INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ AND JARNO HUOVILA
LIVE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
In the first part of this candid interview, current ACE FREHLEY bass player, Anthony Esposito, spoke about working, touring and recording with Ace during the past 2½ years. This second part concentrates on his career prior to hooking up with the Space Ace.
Anthony Esposito first got to taste success in 1990 when he joined up with George Lynch and Mick Brown of Dokken fame and singer Oni Logan in Lynch Mob and put out the splendid WICKED SENSATION record. The follow up album, a classic rock album featuring new singer Robert Mason was released in 1992 during the zenith of the grunge phenomenon and suffered from the changing musical climate. Other internal factors within the band were also starting to disrupt the momentum. For the past decade Anthony focused primarily on running his own studio in New York City where he produced and engineered such bands as Misfts, New York Dolls and The Ramones. In this second part of the interview Anthony recounts some of his experiences with these great bands and more.
How did you first end up joining LYNCH MOB back in the day?
This girl at a record label saw me play in a band I was in and she goes "You're really good. Your band suck, but you're really good. Let me help you.”
Was that band the Beggars and Thieves?
No, Beggars and Thieves was a band I auditioned for, it's the only band I auditioned for that I didn't get. Now the guitar player is my sons godfather and I'm godfather to Ron's son. We became best friends, but anyway they went with Phil Soussan instead of me. They auditioned like 70 bass players and it was down to me and Phil Soussan. He had played with Billy Idol, Jimmy Page and Ozzy and I was 19 at the time and hadn't played with anybody, so they went with him. And then I got Lynch Mob right after that. That was how I met the girl at Atlantic, because Beggars and Thieves was on Atlantic, so she got me like seven auditions in seven days, it was Lynch Mob, it was Don Dokken, it was Ronnie James Dio, it was like Alice Cooper, There was something like seven top options to choose from. I got everyone and the only one that wasn't a salary that was a band member that was partnership percentage was Lynch Mob, so I went with Lynch Mob. So I did that and we made "Wicked Sensation". That was a really great time in my life, we released WICKED, my son Tyler was born and we the first world tour, all in the same year. I knew that we were making a special record and I just kept saying in the back of my head "If this record came out three years earlier, this band would be huge.", but because we released it the same year that Nirvana, it was done. If that would have come out like Whitesnake’s "1987", if it had come out three years earlier, Lynch Mob would have been huge.
It still sold half a million copies in the US alone, didn't it?
Yeah, it went gold... it probably has already.
Back in the '80s Dokken was on Elektra, the same record company that Lynch Mob ended up with. How did that happen?
Everybody picked sides when Dokken broke up; Elektra said "We're going to stay with George. Don, we're letting you go, we don't care.", so Don went to Geffen. The management company Q Prime said "We're going to stay with Don. George, you're free to go." because they figured Don would get to keep the name Dokken, which he didn't because the other three guys sued him. When the sides were picked up, Elektra was like "We think George has got something more to offer than Don does, so we're going to go with him." and we made "Wicked" and it went gold and Don's record didn't do nearly as well, so I guess Bob Krasnow did the right choice. That label was brilliant back then, they had Metallica, Mötley Crue, us, Faster Pussycat, there was like five gold, platinum bands. It was a good label.
Anthony, Mick Brown, George Lynch and Oni Logan
Was any material on the WICKED SENSATION intended for the next Dokken album?
None, it was all new material, none of that was ever going to be a Dokken record. George plays the way George plays and there are always little turnarounds that he'll always throw in. Oni [Logan] is a genius at taking little things, like "Do that little lick, George. Give me that." and making that the verse or... you'll hear it in VIOLET'S DEMISE when he did it with Rowan [Robertson]. Oni's very talented with that; you can hear what Oni did to George. My argument is that George goes around telling everybody that he wrote all the music, listen to every record George did after that and it doesn't come close. WICKED SENSATION was completely a band effort and the reason why it came out so great is you had [Wild] Mick [Brown], Mick is like the king of the chorus, he writes these big choruses, these hooks, he's like a Beatle guy. It was all of our colors and I'm the dark guy, I was always like the punk rock guy. I think I brought in the dark textures like "For a Million Years" and "Hell Child" that are like dark, you know, because Dokken wasn't dark, Dokken was "foofoo", with a great guitar player. Lynch Mob had none of that, it's all the elements of the four of us and that made that record so awesome because it wasn't just one guy writing it all.
After Oni Logan was gone, did you really try out Glenn Hughes for the second Lynch Mob album?
Well, the second album we went in and George had a problem with the way Oni sang live, so we went and got complete different singer than Oni in Robert [Mason]. Robert is the ultimate live singer, he's like Geoff Tate, Robert will never screw up, he hits every note perfect. So we had Glenn and we had Robert and Glenn would go in and sing the song and then he'd come out and Robert would go in and he'd sing the song. And then Glenn and Robert would sit down and listen and they'd go like "You know, I really like the way you did..." and then Robert would go in and sing the whole song taking the best parts of both performances and that's whole for the second album the vocals came together. Oni was much more difficult in the studio, Max Norman produced it, it was a different process.
