Archives for category: Rock City Angels

FnA Records will officially release the long anticipated Tora Tora follow up to Wild America; Revolution Day on February 28th on at 8:30 PM Pacific Time live on the air from Las Vegas, Nevada with DJ Cory Draper playing some of the tracks and celebrating with all the original members of the band; Anthony Corder, Keith Douglas, Patrick Francis and John Patterson.

It has been a while since 1994 when this gem was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee just like the previous two albums. Anthony and I sat down for an Indian Lunch buffet at Tamarind on Demonbreum, just off Music Row in Nashville to reflect back on that time.  Tora Tora has been lucky over the last few years doing reunion shows and playing Rocklahoma in 2008.

The release of Revolution Day has been long anticipated since the fans have been getting their first taste of the music from Revolution Day live over the last couple of years. Tora Tora fans, especially in their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee were excited to know that Revolution Day was going to see the light of day.

Brad: Everybody in the band is still nearby?

Anthony: Yeah everybody is still based out of Memphis. We actually ended on great terms when the record deal was done. Our A&R Guy Brian was a great guy, he also signed Soundgarden.

B: So who was your Management then?

A: We were with Loud n Proud which was based out of Brooklyn. L’amour’s was a big heavy metal club and we used to go there and rehearse for a first tour which was our first trip out of town, when we were going to promote our record, it was our first big tour. We would go there and stay out on Staten Island in some Loft apartments, with three of our crew guys; there were seven of us staying there in a one bedroom apartment.  So we’re driving into Brooklyn every day to rehearse at L’amour’s and go by the management office.

B: You were recording at Ardent, right? But, rehearsing in New York?

A: Yeah, we went out for eight weeks after the first record I think. We worked our way on from Pennsylvania, out in the boonies, places like the Cat Club, Vinnie’s,

B: And this was right after the first release?

A: Yeah after Surprise Attack. At the end we were with Bill Graham Management. About the time we were ready to wrap the third record, Brian (A&R) was offered a very lucrative contract to go with another label.

B: How did you get signed?

Tora Tora at Ardent during Wild America

A: Ardent had signed us to a production deal and they kept bringing A&R guys to Memphis to see us and A&M showed the most interest. They seemed the most genuinely interested in what was going on with the band. Brian (Artist Relations with A&M) was always really encouraging; he liked to hang out with us after our thing (in Memphis). We used to have this warehouse where we would showcase.

B: Was that like your practice space?

A: Yeah, we hung black garbage bags all over the wall and the front of the stage. Keith’s Dad had these 55 gallon blue barrels and we built a stage out of them. We put plywood on top of them and painted it. We would just recruit some of the Football players like from Ole Miss and they would run the door for us. They were security and the local DJ would announce us on the radio. He would say, “Hey tonight, don’t forget Tora Tora”. They would bring like long chairs and all kinds of stuff and just hang out and we would jam out all night. That’s where the record label came to see us play.

B: Did you have other bands playing gigs with you there?

A: Our first show was on Halloween and we had an opening act but after that we pretty much did our own thing.

B: Did you do the warehouse thing because there was pretty much one club or you had to open for a big name act?

A: The biggest problem was our crowd was under age so playing bars; they wouldn’t be able to get in. So it was a place, if you were under age where you could go and hang out and listen to lots of music. It was kinda cool. We did play at The New Daisy on Beale Street a lot. It’s like a little thousand seat Theater. We actually just played there in 2009 I think. It was kind of great to go back there and play in a place you grew up.

B: So what was going on around the time you did Revolution Day after a few years on the road?

A: About the time we got finished with recording our last, the third (Revolution Day) record, Keith our guitarist, was getting ready to have a Son, so he was thinking I don’t know if I’m up for doing another run on the road, maybe I’ll do the record, and of course we wanted him to go with us, we just said if you’re not going to go then we’re not going either. You know we had been playing together since we were kids.

B: So he didn’t think he would be able to do it?

A: Well, he just had a child that he wanted to be around. It was a big decision and at the time the other three of us weren’t married. Not to bring up anything negative, but it seemed like the timing was right to take a break, Brian (at A&M) was going and Keith was wanting to take some time off, so we were like you know what let’s just take a break and we’ll pick up where we left off or if we want to get back together we will.

B: So you kind of took a hiatus?

