Southern Gentlemen Interview 3/20/2000

Interview by Gueorgui Lazarov from Lagaceta Rockera (Mexico City)

Gueorgui Lazarov 1.- David, is Southern Gentlemen another side project or is it a steady band? You have Chastain, CJSS, Zanister, solo career and now Southern Gentlemen. How serious is this?

David T. Chastain: I am very serious about all of my music but I enjoy so many different styles it is hard for me to contain all of my creativity in one band. Of course if any of the bands were out touring like Chastain use to do it would limit my musical output. Since I have a great home studio with 24 hour access I am free to just go in anytime and start recording. In regards to SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN I would love for this band to become a huge hit and travel the world. I would be very happy just to do this exclusively for the immediate future. It was such a fun Cd to record and the music is definitely a blast to play. It was made for the stage!

2.- How did this project came together. Was it your idea or you found the right people.

I have been recording this type of stuff on the side for about 15 years and had been looking for the right time and confidence to release the Cd. Since Dennis and Kevin had both played and toured with Chastain I knew the guys were great musicians as well as people. Therefore they were the logical choices for this band. They both dig this type of music. Dennis actually plays in a cover band on weekends from time to time that plays this type of stuff. Plus I am kind of a demanding person at times and they both understand my personality. The main thing I guess is they are true professionals in every sense.

3.- Tell me a little bit about the other two musicians you play with in S.G., a little more about their musical background and careers. Why a three piece band? You want to prove once more that numbers don't count like Cream, Rush, Triumph and Grandfunk Railroad did?

Drummer Dennis Lesh has a pretty storied past. He first came to my attention with his drumming in Trouble. Then he played in a group on Leviathan Records called Stygian. At that point I started jamming with him. Chastain did a tour of Europe in 90 or so and he went with us. From that point on we did a lot of demo recording and he did the Chastain Cds Sick Society and In Dementia. He also played on the first Kenziner Cd Timescape. Bassist Kevin Kekes' main claim to fame was his band Damien. They had a couple of videos on MTV and they were pretty hot in the late 80s. I met Kevin when his band opened for Chastain a few times. He impressed me with his abilities and business acumen. He played on the Chastain Cd In Dementia and played bass on the Sick Society tour. He also has a band in his home town of Toledo Ohio that he is currently putting together. Originally I didn't intend to do the vocals but after numerous bigger name vocalists had demoed the material it was decided that my vocals still sounded the best for the music. I had always dreamed of playing in a 3 piece band but I had envisioned that the bassist would be the lead vocalist. I enjoy the freedom of the 3 piece format. Cream, Hendrix, ZZ Top and Trower are all old time favorites of mine for this type of music . The amount of people in a band really has no true bearing on the final results.

4.- We all know you guys are gentlemen in many ways, but why the name Southern Gentlemen? Because the band is from the South, because of the fame of the gentlemen of the south in the XIX century or because of the music you play?

I wanted the name to hint at the musical direction of the band. Obviously with a name like that people wouldn't be expecting Death Metal. However I do like the connotation of the Southern Gentlemen. People have always accused me of being too polite at times and I always told them it was my southern heritage. Recently someone told me it use to be the name of a notorious motorcycle gang in North Carolina so I hope they don't get pissed!!

5.- I believe the album was recorded in 1998, why was it released more than a year later and how did you manage to get a deal for its distribution in Mexico? Since the Chastain/Harris album, released by the now defunct Avanzada Metalica, this is the first album in which you're involved that is available in our country.

Most of 1999 I had a company trying to work out a deal with a major label for the SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN "Exotic Dancer Blues" Cd for the entire world. However we never could secure exactly what we wanted. A couple of deals got tied up on certain contractual matters. Plus we were getting the "Too heavy for the blues people and too blues for the heavy people" crap a lot. However it gave me time to remaster the music in late 99 and decide which tracks would go on the Cd as we had recorded much more material than would fit on one Cd. In regards to Mexico I would have loved to have had my last few releases more available in Mexico but I never could find a dependable label to work with. We were exporting a lot of stuff directly and thru Oz Productions over the years. NEMS finally opened an office in Mexico and they were handling a lot of our stuff in South America so I was very happy they were trying to work the Mexican market.

6.- Tell us a little bit about the title of the album. Do exotic dancers in the United States use this kind of music when they perform or what?

Unfortunately I don't have a lot of time to visit strip clubs but Atlanta, my hometown, has some of the best in the world. The first time I went in one it was like having 20 Playboy Playmates parading 100% nude 5 feet in front of you. What did amaze me when I went into them was that the dancers were dancing to Metallica, AC/DC and stuff similar. In the 90s that was the best place to go hang out and hear metal instead of the grunge stuff that flooded the radio airwaves and most of the so called rock clubs. It gave me the impetuous to create music that was easy to groove to. We tried to make sure all the Gents stuff had a heavy beat. I have some friends who are strippers out in California and they play the stuff when they are doing their "act" so I guess it could be used for that. I wouldn't mind if the Cd became the anthem for Exotic Dancers worldwide and we had to make a tour where all we played were strip clubs!! What a live album that would be! Strippers and rockers seem to gravitate to one another. Thru the years we always have had strippers at the concerts we played but I just never appreciated their art till recently.

