Jason McMaster, Bio-Interview, Dangerous Toys, Watchtower, Broken Teeth
Dangerous Toys / Watchtower / Broken Teeth Vocalist
full in bloom: Your band “Broken Teeth” are part of the “Shiprocked” cruise. Tell us a little about that?
Jason McMaster: The promoter saw us at rock the Bayou Fest in Houston last year and liked it alot; (he) called our agent and thats about it. The best thing about the festivals is they bring out all the cool rock bands, and getting on one of those, especially the main stage, can be fruitful. We have never played a cruise before, so this will be an adventure. Plus there are alot of cool bands on the bill, Queensryche and Tesla, Skid Row as well.
full in bloom: Any other news about “Broken Teeth”? What upcoming tours can we expect and is there a new album forthcoming anytime soon?
Jason: We are workin’ on a new CD. The working title is “Viva la Rock, Fantastico”. Danko Jones sings on the title track as well as another song called “Big Spender”. If you don’t know Danko, go to dankojones.com and listen, watch some youtube vids on him. He has a killer rock style in the vein of old AC/DC and Thin Lizzy with some Motorhead sprinkled on top. The songs are killer, we do a few of them live in the set already. The new CD will hopefully hit the streets later this year. We are leaving for a short tour of the midwest USA next week. SXSW(South by Southwest Music Festival, Austin) is this week, and we are doin’ a few shows here before we head out. We are already starting to work on more new material, it’s good that we have so much material to peel off.
full in bloom: Anything else to promote?
Jason: My old bands Watchtower and Dangerous Toys are busy this year. Watchtower will co-headline the “KEEP IT TRUE” german metal fest in April 2010. A new Watchtower release is in the works. The Toys are doing a few festivals this summer. You can find all about this stuff on myspace, of course.
full in bloom: What influences you these days?
Jason: The only newer artists over the past few years that have done anything for me is Danko Jones, and Airbourne. Alot of people don’t get those bands, but I feel like music needs to speak to you on a personal level, and not just have some mass appeal. These simple three-chord rock bands that have inspired me in recent years, made me realize that there has been so much crappy rock/metal coming out, that it made me stop searching for new music. I gave up on looking for new releases. The good stuff will bubble to the top. Getting into metal just because it’s metal doesn’t work for me. I love metal, it’s part of who I am. The latest Slayer, Metallica, Motorhead and a few others are inspiring (because) they are such institutions, and can still crank out incredible material(maybe some bad ones slip in there sometimes), its like they find themselves each time they write and release their craft. That’s what it’s all about. And yet still, I feel like their music is speaking to me, and also has the mass stroking appeal, it must be speaking volumes, now isn’t it!
full in bloom: Who were some of the artists that inspired you the most?
Jason: Aerosmith, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Elton John, Queen, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Metallica, Motorhead – truly, the list is never ending.
full in bloom: I was privileged to catch a performance of Sad Wings, your Judas Priest tribute band, at a show in Dallas. You guys seemed to have a lot of fun with that. What’s it like to do that project?
Jason: I love Priest. I have toured with Priest, I can die a happy man being able to say that. The Sad Wings gig is just alot of fun, me and some friends came up with the idea to form the tribute after seeing a few tributes around the Texas area having so much fun, it was a no brainer that we needed a Priest tribute in Austin. There is one in Dallas as you know called Judas Rising, they have been real cool and we are playing with them June 20th in Dallas.
full in bloom: I also understand you play in a Kiss tribute band called SSIK. What’s that like and do you enjoy one more than the other?
Jason: I have a few tribute bands, its just a way to let off steam, play some songs that actually meant something to the influence of my craft. It’s such a blast, and good for the soul.
full in bloom: Tell us about your early years in Watchtower.
Jason: Started in 1982, right after I moved to Austin, from Corpus Christi. I met these guys, started playing covers by all of our fave metal bands, and then wrote a shitload of original material, that was so weird and technical, yet keep a very thrash metal base. We have been coined as “the pioneers of progressive thrash metal”. It’s truly a band that European fans will not let die. I am fortunate to have been a part of the Watchtower camp, and have learned so much. I cut my teeth as singer for this band, and now i am still going back to record, play live, and get respect from a movement that is so strong, it’s an honor to be garnered with such respect.
full in bloom: Although Watchtower did not achieve national fame, you guys were quite popular and influenced bands that went on to national fame. Do you feel that Watchtower got its due?