A: Yeah, and so we decided to do that and it took us I don’t know how long, fourteen years or something like that to get back. Everybody got back into their own life and had their things going on. I wanted to keep singing and I kept pounding it out with some other guys.

B: Were any of the guys playing in any bands or doing anything after Tora Tora?

A: Patrick actually did, he went on and did a thing with a band called Rail.

B: Was it the Rail that was on MTV and stuff back in the early eighties that won some contest and toured with Heart?

A: I don’t think so. Oh no.

B: When you started Tora Tora and got signed did you ever find out there were any other bands called Tora Tora?

A: We did, from the seventies I think.

B: Were they a U.S. Band?

A: Yeah, they were and they had a record called Made in Japan. It was funny.  I guess with the length of time and everything since their release we got permission and everything to get the rights to the name and go for it.

B: Nowadays with the internet, it is a lot easier to find out, but back then you would have to look through a library or for trademarks or something. Back then you wouldn’t know there was another band with your name unless you crossed regions. With a name like Tora Tora there was that possibility.

A: Right, we kind of found out on the back end, but it was enough time before we got the record deal and everything going.

B: When you were writing the music for Revolution Day there is a marked confidence in the playing.

A: We had grown so much out on the road. I mean on our first record we had never travelled. We didn’t have a lot of life experience. We just thought about dating girls, maybe catching a buzz or something. It was pretty limited but after our first record we spent two years out on the road and you could tell our eyes were just like opening.

B: Who were you touring with at the time?

A: We did a lot of touring on our own. We were brand new. We wanted to get out and get the chops, get our own crowd. It was about being in front of people, you know you can rehearse to death in a rehearsal room and hit every mark and great but when you play in front of people it turns into its own thing.

B: Now kids want to get in and do all these recordings and videos but what Rock and Roll is all about is going out and joining the circus.

A: Yeah we took three guys as our crew and went out and our A&R guy was there.

B: Did your A&R guy do merch for you?

A: No, He just wanted to go out with us on the road. It was great fun. I don’t know how other people work but he was pretty hands on.

B: That is really good though.

A: Yeah even Keith our guitar player got kind of close would hang with him. He would come up with all kinds of crazy stuff. One of my Birthdays, we were on our way to North Carolina or whatever and he would get ideas to go do stuff. There is nothing like being in a band together and just going out and doing stuff you like to do. We were getting so much better out on the road.

B: Well, when you think of the trilogy of Tora Tora albums it makes me think about Van Halen, on Van Halen it was just killer, and then when you get to Van Halen II, hey they have been out on the road, there just kind of more loose, relaxed and then Van Halen III it was like they thought we can do some crazy stuff, like with the drum beats and where they were going. It was kind of like Tora Tora was getting there, like now we can try some crazy stuff.

A: Yeah, we always rehearsed a lot so that when we got to the studio there were never any snares. Keith was always the perfectionist.  You know how it is, he was always creative. We were growing musically, but on that third record practiced a lot at an old studio around the corner from Ardent. We actually had done a lot of pre-production there for the Wild America record as well.

B: Are the first two A&M records still in print?

A: The first one (Surprise Attack) is, the second one is not. I think they only made about 300,000 units or something.

B: So what about Revolution Day?

A: I think we did stretch out musically.  We had a warehouse that was over by the airport and it was great we could get as loud as we want and there were planes like taking off. This was during the third record.

B: Did you know Rock City Angels when they were recording over at Ardent?

A: Yeah we knew them very well. I remember Bobby Durango and all those guys. Anyways, when we were at the warehouse, one of our crew guys had worked at Ardent and he was a great like Engineer guy and he could fix like anything in the world and he helped us mic up everything and did preproduction demos on 8 track cassette. That was some of the stuff we released on FnA Records.

B: Yeah some people are so into deep catalog stuff they are looking for stuff like that.

A: Yeah, I told FnA Records that was great even for us to have just to document that time.  We worked on that record for a long time and there are songs like “Little Texas” which is about this place in Mississippi where they are still toting stuff around it’s a farm area, a town called Little Texas, Mississippi. Lyrically it had stuff about my roots, more introspective.

B: So “Little Texas” is about where you grew up?

