Tommy Paris interview
| TOMMY PARIS INTERVIEW
Who doesn't remember Tommy Paris? Well, for those who don't, he was the guy who replaced original Britny Fox singer Dean Davidson, and whose incredible pipes and talent took the band to "the next level" with their 1991 "Bite Down Hard" album, which only got the recognition of its being the band's best album ever till this day. Here's a complete, down-to-earth interview with the man himself, who talks about his days with Britny Fox, his other past and present projects and, especially, about his brand new, very first solo album, the stellar "Tommy Paris Band".
|01 - Hi there, Tommy, what's up? Thanks a lot for giving Melodic Net an interview!!! Can we get started with your telling us how you first got started in music? What were your main in uences back then?
Hi Criss! Thanks for having me! My mom bought a piano when I was 8 years old so she could learn to play, and I started messing about with it. I learned to play by ear before I took formal lessons. My older brothers had Led Zeppelin, Rush, Van Halen and they liked playing them on their stereos, so I started to dig those bands and discovered groups on my own; everything from Elton John, Deep Purple and Emerson Lake and Palmer to Yes, Kiss, The Who and so many more.
02 - You have one of the most unique voices in rock and you always play the guitar and other instruments. Was being a lead singer always your main goal or did you get to try something else before you joined Britny Fox?
In bands from high school, I always had someone else singing lead vocals. I formed all original bands that were progressive rock and I was all about organ and synthesizer, maybe some background vocals. When singers didn’t show up for rehearsal, I’d cover the lead vocal parts just for the sake of getting through the set. My bandmates would tell me, “you should just be the singer”, so I started to. After high school, I joined cover bands in California and Nevada as a keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, or drummer. I’d sing mostly background vocals in those bands. I was writing my own songs all the while and trying to have them played in between cover songs in the set, and it always frustrated me becuase few made it in. Those band’s goals were to play top 40 music and make a living (if you could call it that!), but I wanted to record albums of all original songs. After enough frustration, I left the cover band world and got a proper job in a music shop so I could concentrate on making my first album.
03 - So, what did you do musically prior to being in Britny Fox?
Several years before Britny Fox, I recorded a 4-song EP of all original songs in a professional recording studio, released it on vinyl and then toured 5 states with my own band which was 1/2 original and 1/2 cover music. After that, I set out to make a proper, full length, 12 song album. My buddy Jamie Bordern (a sick ass drummer who does Neil Peart instructional videos), went into the project with me and we recruited a bassist and a guitarist to get on with the recording process. The result was the CD “Deadly Girl.” We printed 1,000 CD’s and 1,000 cassettes and began to play local show cases in Las Vegas while shopping the master to record companies. During this period is when I came in contact with Britny Fox.
04 - Britny Fox was a huge band back in the late 80's. What is your honest opinion about their rst two albums with Dean Davidson? Did you also feel they were just a "Cinderella copycat" as many considered them to be?
I remember some people saying Britny Fox was a Cinderella clone but I never saw it that way. You must remember that Michael Kelly Smith formed Cinderella with Tom Keifer, so I imagine that influence was already there when he formed Britny Fox with Dean. People would say that Dean sounded like Tom Keifer but I thought he sounded more like Udo Dirkschneider from Accept.
05 - What do you really know about Dean's leaving the band? Also, how did the guys in Britny Fox nd you?
The other guys told me he wanted to play blues instead of hard rock or whatever. A friend of mine gave me a trade magazine announcing that Britny Fox was auditoning new singers, so I contacted their manager.
06 - Once you started working with Britny Fox, how did it feel to you? Did you have enough say in the creative process since the band was then writing for an album on their own? Well, their first two albums were all written by Dean Davidson...
It felt great because we were all fans of the same music from the same time periods, so we had that in common from the get go.
07 - In 2001, "The Bite Down Hard Sessions" were released on CD, sold only on the band's website, and which has become a super rare collector's item. What can you say about these sessions? Also, why were these the only songs that were released? I mean, there's a double bootleg CD out there called "The Sea Isle City Demos 90 - 91" (mine is kept under lock and key), with lots of unreleased stuff till this day... Any plans of ever releasing the songs that didn't make it to "The Bite Down Hard Sessions"?