That self titled second LYNCH MOB album, while great, failed to match the sales of WICKED SENSATION. Was that the beginning of the end?
Here's the deal. We were on tour when George goes "I'm not feeling Robert. I want to get another singer." and I'm like "You gotta be fucking kidding me.", I'm like "No way.” Because when I joined the band, it was a band, every interview we ever did the question was to George "When are you going back to Dokken?” So Lynch Mob didn't look like a band, it looked like a side project for George from Dokken only until he goes back. So I'm like "If we get another singer, the third singer on the third record, it's going to look like the George Lynch Experience Side Project, it's not going to look like a band. I go "The only other option for a new singer, go back to Oni. If you don't go back to Oni, I'm not interested in doing it anymore.” He wanted Ray Gillen, we called Ray and of course Ray's brilliant, but I think VOODOO HIGHWAY was coming out and Ray was like "I would love to do it, but we [Badlands] have a new record coming out and it's like there's no way." and then he wanted Glenn [Hughes] and I'm like "Glenn can sing, but he's older and [bigger]. You know, we're not going out with Warrant.” Then I was like "You only have two options, stay with Robert, do a new record or go back to Oni. And George's never happy; I was like "I'm out of here. I'm not interested in being in your sideband. I want to be in a band.", so I quit in November... I remember sitting in the airport with my bass tech waiting for a plane going "I'm out of here, I'm done. I'm tired of this.”
So all the while you were doing Lynch Mob, the Dokken reunion was hanging above your heads?
It still is! They're like an old married couple with him [Lynch] and Don. They fucking love to hate each other. It almost happened this year, in fact these new Lynch Mob dates were ones that Dokken was supposed to do. So, George calls me up and he's like "Oh, we're going out with Cinderella.” It was originally supposed to be a Dokken reunion. Don wanted his own tour bus and a security guard on the payroll to stop George from kicking Don's ass. George laughed and goes "That's impossible. I'll just do it with Lynch Mob." So George called me and was like "Are you interested?" and I'm like "No, I'm playing with Ace Frehley. I'm completely not interested in going backwards.
Any thoughts on Lynch Mob's third album, SMOKE THIS?
LYNCH BIZKIT! That's the worst fucking record ever made in the history of music. This is what kills me, we worked really hard to make Lynch Mob mean something, we worked really hard to make the name Lynch Mob be associated with bands like Badlands, bands that could make good fucking music. And then ever since I left in 1993 or whatever it was, he's done everything he could possibly do to make that name mean a piece of shit and he's made the worst fucking records. You know, it's like you listen to those records like "This is the same guy that made WICKED SENSATION? Listen to that fucking crap he puts on his website. He's got the worst people playing live in his band. He's fuckin' George fucking Lynch, he needs somebody to grab him and shake... thank god now he's got Tommy Aldridge, thank god he's finally playing with people who deserve to play with him. It's sad, anyway right now I cringe when I tell people I was in Lynch Mob because for the last fifteen years people have been touring under that name that have no right to be doing it, it's disgusting. There's no quality control, they're playing dive bars in front of twenty people massacring our songs. I'm not even proud of something I proud of, used to be a part of. He's dragged to name through the shit, it's worth nothing.
In its liner notes the REVOLUTION album was advertised as a rebirth for the band in 2001. That didn't quite turn out to be true, did it?
It wasn't. It was his [Lynch's] solo record; he had a record deal with this small label in Los Angeles to do a solo album. So it was going to be a George Lynch record, George Lynch goes back and does his old music over new style, tuned down and heavy, which I thought was a ridiculous concept anyway to begin with because the songs were way better the way they were originally done. My children live in Los Angeles so I was there and got a phone call from Joe Berresi who produces Tool and Queens of the Stone Age. He calls me and says "I'm in the studio and George [Lynch] is across the hall. Come and we'll have lunch. It would be funny if you just stopped in the studio and said hi to George.", so it was like that. I go in there and say "Hey, how you doing?" and he goes "Well, you’re in town for a week?” I'm like "Yeah.", he goes "We need bass tracks on this record. Would you want to do that?", so I say "Alright, I'll play on your solo record or whatever you want to do. And he pays me my salary of what my salary is when I'm not in a band, he pays me my personal own salary. So I do that, I play on the solo record, and then all of a sudden it's a Lynch Mob record. I'm like "Wait a second!", and I own part of the name Lynch Mob, so if it's a Lynch Mob record I'm entitled to my percentage as a band member not just as the bass player on the song. So I got screwed out of that and then the record I thought was a stupid concept, it was waste of time, nobody wants to hear him soloing down in that level with all the strings loose, it was just a fucking nightmare. The good thing about it is, I got to see Robert again, I love Robert Mason. I got to spend with him which is fun and I got to meet Chas [Stumbo], the drummer from Earshot, who's still a dear friend of mine and Robert I talk to two or three times a month. I just spoke to Oni [Logan] just before I walked out here; he's still a friend of mine. Doing that record I got to see them, which is good, but I'm not interested anymore. I'm playing with Ace Frehley now, I mean the guy's so much better to work with.
