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ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS KELLY WHEELER OF SEXTAPES

ANOTHER SEXTAPE?
KELLY WHEELER OF SEXTAPES
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THE BANDS DEBUT CD
AND UNLEASHiNG THEiR SOUND
ON AN UNSUSPECTiNG PUBLiC
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iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
Los Angeles-based metal band SEXTAPES have released their self-titled, self-produced debut CD with distribution and publicity generated by their association with the new GUNS AND ROSES (lead singer and guitarist CHRIS PITMAN is a member of AXL's latest incarnation). Despite the added exposure, one would think that the shaky reception of the long - if not eagerly - awaited 'CHINESE DEMOCRACY' would adversely effect a band like SEXTAPES, but the reaction from enthusiastic audiences throughout Los Angeles have proven just the opposite. ROCKWIRED spoke with guitarist KELLY WHEELER over the phone. Here is how it went.

Do you think it's beneficial or hazardous that your band is now intertwined with this new GUNS AND ROSES?

We get a little more publicity because of it but in the end, the music speaks for itself. We like state the obvious but we don't try to stretch it out more than that as far as publicity is concerned.

Talk about the name of the band. I can imagine how you guys settled upon it but how did it come about?
I had  a bunch of names that I was banging around. Great music has always been like having great sex for me. It's sort of like getting the feeling you get when your listening to this intimate thing from the artists which can almost be like a sex tape. So I thought SEXTAPES was a great name and figured that we'd go with that. We knew that the name would get us noticed as well. Obviously it's a controversial name and in the U.S. it gets us noticed, so it's great!

Yeah, cause everyone's got a sex tape now.
Yeah, that they want back.

'Cause that's where the money is. It's got nothing to do with your dignity.
There you go.

What drew you to music in the beginning?
I've been playing piano since I was seven and I started on guitar when I was a teenager and I just started going for it. When I landed in L.A. in the early eighties it was great scene for new music. I was really into that kind of punk and post-punk sound. I got hooked up with PERRY FARRELL and his band PSI COM instantly because they were looking for a bass player. It was PSI COM that introduced me to the whole music world and when PSI-COM disbanded and PERRY went on to do JANE'S ADDICTION so I've been around and I love what I do.

Where did you hail form before coming to L.A.
Santa Barbara.

What kind of music spoke to you in the beginning?
When I was little, it was rock music that I strongly related to. I heard a bunch of music when I was a kid because my dad is a jazz musician. My parents were into jazz and folk but when I heard THE BEATLES and JIMI HENDRIX, it was all over.

So with your dad being a jazz musician, the piano training stemmed from that.
Yeah. My dad and my mom wanted us to be musicians so the traditional lessons and training started there.

What compelled your moved to L.A. later on down the line? Was it this post-punk scene that was there or was it other things?
It was a little of both. I moved to San Francisco first and at that time the San Francisco scene was nowhere near as lively as L.A. It was quite the opposite actually. There bands like DEAD KENNEDYS and all of that but L.A. was just blowing up. I actually had a job offer down in L.A. so I was going to move there anyway so I started looking around in magazines for bands looking for musicians and found PSI COM.

Talk about PERRY FERRELL during these pre-JANE'S ADDICTION days. What was it like working with him?
It was great. He was amazingly creative back then. It was cool for me to come down to L.A. and be able to work with this singer in a small band but you could tell that his talent was huge. Everything was really exciting about working with that band and him. Our live shows would blow up because of it. We'd always get a good draw. You never knew what PERRY was going to do. It was awesome.

Obviously PSI-COM didn't last he went his way and you went yours.
It sort of segued immediately for him into being JANE'S ADDICTION when he met ERIC. I think at that time, he was pulling away from PSI-COM and I found out later that he wanted to do more rock stuff and PSI COM was going in a different direction. We just went our separate ways at that point.

What are your thoughts on JANE'S ADDICTION's music now?
I've always loved their music. I thought it was awesome how PERRY seemed to bring all of the rock stuff that was being ignored by the post-punk back in the alternative music scene. He was a visionary in that respect and and I still think that JANE'S ADDICTION is still valid. Their stuff is still awesome and I think it's great that ERIC is back with them after twenty years. I've heard that they are actually thinking about touring this year.

In L.A. during the eighties, you had this post-punk scene and you had what is now called the hair metal scene.
One scene was ending and one scene was beginning. The hair metal scene didn't start until around '86 and '87. The post-punk scene was at it's peak at around '85 and '85. It was funny because we used go the street scene to see JANES ADDICTION and GUNS AND ROSES on the same bill.

Weird! Weird and awesome!
It was.  And then Hair Metal just went beyond being cartoon-ish.