I had zero involvement in releasing either of those CDs. If they weren’t on "Bite Down Hard", it’s because they didn’t make the cut. I sang and co-wrote all of that stuff, but they were just shitty demo ideas and not for anyone’s ears but the band and our manager, so we could pick from them for "Bite Down Hard". I was never asked if I was cool with either disc being released. Rubbish.
08 - Once "Bite Down Hard" was out, how did you feel about it? I mean, Britny Fox had not only taken a heavier, different from other bands' directions, but songs like "Six Gun Loaded", "Closer To Your Love", "Look My Way", "Shot From My Gun" and the single "Louder" are also some of the band's best songs ever. In fact, I believe this is still one of the best ones released in 1991. On the other hand, Dean Davidson's then new band's Blackeyed Susan's album, released in the same year, was OK, but not that good. What can you tell us about it?
I was very proud of what we had pulled off together recording "Bite Down Hard". I thought the album was solid and I was hopeful everyone would feel the same.
I recall a BES song called, “None Of It Matters” which I thought was cool. I’m not familiar with the rest.
09 - How did the Britny Fox fans receive you as the band's lead singer when the "Bite Down Hard" album was released?
I was received well. There were the diehard Dean fans but many said I did a great job.
10 - Why do you think "Bite Down Hard" didn't have the same commercial success as the band's two first albums? Do you think it was a matter of bad luck since grunge was not a fad yet then? I mean, the first single off the album, "Louder", was such a powerful track...
Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was released on September 24, 1991. “Bite Down Hard” was released on March 27, 1991. It’s hard to get any closer to ground zero for the Grunge / Glam holocaust!
11 - Why do you feel that the "Louder" video had so little airplay? I was only able to watch it in 1999... LOL
See the answer to #10!
12 - Britny Fox had a great song, "Turn On", on the MCA Records "Nintendo: White Knuckle Scorin'" soundtrack. What can you say about it and this song itself?
We were asked to contribute a song, so Billy and I wrote it. I still like that song. I love the production. Howard Benson produced it at different studios while we were at One On One and Devonshire studios in North Hollywood recording “Bite Down Hard.” That was a crazy 3 day recording session as we were out partying with Zakk Wylde, John Purdell (producer) and Sean Odwyer (engineer) every night. Crazy young lads!
13 - How long did you guys stay together after the whole "Bite Down Hard" thing? What led the band to call it quits?
See #10! The industry had no support for our kind of band by 1992. It was all Seattle bands at that time and we were simply extinguished.
14 - Little was heard from you after Britny Fox was gone. What did you do during this hiatus?
I built a recording studio in my house, got married, raised 2 children and worked in the hotel industry operating lighting, lasers and live audio.
15 - Then you teamed up with Britny Fox's drummer Johnny Dee (now in Doro Pesch's band) and released the curious "Uncle Edna" album. Another very rare collector's item. Most of those who have listened to it didn't like it at all, since it was clearly a grunge album. What can you say about the Uncle Edna days?
It was just an experimental project, nothing more.
16 - Britny Fox then reunited (once again with you on vocals) and it was something really exciting for the fans at the time. Old and new fans longed for new material... Was it the reason why you guys released not only the. "Bite Down Hard Sessions", but also two live albums (the three being now collector's pieces) only sold on the band's website?
In 2000, VH-1 asked us to do a segment for the show, “Where Are They Now?” and from the airing of that show, we received renewed interest in the band. We were offered a 3 record deal from Eaglerock’s Spitfire label.
17 - Why do you think "Bite Down Hard" was only considered the band's at their best, both by fans and critics, only a decade after its release?
We put a ton of energy into making "Bite Down Hard" the best record we could. After that it’s up to everyone else to decide what it is. Even in 2017, people still say they like the album and wonder why there’s so little of that kind of rock out there anymore.
18 - An official live album, "Long Way To Live" was released, and a deal with Spitfire Records for a brand new Britny Fox studio album was what the diehard fans longed for. "Springhead Motorshark" wasn't really well received by many, for its being way "edgy, way too modern and so different" from anything the band had done before - actually, a "grunge album"... Can you tell us about those days and about what made Britny Fox release an album like that?