Jason: We didnt look for anything other than to be able to play Europe, and hope the USA would catch on to what we were doing as much as Europe did. By the time things started to happen, it was time to move things around, I joined Dangerous Toys, and continued to support Watchtower and the things I had helped start with ‘Tower. I helped them find the vocalists they used for demos, and tours, and recording. My friends, Mike Soliz from Militia, and Alan Tecchio from Hades(NJ) filled in for me. It’s been a wild ride for all involved in the ‘Tower camp.
full in bloom: Who are some of the musicians / bands Watchtower influenced?
Jason: I don’t want to make a list of people who I think we influenced, but, there have been countless times bands have mentioned Watchtower in books, interviews, and liners saying that we did , in fact, have something to do with how weird their music might be, considering that so much metal music is quite mundane. And there isn’t anything wrong with that, just cool to be part of the progressive metal movement, and have the runners mention your band you were in while still in high school. Two bands obviously wear Watchtower on a sleeve, Death-Chuck Schuldiner, and Dream Theater-Mike Portnoy.
full in bloom: What was the Austin scene like back then?
Jason: Back in the early 80s, Austin wasn’t very metal. But, the dam had broken wide open with Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer, etc.. Lots of Metal Blade records bands started coming through. The scene was no different than it was in many american metropolitan cites, as well as suberbs of such same type landscapes. It caught on fast, as people who were looking for something heavier and heavier, the more watered down rock n roll became. Alot of the classic rock bands actually helped all of this thing get going. Old Whitesnake and Deep Purple, as well as when Dio joined Sabbath, it sort of puts a family tree perspective on it, since all of those bands are sort of related.
full in bloom: What’s the current music scene in Austin like? How has it changed for the better?
Jason: I can’t say its better. But i think there is so much about it that, well, you had to be here to see the city grow. It was a different city with different values. Now it’s pretty much turning into a huge business metropolis. The beginning of the end sort of thing. Too many people moving here after they hear how cool it is. But, that happenes to every “cool” city. Metal is bigger here than it was back in the day. I think and hope that I have helped get it on the map. There were very few looking into heavy metal in 1982. It is not that way now.
Watchtower – “Energetic Disassembly”
full in bloom: Tell us about your early studio experience recording “Energetic Disassembly”? Any funny, cool, sucked or brilliant moments? Feel free to share more than one.
Jason: The reviews of the “Energetic” release from 1985, have been quite humourous, and an assortment of good and bad at the same time. As monumental an effect as it had on metal fanzines and listeners, and now to be a fore-runner of that movement, and legendary status of that release, I read the ones that say how much they hated my “helium/Mickey Mouse” falsetto voice and laugh. It’s funny because I agree with them, it’s all i knew how to do back then. But the power of truth lies in the ideas that it created for others who actually understood what we had going on in the songs, and not just that this and that sounded bad. No funny things happened in the studio that year, it snowed during the sessions, and that was rare for central texas, that was Winter 1985.
full in bloom: Where did you record the album? Do you remember what the recording budget was? Who produced it?
Jason: Yeah, we spent a few grand. Technology has grown so much, we used tape, of course, and all analog gear. We recorded at Cedar Creek Recording, in South Austin. The place is still there, but, they have completely upgraded the gear of course. Fred Remmert who engineered/produced, is the onwer, and still works there.
full in bloom: Any idea how many were printed / how many were sold?
Jason: 4500 copies, vinyl and cassette. Considered rare, of course. A collector’s piece. The vinyl goes for about $300 on that collector’s circuit. It has been re-issued on CD a few times, and is very available nowadays.
full in bloom: Why does it take four years to record a follow up album?
Jason: It doesn’t. You can write and record all day long, if you have money in the bank, and are prolifically talented, and don’t have to work a day job. I get stifled when I have no time to be reflective while writing songs for a new release. ‘Tower hasnt put out a record in almost 20 years, and we are working on one now. It’s different for every release, and every band. Interesting question either way.
full in bloom: Did you guys tour at all? How often would you play shows?
Jason: We played shows all through the ’80s just in Texas. We did two shows in San Francisco that are legendary now, as they were the last two shows we did with original guitarist and founder, Billy White. – Watchtower toured without me. I joined the D’Toys by the time they had the “Control and Resistance” record out. They did Europe and the US with Coroner. That was about 1991.
Watchtower – “Control and Resistance”
full in bloom: Same thing for the 2nd Watchtower album, “Control and Resistance”. Any cool memories from that experience?