A: Yeah, a little bit. I mean the real place I’m from is called Avalon, Mississippi. It’s where Mississippi John Hurt is from, and you know cotton gins and little stores,

B: You know talking about Mississippi John Hurt; that was one of the blues players they went back to in the sixties like Son House.

A: My Granddad knew him. When I grew up, my family on my Mom’s side, they were all like porch players and my Mom played piano and my Uncle played guitar. The other Aunt sang.

B: Porch players? Like hanging out on the porch and jamming?

A: Yeah, porch pickers, they would all play and they got my Uncle to learn the John Hurt way of playing. So he would do it and play just like him. My Aunt could do it. I don’t realize it was something unique growing up there with my family jamming and stuff. My friends would come down with me to visit and they would be like, your family is playing this Mississippi John Hurt style and I would be like, no, let’s get out of here. I would never sing in front of my family. When I was about fifteen, a guy down the street from me was playing guitar and I’ll never forget, he got a Jackson, like he was all about it, it was pink and the slanted neck and all that. He got it and he was listening to a bunch of Dokken and all these things and I went down and he said you should sing or something. At first he got a snare, bass drum and a High hat and I was jamming with him and I was yelling over the drums. That is when I very first started singing.

B: Before that did you sing in the shower or anything like that?

A: No, I listened to a lot of top 40 radio and my parents listened to a lot of R&B and the bluesy stuff and they did Gospel. It was really important, because they were like strict Southern Baptist and we were at church every Sunday singing in church and stuff like that. It was definitely something different when I started singing with them and we started this group called Pioneer.

B: That was your first band?

A: We had done a couple of talent shows and a couple of Battle of the Bands things and then Patrick the bass player from Tora Tora talked to me one day. We saw each other at the Mall or something.

B: This was how Tora Tora started?

A: Yeah, he said we are going to have some auditions for the band and we wanted to know if you wanted to come by and sing. They were like into Iron Maiden and Rush, things I weren’t super clear with, and I knew some of the stuff.

B: You brought kind of the blues thing into it, kind of like they were these Metalheads?

A: Yeah, it wasn’t something like hey this is what we are going to do. It just kind of developed. They were playing like Cheap Trick, Rush 2112 and Iron Maiden.

B: This is a lot different than “Guilty”.

A: They had a following before I came in but it was more heavy kind of a Judas Priest thing. It turned into something a little bit different. After the first couple of times practicing it started changing and they were really teaching me a lot of things because I really didn’t know much about singing. I mean like timing and all that stuff. It was hilarious. I remember our first show we played out, like I didn’t move.  I stared at my feet. And they said you gotta move man. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think about every day. I mean I can walk by somewhere and smell the room and say I want to get up there right now or something will happen. The third record though,

B: What would you say would be the radio cut on the new album?

A: I don’t know, we had a lot of fun where we had girls singing back up and we had the Memphis Horns on one track (Memphis Soul). We had written with some more outside writers like Stan Lynch from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.

B: Really, Stan Lynch?

 A: He had two songs on the second record, and I think he had two on the third record. I still talk to him this day. He had a great stand here in Nashville. On the first record we were against writing with other people, but then we co wrote “Guilty” and that was like pulling teeth. None of us wanted to go in there. We felt like they were trying to change us. We thought well we need to man up so I went in there and wrote with him. We thought this is totally going to change our sound and the label is going to hate it and the label people went “Oh my God, this is great! We got a single!” It was a learning experience and the one thing I am happy about now, looking back on it, especially being in publishing now, I encourage people to write with as many people as they can. You always take something out of it even if the song is not that great.

B: There is nothing wrong with mixing it up.

A: I think Keith tried a lot of different things on the guitar; he tried a lot of different tones and sounds in the studio. We had the luxury when we were at A&M, all six years, with recording everything at Ardent.  It was kind of our home base. John Fry is still a great mentor to me.

B: John Fry is still the “guru” at Ardent today.

A: Yeah, and they gave us the opportunity to like grow and be experimental. I bet we wrote sixty songs for Revolution Day. That was actually demo’d up.

B: Pre-production was a big thing back then. You could demo thirty songs and pick twelve or thirteen.

A: I think the culture is totally different now. Economics.  Money is not flowing around like it used to be.  Technology affords you the opportunity to just trigger it. The overall thing about Revolution Day that I just wanted to say is get it out to the people that want to have the chance to hear it.