"Springhead Motorshark" was the best material we had at that time. We were forced to record it in a disjointed fashion due to schedules. It was experimental. It was off the beaten path. The label had a deadline and we were contractually obligated to deliver a master. It sounds good stoned I’m told!
19 - Britny Fox was history for the second time. What did you do then? Very little was known about your musical endeavours again...
I was working in the hotel and recording world.
20 - The band then reunited once again, this time without guitarist and founding member Michael Kelly Smith. Why that? Also, why didn't it last long? Do you see Britny Fox ever playing together again?
We last toured with Michael Kelly Smith in 2003. After that he was done with it. It’s a hell of a prospect to take a group out on tour and make it lucrative for everyone. I don’t know if Britny Fox will play together again or not. I’m concentrating on my new solo group, Tommy Paris Band.
21 - Let's talk about 2017 now... To be deadly honest, I had never heard about Count's 77 before their new album "Soul Transfusion" was released in March. I only got to know about them since it came to my ears you were in the band. When I first saw the album cover I was very suspicious... It does look like a heavy metal band album... When I got it, I was even more frustrated when I saw you only played keys on it - I had thought you were their lead singer at first. Listening to the album, it happened to be a pretty awesome one - sounding like classic, bluesy rock and roll with great songs. Both their sound and image reminded me a lot of the band Little Caesar... Can you talk about Count's 77 and how you ended up playing with them?
In 1989, I was negotiating with Mike Varney to sign my band “JILLSON” to his Shrapnel Records label. I ended up joining Britny Fox in 1990 and never signed with him, but we remained friends over the years. In 1992, I was recording “Bite Down Hard” in L.A. with Britny Fox, which was produced by John Purdell and Duane Baron, who were completing production on Ozzy’s “No More Tears.” Fun time! The engineer on our sessions was Sean Odwyer, who has since engineered for Pink Floyd, Roger Waters and a ton of other great artists.
Fast forward to 2014. Mike Varney and Sean Odwyer are producing / engineering Count’s 77 debut CD at Desert Moon Productions in Las Vegas. They were close to completing all of the tracking but wanted some Hammond B-3 Organ parts added before they began to mix. Mike and Sean referred me to the band. I went down to Desert Moon and arranged the parts with Stoney Curtis (Count’s 77 main guitarist) and we got the bits recorded. I went on my way and they started mixing. About a month later, Danny and the band asked me to join them as a full time member to play the Hammond parts as well as sing the main background vocal parts at the shows. More than 3 years later, we’re still performing shows all over the US and Canada. Great bunch of guys!
22 - And you've finally put out your first solo album after all these years, which is titled "Tommy Paris Band". Who played on it? Who produced it? What can you say about having a solo album out for the first time? How does it differ from the music you recorded with Britny Fox and other bands?
I had some amazing musicians play on it! Several are undiscovered talents and some are from known groups who requested to be uncredited due to contractual obligations. If you look at all the musicians from popular bands who live in Las Vegas, you can probably figure out who played. I wrote all the songs and produced the CD as well.
23 - The "Tommy Paris Band" album sounds amazing. It does feature great, catchy rock and roll songs there, and I dare to say that's kind of a follow-up to the "Bite Down Hard" album. Can you tell us about its making? Also, what are your favorite songs off the album and why?
I wanted to write a brand new album of songs that came from jamming REALLY LOUD with musicians I respected and enjoyed being around. I wanted to write a collection of songs that were catchy, heavy and fun to play and sing. I had no other designs in mind. I’m not easily impressed with my own material. I end up hating everything I write and I’m very hard to please. When I finally got this collection of tunes written, I was very excited that I had achieved what I set out to do... The songs are a lot of fun to sing and play and the CD sounds cool - LOUD!
Of course I like ALL the songs so it’s hard to be objective but I can say that people mention “Down Down”, “Ready To Bleed”, “Make It Fit”, “Explode” and “Universe” a lot. The overall consensus is that people seem to like the CD as a whole. I’ve heard that people’s favorite songs keep changing and they like it the more they listen to it.
24 - Was the rawer production of the new album something planned?