Jason: Since I didn’t record the actual release on “Control”, I don’t have any stories. I joined Dangerous Toys in 1988. I did sing on the demos for “Control”. Which since then have been made available on CD(Demonstrations in Chaos-Rockdrome Records) I have only heard about how hellish it was with the engineers. Word is, they went through a few different guys at the helm before they got the record done. That was in Berlin in ’89-’90.
full in bloom: What’s going on with the release of “Mathematics”? What happened in 2006 that killed the project, and do you expect it to be released anytime soon?
Jason: The songs were not very good. I don’t want to make a record that I cannot be proud of, that I cringe to hear. I cannot imagine the backlash from reviews and fans. Since then, we have thrown alot of material away. and have regrouped with what we feel to be much stronger material. We are in the process now.
full in bloom: In 1987 you joined the band Onyxx, which later became Dangerous Toys. How did you meet Tim Trembley and what was it like working with him?
Jason: Those guys used to come see Watchtower play. They knew Billy White, and that’s how I met some of them. Mike (Watson) had come into my work a couple of times looking for bands to play with. But, when Tim asked me to fill in for his band, just doing covers and stuff, who knew what the future would hold? Tim was alot of fun, and I miss him. He wrote lyrics for the songs on the first Toys record that are now legend to me.
full in bloom: Any good moments stand out from the day you signed your record deal with Columbia.
Jason: We ate, we drank like we had never eaten or even seen food before. It was a happy time, with or without a recording contract.
full in bloom: Did you guys get a nice signing bonus? If so, what did you do with the money?
Jason: I think it was a few grand apiece. I went to the titty bar. I think the other guys bought some gear, and some of us saved it.
full in bloom: Talk a little about the recording sessions for “Dangerous Toys”. Any cool memories from back then?
Jason: It was cool, working with Max Norman. Great stories about Randy and Ozzy. Max also did Dirty Looks stuff, so it was cool to hear about that too. Max would make me sing everything like 20 times, it was alot of work. But, I think it just taught me alot, to get the best he could out of the tracks. We all learned alot.
full in bloom: What was that time like for you?
Jason: Hollywood 1988-we were getting to spend some time out in the bars, hang on the strip a bit, and it was still the infamous “sunset strip” days. It was not uncommon to see Guns ‘n Roses, or LA Guns, or anyone out somewhere.
full in bloom: How long did it take to record the album? Where did you record it?
Jason: The first Toys release was recorded at Sound City in Van Nuys, CA. The newest Metallica record was done there. Funny thing is, Rick Rubin, who produced the new Metallica, was there when we were in 1988, recording a band called Wolfsbane, in which the singer (Blaze Bailey) did a record with Iron Maiden years later. Trippy, its also where Fear-the record, was recorded. The same engineer worked with the Toys.
full in bloom: Do you remember what the budget was for that record?
Jason: About $300K. I think we went over budget a bit, as well.
full in bloom: Describe the time you spent touring in support of the first album. What were some of the bands you toured with? Also, share any cool memories from that tour.
Jason: First tour was a mix of radio sponsored tours(Z-rock), and legs with Junkyard, then Tora Tora and LA Guns. We did Europe with Faster Pussycat and The Almighty. Then we did a leg in arenas with Bonham and The Cult. It was a learning experience, and a pretty wild time.
full in bloom: Dangerous Toys went Gold back in the eighties and eventually platinum. Were the sales enough so that you guys recouped expenses?
Jason: We haven’t made shit. We sold some records, but there are so many middle-men, by the time it comes to any of us, it ain’t much. These days, the best money we have ever made as a band is doing reunion shows in the summers. I don’t think we ever recouped any expenses.
Dangerous Toys – “Hellacious Acres”
full in bloom: In 1991 “Hellacious Acres” was released. Again, describe the studio experience. How was it different from your earlier studio experience?
Jason: Roy Thomas Baker(Queen, Cheap Trick, Journey, The Cars) produced “Hellacious”. He was eccentric and flamboyant, but I thought he had some good things and some bad things that he brought to the album of songs. But, overall, we were not ready to record. We didn’t have the right songs yet. We had been pulled off the road by the label in order to have a record released in the “profit margin window”. I don’t think it’s our best, to say the least. But, alot of people love the record.
full in bloom: How much did the record company increase your recording budget?
Jason: Maybe $100K, making it about $400K, we may have spent $500K.
full in bloom: How long did it take to record the album? Where did you record it?
