Joel Ellis | Cats N Boots | Heavy Bones | June 2005 |
J-First off lets go way back in the day... how did you hook up with the guys in Cats N Boots...?
J.E.-I was up to my elbows in the Hollywood music scene through the 80’s and was with Atlantic Recs with my band from Cleveland, Ohio “Merri Hoax”. Things got out of hand with the guys in the Hoax, too wild I guess, so I was having fun fronting for other bands and writing with great players (Craig Goldie, Dweezil Zappa, Rough Cutt and others).
It was after a show on the strip one night that a cute little Japanese girl introduces herself and Takashi Ohashi to me telling me that they’ve been following me to my shows with a pocket recorder and Jam wants to record and tour Japan with you…so I said o.k. sure, lets hear what you’ve got.
We set up a practice session in Hollywood and he blew me away with his guitar slinger style., very cool, no one around sounded as fresh, everyone else was doing the retro Randii Roads thing shredding it up, but Ohashi leveled me with downright loud and honest Les Paul into Marshalls on ten with a dangerous but graceful style.
I’ve heard him play things that make the hair stand up on my neck, but he never puts it out for people to hear. If you want to hear the scary side of his genius, listen to the solo in “Every Sunrise”, that was a practice run in one take, I knew he’d kill it so I told the engineer to hit record…. 17 takes later we kept that solo…he’s best when he doesn’t think about it.
J-Who did the writing in the band?
J.E.-Jam and I wrote everything together. At the time I would just have to look at a guitar and the strings would break, I’m far better now, I even play a bit in live shows, I play about as much guitar as Mick Jagger.
So anyway…Jam would come up with these riffs and progressions and I would sit down and say “hey lets go here with it” then put the lyrics into it. Sometimes he had the whole song down minus the lyrics and wouldn’t budge from the arrangement…one of the things that eventually split us up…he’s the most hardheaded guy I ever met.
J-How did everyone get along?
Well, ya know there was a huge language barrier there most of the years we were together. So we may have been getting along better or worse than we knew most of the time. But I can tell that when we split up the band, it was harder than anyone thought it would be…despite the huge Warner Bros. Deal I was given for Heavy Bones, I missed very much the raw talent and spontaneity of working those band members. Working with Heavy Bones was nothing, not even close to the greatness of a true Rock and Roll band I had with CIB….you can fill in the blanks.
J-How long were you together before you got signed?
J.E.-We were together 1 month when we released our self produced debut “Demonstration East Meets West” by the way, I let Jam name the band and the first record, he had a vision.
Three months later we were #1 on the indy sales charts in Japan. We were self managed, self produced, self everything without a record company and in 6 months we were untouchable…huge on the underground music scene. We went to see Aerosmith at the Budokan one night and it took 20 mins for armed security to pull the crowd off of us drag us to safety from the floor of the show…we never did get to our seats but hangin’ with Smith in Tokyo backstage beat it all.
I made a call to Dweezil one night from Tokyo just a bit confused from all the pushy record labels there and Frank Zappa got on the phone with me, he says, “whats the problem?” , I told him we getting shanghai’d by every label in Japan to sign a deal before we leave, bribes, parties, things you wouldn’t believe…getting us drunk and trying to get our signatures etc etc. “you need a manager, call mine, he’s in New York…congrats Joel life should be this rough for all of us” . I spoke to a gentle soft spoken guy with the wisdom of Yoda, he put me on the line with a much less soft spoken guy with a New York Jew twang who told me to “go out and have a good time cuz your gonna work your ass off when you get home” and by the time we got back to the US we had the biggest deal E.M.I. Records ever gave to a new artist.
To answer that part of your question; Kicked and Klawed was written recorded pressed and released within 6 mos.
J-How important was the whole "hairband" look back then?
J.E.-Long hair has always been a personal statement to me growing up through the end of the 60’s and through the 70’s. There was always more meaning, a state of mind, a political position, a reference to control or be controlled, love or war, self obsession or freedom of choice outside of the trend etc etc….. I still wear my long whenever I can, it’s like cutting an arm off when I have to, but if I want to shave my head I do that too…when I want to.