Describe that L.A. Post-punk scene that was typified by JANES ADDICTION and the like.
It was great . It really wasn't a business that's for sure. It was more about getting your band out there live and recording. hat was pretty much what mattered at the end of the day. The bands all supported each other and everyone knew each other. It a great scene and there were tons of clubs that were open to anything. You had the craziest bills that you could imagine and it just flourished. It was awesome. So that was before punk went mainstream. It was an interesting time.

With a band like SEX TAPES, what got everyone on the same page to want to do it?
I was playing with MARKO the bass player and we were doing these casual jam sessions and it sort of inspired me to start putting down some other stuff that I had written at the time and I started doing a demo myself. Then I played it for MARKO and I played it for CHRIS and they really liked that stuff. They were stoked and they really wanted tot do the project. That was really how it came about. We were playing with a friend of ours who was a great drummer but it just didn't work out. So we started to look for a new drummer and CHRIS knew RYAN from another band. We played him the demo as well and we got together and here we are.

Talk about the band and what you think each of them brings to the table that makes it all worth it.
CHRIS PITMAN is pretty crazy. I've known him for years. We've actually played in bands before so this is probably one of three or four projects that we've worked on. CHRIS is extremely creative and knows a lot about the technical side and the business side. That's the reason that AXL has him around. He;s great with producing as well as performing as a vocalist which is a good thing for us. RYAN BROWN is just a slamming drummer. It's how he makes a living. He is in such high demand now that it sometimes makes it hard to get to get together because everybody wants him just as much as we do. MARKO FOX is an excellent bass player. He's an all-around musician. He also scores TV and Film and he knows his stuff when it comes to arrangements. Everybody brings this huge background that each of them has to the table and it becomes SEXTAPES.

Who all did the band work with in getting the album produced?
It's pretty much self produced. MARKO has a connection at the studio that we recorded at called THE PASS STUDIOS. That is where RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS recorded and SMASHING PUMPKINS did ZEITGEIST. That was where we recorded. We got to use that room for drum tracks and guitar tracks. We brought in a few friends who are engineers but really the album was self-produced and CHRIS was overseeing all of that. In the end he did the final mix and that was how it came about. It was a every D.I.Y. project.

Explain how dies turn into songs in this band.
The music comes from me. That initial demo was a lot of songs that I had in the past or had currently written. Most of the songs that the band ended up recording  are directly form that demo. I write the music, CHRIS writes these lyrics and the vocals and the band gets together and we hash out arrangements.
So I guess you could say that the core creative team are me and CHRIS.

Does it ever flow seamlessly or are there moments when there are real clunkers and you end up banging your heads into the wall?
Yeah, some of the arrangements did take a while and CHRIS would bang his head on the wall while he was producing and going 'How are we going to wrap this up?' Also as we were making the album, CHRIS' tour schedule was also heavy at that time so that took a little longer.

It seems to me that more and more bands these days have members that outsource themselves. It didn't seem to be that way when I was younger.
Yeah back in the day it wasn't like that. Nowadays, everyone is in five different bands.

Why do you think that is?
There are so many bands these days. there are probably millions more than there were. Why that it is I don't know. Maybe it's got something to do with the population. Everybody loves to do it and there are all these tools available now where your average person can do do. There aren't as many monetary limitations as there were before.

Have you ever felt that this sort of 'multi-tasking' ends up compromising the band or no?
That's a hard one. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it's a plus because you end up having more connections. Everyones life seems to be getting faster and crazier and that seems doubly so with musicians.  You just have to schedule things around it and figure things out.

What tracks off of this album stand out for you at the moment and why?
I've written all of them so they all stand out for me but the key ones for me are 'MEDICINE MAN' and 'TRAIN WRECK'. Those are probably two of my favorites. I really like the way that those two came out. 'MEDCINE MAN' was one of those songs where we had trouble coming  up with the final arrangement and CHRIS really came through on that one. 'TRAIN WRECK' was the same way. They are like these great collaborative tunes. They started out very raw at first  but when they were finished they were awesome.

Talk about the label that's releasing the album.
It;'s our own label actually. It's self released. We're the only band on the label right now, but we actually see this as a long-term thing where we could sign younger bands and release their work on that label. It's definitely something we're looking at in the future.

You've just don a show at the KEY CLUB. Are there any plans for a tour on the horizon?
Right now, we're just booking shows around L.A. We're just starting to get that off the ground right now. There is no tour immediately and some of that has to do with GUNS AND ROSES' schedule. These future locals shows could extend int more shows out side of California. So we'll see.

How about video for any of the songs
Not right now. We're actually talking with a few developers right now. The record came out so fast and distribution happened so fast that we didn't have anything prepared video-wise so that's something that we are jumping on right now. Hopefully soon we'll have something soon.

What would you like a person to come away with after they've heard this album or seen you live?
Hopefully they'll just dig our songs. We really poured everything into the songwriting and the production and it looks like we're getting noticed for that. From what we're able to see right now is that everybody really loves the songs and hopefully that is what new listeners can come away with.