n speaking with JEFF CARLSON in regard to how he happened to find himself in the world of rock n roll, I came away with a vision of him as the kid in that TWISTED SISTER video for WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT declaring that he wants to rock. And why the hell not? "I'm the classic case of not wanting to go to school and just wanting to rock," laughed CARLSON when speaking of how rock n roll took hold of him as a youth and didn't let go. "It's not smartest outlook on life but that was where my attitude was." The fabled road to rock n roll glory has always been a rocky one but CARLSON has managed to stay the course for the past twenty years fronting such bands as ANGEL PARK and LIQUID SKYE but it is the JEFF CARLSON band that has managed to make the most noise having shared stages with such acts as LITA FORD, TESLA, FIREHOUSE and FASTER PUSSYCAT. After twenty years of rocking out consistently, CARLSON and his band are set for one hell of a year having recently been signed to RFL RECORDS and the release of their upcoming EP SECOND CHANCE which is being preceded by the single - a glorious cover of the FOREIGNER classic JUKE BOX HERO featuring FRANK HANNON of TESLA on lead guitar. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with JEFF CARLSONregarding the band's new single and forthcoming EP. Here is how the interview went.
2020 is shaping up to be a big year for the band having been signed to RFL RECORDS and now you've got a new single in a FOREIGNER cover. What was the inspiration for making JUKE BOX HERO your latest single?
My father just passed away in January and he always loved that song when I was a kid and said that it always reminded him of me. My bass player CORY had a band that he played in prior to playing with us and they always said that whenever they would play the opening to JUKE BOX HERO people would go nuts over it even though they would never play the full song. Just the beginning of it. So I thought it would be a great song to modernize and do it our way yet still pay hommage to it and I got FRANK HANNON to play lead guitar on it for me which was really cool for him to do that. I'm very thankful for that.
CHECK OUT THE MUSIC VIDEO FOR JUKE BOX HERO!!!
And how were you able to get FRANK HANNON to play lead guitar on this single?
FRANK and I have been buddies for about ten years now. Time goes quick. I used to live in Tucson, Arizona for a while and for a time my old band had opened for him. Strangely enough that band had the same lead guitar player and bass player that I have now. So we opened for FRANK in Tucson and we've been friends ever since. Last November of last year he had a gig and I had some down time between touring for TESLA and he had a gig booked for this private party in Sacramento and he asked if I wanted to fly out and sing a whole set of TESLA songs. So I flew out there and did the gig and when it was done I asked him if he wanted to play on one of my tracks. So I sent him the WAV files and he just laid it down in the studio in his house. That was how that came about.
So does the the release of JUKE BOX HERO signal a larger release to come from you guys like an LP or an EP?
Absolutely there is. We are actually getting ready to do a five song EP. We've got one song almost done and we should have it ready to go by the end of April. It's gonna be called LIQUID SKY and we're gonna put that out through RFL RECORDS. People used to do records but it seems like these days that people are just releasing singles or EPs. I would rather keep the momentum going and doing a five song EP every couple of months and put it out that way everything is fresh and you are constantly keeping your audience entertained and it's not touring for one solid year to promote one record.
Who all is helping you with production for this single and EP? Who is sitting in the chair behind the recording console?
We've got the lead guitar player ROBBIE WOLF's son BRANDON running everything. He is amazing! It's a portable studio believe it or not. He just comes into my house and we set everything up. He just does a killer production. So that's pretty much it. We pay for it but it's not like we're shelling out $2,000.00 an hour for some big studio.
Bring me back to the begining of this band. Who did it all come together?
We started this band in 1998. I moved to Vegas and I lived in Vegas from '98 to '07. I had met my bass player CORY and along with this guy KYLE and the lead guitar player ROBBIE, we all formed a band called ANGEL PARK and that led to the formation of a second band called LIQUID SKY that we had which had a different drummer. But we learned later that there was another band out of England called LIQUID SKYE so I just stopped that band. I moved from Vegas to Tucson and the back to Vegas in 2018 and I had a solo deal with POTMAC RECORDS which was basically just a distribution deal. It wasn't like they put any money into me but they at least were able to give me official releases so that was cool. That led to playing and getting everything together with the band that I have now. At the time, CORY, the bass player, and MIKE, the drummer, were in another band but that band had broken up by the time I got back into town so the timing was perfect. We've all known each other since '98 so we've kind of come full circle. That's why I called the EP SECOND CHANCE. I also called it that becuase I have Crohn's disease and I actually died for three minutes on the operating table on the first surgery I had in 2001. Seven surgeries later I think I'm doing okay.
Talk about being signed to RFL RECORDS and the describe the band's relationship with the label.
JON MARCHEWKA is really a great guy. It is really refreshing to have someone like him in our corner. I've also got a really hand it to SAM BONE. She's been helping me out since I was signed with POTMAC. JON believes in what we are doing and that is huge. I would rather be with someone who is really behind us and wants to push us as opposed to getting signed to SONY only to get dropped because we didn't sell 18 million records right out of the gate.
Talk about the other members of the band and what is that each of them brings to the table that makes this thing work?
ROBBIE WOLFE is my lead guitar player. He had a band in the eighties called HOLY SOLDIER and they came along right around the same time that STRYPER did but they didn't have the money behind them that STRYPER had although they did have quite a huge following in the Christian scene. Years later when we met up, he told me had always wanted to be a lead guitar player and I needed a lead guitar player who could sing harmonies. That is his forte. Harmonies and coming up with good arrangements. All four of us are a great team. CORY and MIKE both bring their parts in and they make it truly as original to us as they possibly can by adding their parts to it. We have a lot of influences but the end result always comes out sounding like us which is kind of cool I think. Especially in today's world where it's realy heard to be original. So I think we're doing an okay job of that. I know the FOREGINER song we've got out is a cover song but I still think that it captures the vibe of who we are as a band.
What was your musical history before this band?
My mom took me to see KISS when I was four years old. I don't remember much about it. I just remember seeing ACE FREHLEY's boots and how smokey the stage was. My mom also took to me to see BLACK OAK ARKANSAS a couple of years later and JIM DANDY MANGRUM, the lead singer, made a huge impact on me as a kid. Fast forward to the late sevenites and early eighties in high school I started sitting in with friends of mine that I went to school with, their uncles had these top forty rock bands and I started sitting in with them playing guitar. I'd be playing stuff like DON'T TELL ME YOU LOVE ME at 14 years old. I also started seeing concerts at that age and I was really impressionable. That really pointed me in the direction of rock n roll.
What do you want to be the big takeaway for the band's music? What do you want someone to walk away feeling after they hear the music?
That's a good question. If someone hears it I would like for them to acknowledge that we're bringing rock n roll to the forefront and staying true to who we are as people. We took the music that we grew up on and we made it our own. That is pretty much it. At the end of the day, if I'm happy and proud of it, that is all that I can really ask for, but if someone else really likes then that's a bonus.
What's next for the band musically in the immediate future?
April 17th wer'e going to be at the HOUSE OF BLUES in Las Vegas oepnign for TESLA which is going to be a lot of fun. We're trying to get on some shows that we can start doing fly dates to where we can get the name out there and play as much as we can. We're gonna finish the new EP and get it out there probably around the end of April. That's pretty much it.
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