It’s always been a personal choice and definitely not a hair band trend thing. I never wore stiff gels or hairspray, we wore makeup for video and interviews because you need to, we wore eye liner and subtle stuff like that in the early years because glam was a cool thing then, The Stones, The Stooges, just about everyone…but POISON really kicked that in the ass when they came out looking like prepubescent hookers on leave from Catholic School break….Hi CC !! luv ya bro.
J-What was the biggest crowd you played for and where?
J.E.-Don’t really know. Maybe 90,000 at an outdoor festival in Kyoto?
I know one large crowd I’ll never forget; August of 1988, I was fronting Rough Cutt in Paul Shortino’s (love his voice) place. We were opening for DIO at Irvine Meadows to an over sold California audience. I spun the wrong way during our set and got my foot caught on a cable…I kept spinning but my leg stopped and I ripped my knee in half…ooowwwww!! Oohh o.k. I can’t go on about this….but that’s where I met Frankie Banali the future drummer for Heavy Bones….he called me hop-along-kid from that day.
J-What's the craziest thing a fan has ever done to meet you?
J.E.-There’s been a few crazy things….they’ve broken in and hid in the back of the bus or in the bunks ( I think they were screened and let in against our wishes because they were never unattractive), I think the Japanese fans definitely topped every conceivable insane effort to get to us in the hotels…and buddy I mean to tell you they will risk life and limb to get to their favorite music guys.
Aren’t you from Texas? I did it one night with a girl who got past security out on the ledge behind the sign of the Ambassador Hotel in Dallas, it seemed like 1,000 ft up or more, I couldn’t resist after she showed me how she got up to our floor. She went up to the floor under ours, knew where our rooms were and talked the room under us to let her climb out and up to our railings….hello? If a girl did that for me today I’d either marry her or call the 911 white coats a.s.a.p.
J-Favorite tour? any good road stories?
J.E.-I just gave you one…anytime everywhere…they’ve all been great tours.
I especially liked doing the CIB 2003 Tokyo reunion shows, it was great to be there again with old friends.
J-What led to the break up of the band?
J.E.-Not realizing what a great road for success we were on.
J-Did you guys ever record a 2nd cd?
J.E.-Yeah we did, never got to a major studio to track it or release it but we wrote allot of new material in 1990. A lot of songs with a heavy early Zep feel and sax in places.
Jam and I also wrote a fantastic new record in 2003 that we want so badly to recored and release, but he’s being a pig head stubborn ass and won’t come to L.A. to finish it…he’s strange that way…here’s a challenge for your readers: email Takashi at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him to get his sushi eatin’ arse over to finish the new CIB record.
I have label and promotion support for the CD but I won’t do it with out him…or will I?
J-How did you hook up with the guys in Heavy Bones?
J.E.-Pretty uninteresting story.
I was living in Hollywood, life was at it’s ultimate wildness, I had Stephen Pearcy from RATT as a roommate in my Hills penthouse, Faster Pussy Cat down the hall, Vince Niel’s Sharise and all of the Hollywood Tropicana girls etc etc and well…Gary lived down the street, the label said I needed to write a record immediately so Gary and I started writing in the midst of …wellll…lets say it wasn’t easy to get back to work.
I knew Frankie, I couldn’t have found a better drummer, but he turned out to be a bummer, a real back stabber with Kevin Dubrow-a-phobia. Like Edward VH says “ he has LSD” Lead Singer Disease.
Gary? Well he sure was a great guitarist with guidance, but he doesn’t have a real rock and roll bone in his body…too much to baby sit…a baby kisser and backstabber as well.
Rex? He was a o.k., mellow dude, follower not a leader, he didn’t even play bass on the record. It was Scott Tunis who played bass for (once again) Frank Zappa and Dweezil and he wore Green Shoes ! Great guy and damn good musician.
J-Who did the writing in that band?
J.E.-I wrote it all with Gary, although I had allot more music direction with Gary than I did with Jam.
J-Fans wrote in and wanted to know what the T.M means in 4 am TM..?
J.E.-Transcendental Meditation, it became a great creative avenue for writing, and 4 a.m. always seemed to be the magic time that we or I wrote the best tunes.