B: The songs from Revolution Day always go over really well. I was at your 2008 show.  The fans like it, people want a copy of it.

A: It’s out all over the internet (poor MP3 quality bootlegs). We just said, let’s do a copy right. I’m surprised fans are still out there and they’re still loyal. They appreciate everything we do. I think about it every day.

B: I talk to a lot a people from bands from back in the day and I mention Tora Tora, being from Memphis and the album Revolution Day and I always get positive feedback. It’s always, I really liked those guys.

A: I think a lot of it is due to the team we had around us at Ardent. The band, the guys, they really had a sound. We would go bang it out in the studio till we had the right sound.

B: So with Revolution Day, maybe you’ll do some more shows?

A: Well, Keith has been writing some stuff and said “I want to send some stuff over to you, not bang you in the head, maybe acoustic stuff at first. Which is good, I was always the mellow guy. I would love to do something again other than just do shows.

After a pile of Tandori Chicken, Curry and Rice we were done and where we were going was into the future. It is possible that Tora Tora may have some new material in the future with the same four members that tore it up back when, but, for now Revolution Day is a fantastic album equal sonically to some of the best Metal of the era like Motley Crue’s Doctor Feelgood for Metalheads past and present to enjoy.

Tora Tora present times

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

courtesy Brian Cade Photgraphy

November 19th, mark it on your calendar, will be a big night for Rock City Angels performing live with a forward march and a look back to the storyteller past, where they will be celebrating the release of Midnight Confessions on FnA Records, a collection of songs recorded from Memphis to England with Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy fame on what would have been their second Geffen Records release.

Bobby Durango  talked about Midnight Confessions;  a collection of songs spanning three years after the release of their first Geffen album Young Man’s Blues. “We had the same A&R as Guns n Roses at Geffen and that is where they put their money and promotion”.  

The label didn’t give them an idea of when they would drop the second record, “The A&R guy just kept saying “This stuff is great but I don’t hear THAT SONG” it was almost like Geffen was saying we are not going to put money into this”.

Rock City Angels went through several lineup changes that even included Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy featured on “Heart and Soul” between 1989 and 1992 before they were sold a bad idea. “Bands are much more savvy now. I just wanted to be a musician, not a businessman. Our lawyer was in collusion with the label. He was the one who sold us on the idea of declaring Bankruptcy.”

Rock City Angels were told at the time by their own Lawyer that when it was done Geffen  Records would sign them again, when in actuality it was a way to wash their hands of the band without having to buy them out of their contract. The tracks that make up Midnight Confessions are works in progress that would have eventually made up their second Geffen release.

Bobby isn’t bitter, “If you listen to the record (Young Man’s Blues) it still holds up, a lot of bands can’t say the same thing.” Bobby hates being lumped in with the hair band scene, “We were more like The Stones. It’s time to clear the record. For the most part our fans know the difference”.

Rock City Angels has been busy this last year after the release of their newest material “Use Once and Destroy” a straight ahead rocker, “We were never about going after that elusive hit. We were after an overall theme like Aerosmith Rocks:  A great album. Use Once and Destroy is what would be an official follow up to their first album.

They will feature at least two gems from Midnight Confessions, ““Sweet Ambition” sounds killer and we have never done it live. We have an updated arrangement of “Shattered Shake””. Neither song has ever been performed live and will make their debut on November 19th at The Muse in Nashville.

They will perform songs from all of their releases, making sure to mix crowd favorites with newer material and diamonds from the past.  It will be a night that kicks off renewed interest in the band especially in Europe. “We just had a five page article come out in Popular One in Spain. We hope to get over to Europe; we have a lot of fans over there.”

There is still a lot of unreleased music as well as new stuff to the forefront. “Geffen spent a lot of money on the first album. We actually recorded it once with Producer Jim Dickinson (The Replacements, Big Star, Mudhoney, Mojo Nixon) and Geffen decided we had to re-record it and the second recording became Young Man’s Blues. I still have that first recording”. Okay, it’s time for Geffen to consider a re-release with both mixes.

The current lineup of Bobby Durango, Pagan Raygun, Jorge Hernandez, Mark Binko and Adam Keller is primed and ready for a killer show. “We have a great future ahead of us, so… fuck ‘em”. Enough said.

Rock City Angels - Midnight Confessions

–          Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN