Imperial Drag was the brainchild of Ex-Jellyfish members Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. and Eric Dover. Rising from the ashes of the defunct Pop quartet in the Spring of ´94, the two started writing songs during the beginning of that Summer. Heading out on a decidedly more Bluesy, Heavy-Rock path than the Wonka-esque, Pop-Carnival of Jellyfish, The duo crafted about two album´s worth of songs in a very short period of time. Already hooked up to a deal with ex-Virgin records Honchos & fans of the pair, Jeff Ayeroff & Jordan Harris, who had just launched brand new Boutique label WORK (with Major Distribution from Sony), Roger & Eric distilled their volume of work into a tight collection of songs that would become the band´s first & only self-titled album.
After an unexpected delay in entering the Studio to commence recording (Dover had committed to an eight-month tour with Slash´s Snakepit), the band hit the ground running upon Dover´s return, spending two arduous months in a lock-out rehearsal Studio in the San Fernando Valley for pre-production. To make up for lost time, the band intensely toiled away, pulling six-day-a-week, eight-to-ten-hour days - essentially trying to make a group of four guys who had never played in the same room together sound like they had for years. Starting on Halloween night, 1995, the new band - completed by L.A. Natives - Bassist Joe Karnes & Drummer Eric Skodis - loaded a music Store´s-worth of gear into House of Blues Studios in Encino, Ca. (formerly Keva West - a home-studio belonging to Tito Jackson) to begin a recording schedule that would be finished in two months, almost exactly to the day.
When John Leckie, legendary producer to bands like Radiohead, XTC, Pink Floyd, et al - bailed out to work on the new Verve albums (their first after getting back together) - the Production duty mantle fell into the willing hands of Roger. With Manning at the helm as Producer, Co-produced by Brad Jones (Jill Sobule, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow) and Howard Willing (Engineer), the world of imperial drag was created. Like a Metallurgist with potions & spells - crossed with an insane toymaker with a workshop full of tools - Manning, like the Sorcerer´s Apprentice, waved his hands and created unheard auditory oddities, both beautiful and terrifying. Rock landscapes that stretched the imagination as far as it could sonically go. Soaring, breath-taking harmonies over grinding, metallic, Guitars that sounded, at times, more like chainsaws or Jet planes. Synthesized textures that instantly painted pictures in the listener´s mind of spaceships, arcade games gone mad or electronic toys on the attack . And Pounding, unrelenting grooves that made one´s spine involuntarily twist.
At the time of the last song being recorded, the group was still at a loss for a moniker. Pouring over magazines, 60´s & 70´s pop-Culture, Movies, etc., nothing seemed to rock the band´s collective boat. Roger had run the name by the members, but was met with a less-than-enthusiastic response. It wasn´t until the label´s Art Director, Stephen Walker, showed the group a mock-up of the album´s CD artwork, complete with the Cocaine-mirror-rainbow/starburst and thin, modernist, Bauhaus font style that the name was etched in stone.
After another two months in which the group - basically created in the Studio - had to re-learn the songs they spent two months toiling over, the record was released and the band hit the road. Shortly after a brief whistle-stop tour of Europe to play key Columbia markets alongside of fellow Work artists Sponge, Fiona Apple, The Fugees, and Maxwell, the band was personally requested by None other than Alanis Morrisette to open the beginning of her first West-Coast tour of the States in large, out-door venues & arenas. With a month of playing enormo-domes under their belts, imperial drag went back to the bars. The group went on to complete a rigorous seven-and-half-month headlining club-tour of the United States, with intermittent stops over in the U.K. and Western Europe to do some press, TV shows and festivals. When the album was released overseas, the band made waves over in Europe, touring with the Verve Pipe - where they were warmly received in the U.K. and France. From there, it was on to the climax of the tour: a ten-day tour of Japan, where the band enjoyed their most success after selling in impressive 16,000 copies of their album the weekend it was released, resulting in every Japanese show being sold-out.
Taking a month off for the Holidays, the band was given an unprecedented go-ahead from Ayeroff & Harris to strike again while the iron was still hot, giving the band the opportunity to re-group and start work on their Sophomore effort, despite not-so-great record sales in the States. Armed this time with Industrio-Metal Producers Scott Humphries and Charlie Clouser (Rob Zombie, Nine Inch Nails, Motley Crue, etc.) , the group started tracking at Humphries new Hollywood Hills Home Studio "The Chop Shop". The new music was promising - a departure from the warm, fuzzy sound of the first album with a more "Electronic" feel. Sadly, six months into production, relations within the band broke down, due to internal, artistic and personal issues. The project was put on hold to find a new lead vocalist when an agreement between Dover and Manning (and the band) could not be reached, causing the band to split. Attempts to fill Dovers unique shoes were unfruitful, and the members slowly drifted apart. By Fall of 1997, the band was officially broken up.
Though the band´s sound wasn´t received by the American public with open arms on a mass level, the group achieved cult-status, making many industry end-of-year "best-of" lists. Sadly - and ironically - the climate of music at that time wasnt quite ready for a Lo-Fi, Garage-y-sounding Rock & Roll band with a warm, fuzzy, decidedly Analog sound that harkened back to 70´s rock giants like T-Rex, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Grand Funk Railroad. imperial drag was either too early or too late. The masses were still riding out the last wave of the 90s Alterna-Grunge scene. Rap-core was looming on the horizon, as thousands of kids waited to mosh their brains out to Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Korn and System of a Down. Had imperial drag only been able to stick it out, they might have had major success with the recent wave of 70´s, shag-cut, bell-bottom-Rocker bands like Jet, The Datsuns, Wolfmother, Priestess and Kings of Leon.
In the years since, the members have all gone on to various projects and done lots of studio/session & touring work. Most notable was the three years Roger Manning put in as Beck´s main keyboard man, as well as playing with french Electro-pop duo Air and joining former Jellyfish alumni, Jason Falkner in New-wave-inspired TV Eyes . Eric Dover also did a star turn as the lead Guitarist for Rock Legend Alice Cooper. Joe Karnes & Eric Skodis worked in many different groups as well, performing with many local, unsigned acts, as well as touring/session gigs with artists such as Blood of Abraham, Missing Persons, Jane Weidlin and The Tories, to name a few. What the members are up to now:
ROGER JOSEPH MANNING, JR. : Solid State Warrior (Roger´s first Solo project since Imperial Drag)
ERIC DOVER: Sextus (with Joe Karnes on Bass)
JOE KARNES: Pedestrian (with Joel Shearer from Super 8), John Cale.
ERIC SKODIS: Fantastic Black, the Headless Hearsemen, Roger Joseph Manning Jr.