Jason: We did LA again. Summa on Sunset is where we did some vocals. Track Record and The Record Plant we tracked drums. I think we did some at Village Recorder as well. We were there about 2 months.
full in bloom: In 1991 you also kicked off on a tour with Priest, Alice Cooper, and Motorhead, but the tour was canceled after only 10 weeks. Why?
Jason: You think it was too short? We had a blast every night! I never knew it was only ten weeks, seemed like 6 weeks. Lemmy talks about it in his book “White Line Fever”. I only remember a couple of dates falling off from lack of ticket sales. ’91 was rough for rock ‘n roll. The dollar bill was blowing somewhere else. And the masses follow that dollar bill. It was all comin’ out of Seattle for a few years.
full in bloom: How did the poor sales on the 2nd album affect the band?
Jason: No effects. We charged on, playing music we wrote. We were up and down after about 1992, we asked the label to let us go. We had been writing new material, and they didn’t want to do anything with it, so we got tired of their lack of interest and they let us go as per our request through our management. 1994 and 1995 were alot of fun touring on our own terms. Alot of the do it yourself thing started to come back into play. I was kind of glad about that. You always know where your money is going when its coming straight to you.
full in bloom: In 1994 the third Dangerous Toys album, “Pissed” was released. What inspired the title?
Jason: My manager wrote the weirdest thing in the liner notes and submitted them to the label. I had never even seen them ’til the CD came out. It describes how the industry that broke the band, had turned, but then, it thanks the ones who stuck by us when it got weird at the label, and on radio. My lyrics are vague on purpose, but, alot of different things came of the meaning after the song was written. The inspiration for it was from a realization of something simple: noone knows you like yourself, you can’t please all the people all the time. Some fans say “Pissed” is their fave DT CD. It probably should have been our second released.
full in bloom: How was the studio experience different from your CBS studio days? Again, share any cool, funny, sucked, or brilliant moments.
Jason: Hard work with the major label producers. Long hours, 16 hour days, we usually have one day off per week. It’s not so bad. We got good tracks done, (which is) the most important thing. We learned alot about our instruments, about recording, about vibe and feel and time.
full in bloom: After Michael Hannon left the band you took up the bass. Why did you not replace him, and did you enjoy playing as well as singing?
Jason: I have been a bassist since i was 13. It wasn’t like I just decided to do it. I played bass on the demos for “The Rtist 4merly Known as” material. Tom Fletcher, who also co-produced the “Pissed” material, had the opinion that if I was writing the styles, and lyrics and playing the bass lines, that the feel would’ve been all wrong to have someone come in who wasn’t there during the writing sessions. Easier to just keep going with the vibe we had. It wasn’t personal with Mike, Hannon or Watson.
full in bloom: It was rumored that you guys considered changing the name of the band. Why?, and, what were some of the names you were considering?
Jason: We had no names to consider, but we only discussed the idea, since the material was so different. That mainly felt like since we had lost the original members, the sound was changing with Paul, myself and Scott doing the main writing for that record. It was accidental that Scott blurted out :”The Rtist 4merly Known as Dangerous Toys” while we discussed the pros and cons of changing the name, that was the perfect title for at least the record.
full in bloom: Mark Geary and Mike Watson’s band Proof of Life is based in Austin? Do you guys keep in touch, and do you play shoes together very often?
Jason: Broken Teeth has had shows with Proof of Life,and Dtoys has done three-song mini sets at said shows. Usually people figure out that if those bands play together, that there will more than likely be a little Dtoys going on.
full in bloom: In 2008, all the original members of Dangerous Toys got together for a 20th anniversary show in Austin. How was that experience for you?
Jason: It’s always an event when the Toys play, always a blast and always the die hard old school fans from back in the day, mixed with the new fans, and even some bring their kids, it’s pretty cool.
full in bloom: Jason McMaster is transported back to the year 1987 and is required to do two things differently, what would they be?
Jason: I wouldn’t have spent all that money at the titty bar, and I would’ve tried to convince management and the label to let me keep my place in Watchtower.
THE FAST 5
full in bloom: What is your most disgusting habit?
Jason: Eating whole bags of jellybeans in one sitting.
full in bloom: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Jason: Cross my legs and lean forward.
full in bloom: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Jason: God, why do some people actually believe that there was a talking snake in the garden of eden, did you create the cro-magnon man too?
full in bloom: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Jason: Deep Purple
full in bloom: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Jason: I can’t remember, since this email (interview) took me almost a week to finish.