David T. Chastain & Eric Johns interview April 15, 2006 for Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles (Carl Begai)
1) I guess for starters, what made you decide to find a singer rather than do the vocals yourself for the new album? I mean, you've proven you can sing, and I guess the assumption is Southern Gentlemen is your way of showing that David Chastain isn't just a guitarist.
David T. Chastain: Originally I wanted a vocalist in the band but no one who auditioned really brought more to the table that I could do myself. I actually planned on doing vocals on this Cd and had already recorded my version. However, one of my old bands Spike (which features myself, CJSS bassist Mike Skimmerhorn and drummer Les Sharp and Firewind/Kinrick vocalist Stephen Fredrick) did a reunion show last year. Eric contacted me and wanted to know if his band at the time, Clusterfunk, could open the show. I told him to send me a demo of the band. On the demo they did an old Janis Joplin song and Eric did an amazing job on it. I was impressed enough to send him some of the new SG stuff to demo up. He did a great job on the demo. I knew Eric was a very good metal vocalist from his days with Simple Aggression and over the years I had to try to line him up with a few other things but they just didn't pan out for one reason or another. I never knew that his voice would fit perfect in this musical format. I am very happy with his performance. While I would grade my vocals a "C" I believe Eric's grade would be an "A"! Definitely an upgrade to world class vocals.
2) Was it tough finding a new singer or was Eric somebody you'd had in mind for a while? Third Time sounds like a pretty easy going, seamless piece of work; not a lot of fussing about or second guessing the performances or the material?
David T. Chastain: Well actually there wasn't a search process involved. I already explained how it happened. Recording an SG record is always fun and easy going. It almost like playing a live gig. No overdubs. There is only one guitar track on each song. That is very unusual in today's music. Also only one vocal track. Live, basically we would sound pretty much exactly like the Cd.
3) How much did Eric contribute to the writing, and assuming he did, is that the reason this album sounds more "together" (song oriented) than the last one?
David T. Chastain: On this Cd actually everything was written before Eric joined the band. Of course he added his own style to each song to make it sound his way. However having a full band makes the record sound more "together." I will give him a shot on helping write the next Cd and see what road that takes the sound.
4) In my review I mentioned that it sounds like you're having a lot of fun compared to the last Chastain album, as if the Chastain album was something you had to do because people associate you with old school metal. In An Outrage is a solid piece of work, but it sounds like there's more heart behind these songs. True, or is it just a case of you switching gears without thinking about it? Which style of music do you prefer at the moment?
David T. Chastain: Well....I have never had a problem switching gears. However the last Chastain Cd took almost 4 years to record and get out so it was labor intensive. I think you lose something when a Cd takes that long no matter how great the songs. I have to admit that when we did the video for the track "Bullet From A Gun" it had been so long since I recorded my parts on the Cd I had to totally relearn the song! Still I think the end result was a very solid effort. Probably the best "sounding" Chastain Cd sonically speaking. The SG Cds are totally different. They are very quick to write and record. I could literally write and record another one in a week or so. It is just a very natural process. No obstacles. It is the complete opposite of a Chastain Cd. If I had to tour on a major level and had a choice I would prefer SG just because it would be a lot more fun every night and whole lot less stress. The stuff is pretty straight forward and isn't all that serious lyrically. A Chastain show has always been much more serious and dark. I have to be on my toes all the time to play some of that stuff off on a nightly basis. Plus all of the "guitar hero" stuff that is associated with Chastain was not something I cherished to have to deal with constantly. I just wanted to rock! Sometimes after driving for 10 hours it would be difficult. However SG is more like a bar band on a Saturday night in a packed club with everyone having a good time. This is not to say I don't enjoy Chastain, it is just a more serious band and right now I want to enjoy myself more. I toured for years with Chastain and it was fun while it lasted but it would take something really special for me to get out do Chastain shows.
5) Are we ever gonna see you on the road with Southern Gentlemen, even if it's only a week or two in the U.S.? There's no money in touring, obviously, but this stuff begs for a live setting. Any chance Eric and the others will be able to drag you away from your desk long enough to do some shows ;-) ?
David T. Chastain: You never know. I would love to do some dates but it would have to be decent shows. I am not going out there and "start over" playing small clubs. While that would be fun, I just don't have the time for live shows unless they are special and before large crowds. We were recently offered a show down in Mexico that sounded really cool, but ultimately I had to pass.
6) Question for Eric: Were you aware of Southern Gentlemen prior to joining or did you only know the Chastain name through metal circles?
Eric Johns: I have known David for years as my former band Simple Aggression was signed to his label Leviathan. David began his career in Cincinnati where I am from and I had seen him play tons of times. I actually heard some of the first Southern Gentlemen album when it was being mixed. I am friends with the guy who mixed it, Jeff Higgins, as he also worked on several projects I have been involved with over the years. I thought the first SG record sounded great. I hadn't really heard the second CD until David sent me a copy when he asked me to demo some songs for the new CD. I liked it too, though.
7) Are you even a metal fan at all? As a fan I've always found it interesting that he's able to go from doing old school metal to all out blues and sound convincing doing both.
Eric Johns: Sure. I am a fan of lots of metal bands. I was definitely the stereotypical metal outcast kid growing up. It probably wasn't until I was in college that I really started branching out and listening to other stuff. I will always credit my roots in metal for the style and character of my voice. I have often told people interested in singing that if you learn to sing metal well, you can sing anything.
8) For both: any other projects in the works or is there an actual focus on the future of Southern Gentlemen?
Eric Johns: Dave Swart (SG bassist) and I live close to each other and we are always talking about playing together in some capacity. We are both so busy though that it is hard to say when we'll actually get started on it. As for the future of SG, it is 100% up to David T. I am on board for whatever he wants to do in the future. This has been a dream job in a lots of ways in that I get to sing in a style that pays homage to music I grew up on and still love. So, I'll be there to do it whenever I'm asked.
David T. Chastain: Well....there is a big focus on Southern Gentlemen for the future. However I doubt it will be my only focus. I am too musically diversified to keep my interest totally on one thing forever. In any case we are releasing some things in the near future for the internet only. Sites like itunes, napster, emusic and the others. Rereleasing stuff like the long lost Chastain Cd "For Those Who Dare," my long out of print instrumental Cds "Within The Heat" and "Elegant Seduction." Also the Leather Cd "Shock Waves."
I have also released a new instrumental Cd called "Prisoner of Time" that for the time being is strictly internet only. My 2 Georgia Blues Dawgs Cds that are much more traditional blues sounding than SG. There are others also but they slip my mind at present. Just go to www.leviathanrecords.com and www.diginetmusic.com for full info on these and others.
9)David: any news on the future of Chastain? I know Kate is involved with Vainglory and you've got a lot of business stuff on the go. Did the last album do well enough to warrant another one?
David T. Chastain: I hope that Vainglory becomes a huge success. I always wish my former and current band members all the success in the world. I have never try to hold anyone back from advancing their careers. The last Chastain Cd, "In An Outrage" did fairly well. There are definitely labels out there who have already contacted me about a new Cd. Fortunately "In An Outrage" was on a major label (EMI) in Japan and that part of the world so that helped with worldwide exposure. We will see about the future and another Cd. I have more than enough material written for a new Chastain Cd. Very good material. It is just finding the time and energy to move forward. As I mentioned earlier, recording a Chastain Cd takes a lot more time to get together. But we will see....I never know what will strike my fancy when I pick up the guitar....I may start recording it later tonight......or never. Time will only tell.
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