from 195 (lbs) down to 121. I was declared cancer-free in October 2015. But it took me a couple of years to just get my strength back. It’s amazing and actually kind of frightening what you have to go through to still be here.
full in bloom: Right.
Greg: I had the radiation, which radiation in your mouth burns off your taste buds. So, you don’t want to eat anything. For four months I ate a couple of protein shakes. I drank a couple of those a day. I’d have some jello and some chicken broth. That’s what I lived off of for four months. People say, ‘oh man, you lost weight, how’d you do it?’ Yeah, you don’t want to do it they way I did it. Cancer sucks no matter what and none of the treatments are fun, and this isn’t just me saying this, it’s pretty well documented, head and neck cancer treatment is some of the most brutal cancer treatments you can get. Having said that, I’m alive to say how brutal it is. But as I went through it, I never wavered and said ‘screw it, I want to give up.’ I knew it would be rough. Like I said, I had a sixteen year old daughter. My son was only twenty-one at the time. I wasn’t ready to go anywhere at that point. I’m not ready now. I’m pretty happy to be here and it had given me a lot of opportunities. The downside is I had to quit Red Dragon Cartel but Jake and I have been friends for a long time and that wasn’t going to change anything.
full in bloom: Is there not an option to join again or can you not because of the store?
Greg: Well, a couple of reasons. I couldn’t join because of the store right now and the other thing is Jake has a bass player, Anthony Esposito. They’re good friends. They used Anthony’s studio in Pennsylvania to make the record. I think Anthony and Jake co-produced it and I think they co-wrote all the songs. Anthony did a really good job playing bass on that. I saw them the other night, I was very impressed with them; I was very impressed with the band in general. If anyone gets a chance to go see Red Dragon Cartel, it’s a good show. I really enjoyed it. I was very impressed with Anthony. So, will Jake and I do something in the future? Yeah maybe, I don’t know. I would always be up for it. But as far as Red Dragon Cartel is concerned, you know, they’re touring on their second record, Patina. They’ve got another month or so on this leg, then they’re going to Japan, and then they’re going to come back and do some more shows. Even if Jake called me right now, I have too much of a commitment, to the store that I run, to leave. In a year or so, if he wants to do something besides Red Dragon Cartel, I’d always be down for that. He’s my favorite guitar player, you know, one of my best friends…more like a brother. People always say, a brother from another mother…two sides of the same coin. I would always be up for playing with him, that would be a no-brainer for me.
full in bloom: Do you want to plug the store that you work at?
Greg: Yes. It’s called Bizarre Guitar and Drum in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s about a 6000 sqft store and we carry roughly about fifteen hundred / sixteen hundred guitars and we have drum sets and all that kind of stuff. It’s independently owned. The woman that owns it, Susan Alexander, lives in North Carolina and I see her about one week out of the year. She kind of just lets me do what I want to do and as long as we’re making money and everyone’s happy, and she’s happy, it’s a great gig. I had told her that I would do the store for at least five years and we would talk about it after that. Five years will be up this time next year, so we’ll see what it is she wants to do and see what I want to do. At that point, maybe Kings of Dust will be wanting to go out on the road, or maybe Jake would want to do another project and I would be up for that, or maybe I’ll just stay here and do this. The one thing about having cancer, especially when they’re telling you you’re not going to live, is I don’t look too far down the road these days. I’m looking forward to summer coming, I haven’t looked too far beyond that.
full in bloom: You’re there during the day at the store?
Greg: Yeah, I’m there five days a week. We’re open seven days a week but I’m there Tuesday through Saturday. I’m on the floor, there’s only five of us that work there. I’m on the floor selling, along with my other responsibilities.
full in bloom: Do people come in and hit you up for autographs?
Greg: Yeah, pretty frequently. A lot of people have said, ‘hey, will you sign my…’ and I say, ‘yes, send me a self-addressed stamped envelope with whatever in it and I’ll sign it and send it back,’ as long as they’re paying for it. I don’t require any financial payment for that sort of thing. If it’s important to them, then it’s important to me. I just signed something for a guy today. He sent me a Voodoo Highway cassette cover and I signed it and sent it back. Even if they don’t have anything they’ll say, ‘can we take a photo?’ So, there’s a lot of photos of me and people I’ve met. Some of them I’ve met on the road. Some of them I’ve never met but I’m friends with them on social media. So, it’s pretty cool. I’m grateful that people would still remember or think enough of whatever I’ve been involved in that they would want to do that. There’s certain people that if I met them I would want to get a picture with them, so I totally get it.
full in bloom: Of course. Who were some of your biggest influences?
Greg: Starting out my first influence was Mel Schacher who plays bass in Grand Funk and then Felix Pappalardi from Mountain. Greg Ridley from Humble Pie. Andy Fraser from Free. Martin Turner from Wishbone Ash. Tim Bogert when he was in Cactus. And then my main influence, I don’t really play like anybody but if you took about twenty guys that I could name and throw them all in a stew, I would play a bit like all of them…Rob Grange from the classic Ted Nugent stuff. But my main guy is John Entwistle from The Who.
There is a lot more interview to go. We still talk about Greg’s time in Surgical Steel, Steeler, Legs Diamond and more. Plus, we go ‘Inside the Album’ with the 1989 self-titled debut release from Badlands. You can listen to the entire interview via the embedded YouTube above, or directly on YouTube at this location.