Wasn't it only recently that George tried to get you to come to back to Lynch Mob?
See there was a deal. Oni lives in Switzerland now, he married a Swiss girl and they had a baby and he moved out here, to Europe. So he came back to visit his dad two Christmases ago. We went out to dinner and he said he'd love to do another record with George, we never did the follow up to "Wicked", let's make the follow up. I was like "Oni, I love you to death, I'm really not interested, but if you want to do it, I'll do the record with you and George and I want Scot [Coogan] to play drums. I think that would be fucking good band, I think George, Scot, Oni and me would be a killer band. So Oni asked George and he said no. George was not interested and I was like "No more. Never again.” He's interested in doing this other thing with like the drummer from Disturbed, whatever. OK, good for you, no more, I'm done.
Lynch Mob in 2001: Michael Frowen, George, Robert Mason and Anthony
STUDIO / PRODUCING
For the past decade or so you've concentrated more on the production than the playing side of things. What made you decide to return to being a fulltime player with Ace Frehley?
For the ten years I opened a recording studio in New York City and the place was called School House Studios. It just closed like five months ago and we did the New York Dolls, The Ramones, we did The Misfits, Green Day was in there, it was like a great top notch studio. So with the rent in New York going up, my lease was up and my landlord wanted to triple my rent. So I told him to go fuck himself and I moved all the gear. Now all the gear is up at Ace's house, so we moved the whole studio. Ace has a beautiful like a big huge... I want to say barn, but it's not a barn, he made a top notch recording studio in it and a rehearsal room, but he didn't have the gear. So I put all my gear inside his beautifully made room and it worked great. And that's where we're finishing the record; tomorrow we start the last two weeks of recording for the record. So I did that for ten years and honestly no gigs came along that made me want to play. Like I was up for a couple of gigs, like Metallica, but they got Robert [Trujillo] before I got to go play with them. Nothing really came along that made me wanna go "OK, I want to do that.” I got called by a lot of those metal bands from back then that I don't want to do. With Ace it's new, it's fresh, we're doing new music, we're making a new record, plus my first show ever was KISS. I concentrated on the studio and I played with the guys from The Ramones while I was doing that, like Dee Dee and Marky had a side band called The Remains and I play bass in that. We toured in South America and stuff. Then I did one thing with LYNCH MOB in 2001, that REVOLUTION record, which I got fucked out of anyway. Then I had my own thing, I released my own record, this band called Pure 13 and a record called NUMB in 2000.
You produced the Misfits' covers album, "PROJECT 1950". That must have been interesting session?
That was depressing for me, because it started out so great. It was Jerry [Only] and Dez [Cadena] from Black Flag and Marky [Ramone] played drums. My concept was that people don't want to hear a perfect Misfits record, the early records are so beautiful because they're so raw and live and right there. The newer ones are all polished and perfect, nobody wants that shit, they're not a pop band, they're punk rock. So what I wanted to do, I'd track them to tape, not digital, all analog and they were in a room and they were playing and it was raw, it was Misfits. Then at some period in a time, it was Jerry's first album to sing, everyone is in his ear "Protools. You could do this and then you could edit...", meanwhile he was singing great to tape. I would just put the mike up and play and let him go, let him sing and it was so good. Then he listened to the other people and it ended up being off taped into the computer, it sounded like shit, everything got, instead of big, squashed. That record sounds like shit because somewhere in the process they stopped listening to me and they went somewhere else and made a polished fucking bullshit record, people don't want that from the MISFITS, people want raw, live punk.
What was your favorite production experience?
My favorite session, I used to do all these tribute records, there was a record label [that did those]. I used to love doing that because I would get a band and let's say we would be tributing Rancid and I'd get a death metal band and I'd be like "Okay, let's take these songs and see what we can do with this song.” So you'd have a basic structure of a song, then you'd a have new band that has their own sound, then you'd try to marry the two. It was very fun and I did so many of them that it was fun for me as a producer and an engineer because it was challenging, it was something new every day. We'd be doing Slipknot like a country song or Tool like reggae.
Are you presently producing any other bands besides Ace Frehley?
Well, the thing is I got just got asked to this thing in Australia. If a band comes to me goes "Anthony, we'd like you to produce.” I'm like "Great". I love to make music, so if I can sit down with a band and give my two cents, whether they use it or not, or tell them what I think they need to do to be better or to make a song better or whatever, I love doing that. There's nothing better than making music, no better way to spend a day, but with Ace our schedule is so busy I don't have time anymore. And Ace told me "Anthony, if you want to grab some bands and record them in the studio up here at my house, that would be great.", so I play in another band called Pisser, in New York, and it's Frank and Richard Fortus from Guns n' Roses, from Axl. The singer is this guy, Eric Toast; he was in Hunky Toast with Eric, Richard and Frank who's the drummer with Axl. So once we're done with Ace's record we might go up and record a Pisser album up at Ace's house. I would love to do that.
Cheers, Anthony! Thank you for the interview. We'll be seeing you again somewhere out on the road.
Anthony, Scott Googan, Ace Frehley and Derrek Hawkins in London 2008