7.- Why did you use a Kate French's photo for the cover instead of a real, even unknown, exotic dancer or stripper? I must admit that she's gorgeous and very sexy, but don't you think that may affect in a way her reputation as the singer of the band Chastain or is it that because of her characteristics she was the best choice.

Kate did this photo shoot awhile back and I always loved the photo. We bought the rights from her and she is very happy to have it on the cover. Kate is not afraid of being known as a sex goddess. While some people know it is Kate others don't. I plan on having a similar cover on future Gent Cds of females in similar states of undress. However I will try to change the model on each cover. The Exotic cover of Kate looks really seductive!! I am glad she didn't look like that all of the time or Chastain would have had a hard time doing anything!

8.- In the booklet of the CD you mention that all exotic dancers interested in appearing on the cover of the next album should submit photos. First, is there to be a second Southern Gentlemen album and when can we expect it? Second, would you take the risk and give us more unveiling and daring cover?

I have a tentative title for the next Cd being LADIES OF THE NIGHT. That was a song I wrote awhile back in the good old days and I have been waiting to use it in the right context. I already have the next cover mapped out in my head. So unless the world falls apart I plan a second SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN Cd in about a year. If the reviews had come out on Exotic and everyone had said it was the worst Cd they had ever heard I probably would have closed down the band. However I have heard nothing but positive response so far so that is very encouraging. We are definitely looking for a model for the next Cd.

9.- What kind of music can we expect in the second album? Same but evolved classic rock blues?

My take on the first Cd is there are heavy blues rock tunes such as Back Door Woman and Trower/Hendrix influenced tunes such as Drive Me Wild. I should probably choose one way or another but I assume it will be the same combination on the next release. I have written literally 100s of songs in these styles and every night I write one or two more. It will be VERY difficult to choose the songs on the next Cd. Bottom line, I consider SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN to be Very Heavy Blues Rock.

10.- So this takes us back to the "Exotic Dancer Blues." There's a lot of musical nostalgia in it. Was it because you wrote all the songs, personally I share your musical feelings, or is it because nobody dares to rescue and prove once again that the roots are much better than most of the branches we have today?

I just usually record what I like and I don't necessarily worry too much about trends and the like. Recording this Cd surely was no guarantee for success. However there is a huge audience for this type of music if they know it exists. The classic rock stations in the US continue to play Bad Company, Free, ZZ Top, Skynyrd, Hendrix, Trower, etc. on a regular basis. The guitar mags always talk about the golden era of guitar as the earlier part of the 70s when Clapton, Page, Beck, Trower, Hendrix and the like were considered Gods. We were just trying to get the vibe of that era but just play it heavier.

11.- Weren't you afraid that some young "musical critics and experts" of the general media could criticize you by comparing S.G. to any of the '70's bands or saying that the music is outdated?

Once again they can say what they want. I have had 1000s of reviews thru the years both great and horrible. I have been very favorably compared to Vai, Morse, Satriani, Eric Johnson, Yngwie, Holdsworth and others on equal status by major magazines. On the other hand I have had magazines say I should "Give it up." One of the funniest was that "Kate French has sucked out my brain and I no longer could play!!" So in other words I prefer positive press but it all goes in one ear and out the other. The greatest review or the most negative one has no real bearing on what I will or won't do it unless it was universal. Most any Cd will garner both positive and negative reviews. The only real judges are the fans. However the only one opinion that ultimately matters is my own. No one else understands what statement I am trying to make musically but David T. So if I have done my job I am happy regardless of the sales figures. I am pretty satisfied with all of my Cds throughout time. However with all that said, in SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN we have been receiving very positive press so that does make me think I made a wise decision in releasing this Cd. I look at this first release as to get the band's name and music out and if we make some $$ then that would be an added dividend. If someone says the music sounds dated I will take that as a compliment. That is exactly what we were trying to create. The vibe of the era.

12.- How does the general rock audience, and I'm speaking of all ages, should approach and listen to the album?

With an opened mind! It is still heavy but just not the same musical progressions of Metal bands nor does SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN want to be associated with the dark imagery of most Metal bands. It is music made to have a good time to and not to contemplate suicide over the negative conditions of the world. I wanted a Cd we could tour behind that we could rock to and have a good time with the music and not have to make a heavy statement on the world conditions. A couple of women have told me it was a great Cd to have sex to. I hadn't had time to try that theory out yet.

13.- By the way, since you wrote all the songs, is it fair to say that Southern Gentlemen is your own personal project? Will your band mates contribute some material for the next album?