25 - The solo album artwork also looks pretty much like a heavy metal band's. Was that on purpose? Do you have any problems exploring the image you've built throughout the years?
I wanted a design for the new album and new band that looked like what the music sounds like and that’s exactly what the image is to me. People have told me there is no other artwork that would fit the sound of this CD more perfectly and I couldn’t agree more! My son, Curtis, designed the logo and I think he did a great job joining sounds with images!
26 - There are so many great songs on this album that I could name at least four or five favorites of mine. Any plans of making promo videos for any of the new tunes?
Yes, when the time comes for sure.
27 - Your solo album is an independent release and it's only available on your website at the moment. Do you have plans getting a label to either re-release or distribute it worldwide?
I’m my own label for the moment. It’s for sale worldwide at shop.tommyparis.com - If a label approached me about distributing it, I’m all ears.
28 - What about your touring plans? Who will be in the band and what places are you going to? Also, what are some countries where you've never been before and you'd like to go to on tour?
I’m forming a new band as we speak. Johnny Dee from Doro and Britny Fox will be playing drums in the live band! I’m currently speaking with some great lead guitarists and bassists. Once the line-up is all set, there will be an official announcement. We will play in the US for starters. I’d love to play in your country, Europe, Japan. Anywhere they’ll have us!
29 - What's the gear you've been using lately? Have you got any endorsements right now?
Gibson Les Pauls, Marshall JCM 800 100 watt heads, Marshall Green Back cabinets with Celestions, various guitar pedals, Digi-Tech Looper, GHS Boomers (11’s), Yamaha, Roland and Hammond keyboards. Some of this gear is endorsed, some not. I’m always open for endorsements.
30 - Besides probably promoting your new album, what are your plans for the future?
To play a ton of live shows, stay healthy and be happy!
31 - Looking back now, could you name both the best and the worst moments of your whole career?
Hmmm, that’s hard to say. The worst would be when my first real momentum was cut short by Grunge. The best would be recording the vocals to “Closer To Your Love” at Devonshire Studios in North Hollywood, with producers Duane Baron and John Purdell who produced Ozzy’s “No More Tears” album. It was the one song I had to fight really hard to get on to "Bite Down Hard". No one else could hear it from the shitty 4-track demo, but I could. When we were recording vocals for the chorus, I did 8 tracks of the low part and 8 tracks of the high one. It sounded like fucking Queen. Right then, everyone got it and could finally hear what I had been going on about. To this day it’s still my favorite song on the album.
32 - What artists have you been listening to lately? Do you still listen to the bands you loved when you first got started? What about Glam Rock and 80's bands? Do you still listen to them?
After finishing the Tommy Paris Band CD, I went into a white-out audio-wise. The production wiped me out. I listen to everything from Big Band, Beatles, Rave music my son writes, Ozzy’s Boneyard, etc... I still really love AC/DC, Sabbath, Priest, Dio, Maiden etc... I don’t go long without putting something from those bands on.
33 - What's something you did in music you're really proud of? Is there anything you really regret doing?
I’m really proud about how the Tommy Paris Band CD turned out and how people have been reacting to it. I regret compromising on many things, many times.
34 - How can your fans and people in general contact you for buying the new album or to get you on the road?
The Tommy Paris Band CD is exclusively for sale at shop.tommyparis.com - Once the new band is formed, all the tour dates will be listed on www.tommyparis.com
35 - Please leave a message to all of the loyal Melodic Net readers, will you? Everybody's gonna love it!!! We're really happy to have had the chance having you here!!! Thanks!!!
First off, thank YOU Criss! We will be playing some Britny Fox tunes in the live show as well as songs from the Tommy Paris Band CD and some other surprises! To all the diehard fans who traveled far and wide to see us on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise, Hair Nation, M3, Farm Rock and everywhere else, THANK YOU! I greatly appreciate your kind words and support of my music over the years! Thanks to the Britny Fox and BRAND NEW FANS who purchased the Tommy Paris Band CD! You are the best and I hope to see you on tour soon!
You Rule!!! God bless!!!
Did you know that?
The Gaslight Anthem´s Brian Fallon and Alex Levine are brothers in law as Brian married Alex´s older sister.