My solo album “Ellis Island” was written, recorded and produced within 5 days at Jimi Hendrix’s old studio TTG in Hollywood. It was a live recorded record with music greats giving their time and making the best music I ever recorded. Ron Wood, Bobby Womack, Larry Abberman, Takashi Ohashi, Jimmy Zolo, Spider Middleman, George Shelby PHIL CHEN ! Hassim Jeffries geeeze ! what a great session, the CD is available on my site. It was all done in 4 A.M. fashion.
J-What led to the end of that band? (which for the record is one of my top 10 favorite cds EVER)?
J.E.-I got smart and got out.
It was like being a cough in the corporate bread making machine…sorry to disappoint.
J-Since those 2 bands, what else have you been up to? any more recording?
J.E.-I have allot of new music…actually a ton of stuff in my 180 Gigs of Cubase SX I want to rework.
I’m in L.A. now looking for the right players to move forward with, tying up some CIB opportunities and trying to ink a new deal with E.M.I. NYC
J-How about Ellis Island? Was this a solo effort, or another band?
J.E.-Solo effort, Jam and I started writing it, it turned into Ellis Island when we got so many different players showing up to record, it was like Fantasy Island for 1 week.
J-How would you describe the sound?
J.E.-Deep songs, Bluesy, Jazz Kissed and a bit R&B at times but with Dangerous Guitars.
J-Out of all your recordings what is your favorite? your most proud of?
J.E.-Hard to say, Kicked and Klawed I guess because so many of you all like it so much. I love to hear emails from people saying what great memories that record holds for them.
Other than that I guess my favorite record will always be the next one I make.
I’m always changing, that’s the beauty of music as art.
J-Least proud of, or just didn't turn out as well as you planned?
J-How about a Cats N Boots reunion, or at least a new cd? Another one?
J.E.-Well I’m down with it for sure…here’s the guy you need to convince:
Takashi Jam Ohashi: email@example.com
I mean the offers are on the table for a CD and tour of Europe of Jam will make up his mind to put a little work into it.
You can also say hey to Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org
J-Still talk to any of the guys.. or know what they are up to?
J.E.-I talk to Randy all the time, he’s in Houston, maybe he’ll move back to L.A. one day soon if I keep buggin’ him to come and record. Jam and I talk by email every couple of months. He can be a bit despondent at times though.
J-Do you have a website people can keep up with what your currently doing?
Any good webmasters out there want to donate some development time ????
It’s off to a decent start though, I’m at email@example.com
J-How do you feel about the internet and how it has changed promoting bands?
J.E.-I think it’s great as long as your connection is up.
I say go ahead and put my stuff up on the pirate sites, the more people that dig my stuff the better, I don’t know what Metallica is cryin about, they can afford to give a few songs away…come on Curly ..James is Curly Grunt my friends…because he called me Joel Bon Jovi backstage at the Monsters Of Rock show in L.A…that pissed me off cuz “JBJ is a puss”, .I said, then I told him “well you look like…” ”Carry Grant???” he says. “naw…More like Curly Grunt” I says…and don’t it fit?
J-How do you feel about MP3's and file sharing?
J-Any new bands your into?
J.E.-Not really, dig allot of old stuff, we need a new band out there don’t we?
J-What would be in your cd player right now?
J.E.-Allot of Ray Charles the early darker stuff, a Hungarian metal band called Cross Borne, Aerosmith’s 1st debut, Pantera (Darrel RIP), a demo from my great guitarist friend Roy Coston who just had a stroke in New York after his son’s tragic death in Dec. (email get wells to Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org), some old Stones, Zep, T-Rex you know the usual stuff. Oh yeah and a 7 song CD of guitar tracks from my close to dead brother Denny Holan in Cleveland, he’s another genius guitar player that won’t bring his lazy ass to L.A. to record…have fun in Clevebore Den….
J-What do you have in store for the music world this year and into 2005?
J.E.-A new band comprised of great players from here in Los Angeles.
Hopefully a completed CIB record with a European tour to follow and a new CD with shows from a new line up.
J-Any touring plans...?
J.E.-Europe could happen for CIB immediately.
Shows in Los Angeles are all I want to do until there’s a reason to tour.
J-Anything you would like to say to your fans out there reading this?
J.E.-Thanx a million times over.
Hope to be on your stages and in your players again soon !!!!
Love and Peace