I imagine since I have 100s of tunes backed up that all songs will be written by me. Especially since I am doing the vocals and can only sing certain things. There is a possibility of maybe doing a cover song as I have demoed up quite a few classics. SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN is a band as The Band of Gypsies, or similar bands. I am just the guitarist/vocalist so most of the attention will be going my way. However if one of the guys brought me a song they had written in the Gents format I would surely give it consideration.

14.- The whole album sounds like one hell of a jam session, with lots of good vibes, loosen musicians. Was that the general idea while recording it? Like in the old days when there were no effects to make an asshole sing like a dove.

I wanted to do a Cd that would basically sound on Cd just as it would live in a bar on a Saturday night where everyone is having a good time, drinking, dancing and hitting on the opposite sex. I really do miss those days! The Cd was recorded with almost no overdubs. Just a couple of small rhythm guitar parts on a couple of guitar solos. The band would sound exactly live like the Cd. Playing this stuff live would be like a party. No heavy messages or musical passages that I would consider some sort of test to see if I could pull it off. The jam vibe is something that I really enjoy and it doesn't usually work in a metal context.

15.- In your press release you mention some of the influences but you must tell us a little bit more about tracks like "What To Do" (I could swear I've heard before something very similar to it), "Too Hot For Love" (why the jazzy part in it?) and "Ease The Pain" (Were you listening to ZZ Top's "Waiting For The Bus" when you wrote it?).

On "What To Do" the lyrical story line is about finding a hot woman you want to be with but you still have a good woman at home and you sure don't want to mess that up. What To Do?? I think this song is influenced by Lagrange from ZZ Top if I had to choose one song to compare it. "Too Hot For Love" is about a woman that is so sexy that it would be hard for you to be the only one for her as every guy in the world would be after her. Also definitely driven by some of the dancers I have seen. The middle Jazzy part was influenced to some degree by Hendrix's Third Stone From The Sun. Live that song would be much longer and the instrumental jams would be incredible. I envision this song as the last song of the night. "Ease The Pain" is about a situation we find ourselves in when you care for someone and they know it and they don't necessarily care that much for you and have a tendency to abuse you. They can put you thru Hell if they so desire and they know it! I think it has the ZZ Top vibe to it but not necessarily Waiting For The Bus. I really like the vocal performance on this track for some reason. It is really a heavy track when all is considered. One of my favorites.

16.- Isn't a little risky concerning album sales playing even though good '70's heavy rock blues? One thing is to enjoy doing it and another is to at least cover expenses.

We will cover expenses as I have a devoted following of fans who usually follow my musical diversions. With that said I accepted a long time ago that the chances for me to receive massive public acceptance was about 1 in a million. Therefore I am at peace with whatever happens. Sales concerns really doesn't play heavily into my musical directions. Look at my Acoustic Visions release. Who would release an all acoustic solo guitar instrumental Cd that was influenced by metal if they were concerned with $$. No one. Fortunately I am part owner of Leviathan Records so I can pretty much release whatever music I desire. Of course with that said a massively selling Cd would be a nice thing to happen to any of my releases. A few have done pretty well so they help the ones that might not be as successful.

17.- Would it be healthy to tell the new generations that what they consider as the non plus ultra comes from what you play? Pass on the musical word as legends are passed from generation to another.

People like what they like and every generation has their own music and musical heroes. Some blues purist may think SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN "Exotic Dancer Blues" is blasphemous to Muddy Waters, B.B. King and others. All we are trying to do is play some music and hopefully other people will like it. We aren't really trying to make any statements other than "Have a good time, life it too short to do otherwise." There is no true music. Everyone's tastes are different and if someone doesn't like my music I do not take offense. I sure as hell don't like everything I hear.

18.- One last question, why didn't you include the lyrics in the booklet?

Since I wasn't making any political statements I didn't feel the lyrics needed to be printed. With that said I believe most of the companies who are releasing the Cd are including the lyrics. Just on Leviathan Records the lyrics were not printed. If someone needs to see the lyrics I believe they are up at I think the lyrics are pretty easy to follow and understand and there are no hidden meanings. Everything is pretty much right up front.

19.- One personal question about something you mention in the press kit. Do you really believe in karma and reincarnation or is it that, just like me, you've entered in the age when men only like, remember and miss the things they did 20 years ago? I know that one looks the way he feels, but age catches up with us sooner or later.

I do miss a lot of things from the past and I wished I could use a time machine and do certain things differently just to see how life would have turned out. I have no firm beliefs one way or the other on the afterlife. Who knows what happens when you pass. All that is known for sure is your body is buried, entombed or cremated and that is the end of the physical life. Anything beyond that is pure speculation by anyone no matter what they say or what divine inspiration they claim to speak.

19.- Any last comments to your Mexican followers?

Please check out SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN "Exotic Dancer Blues" when you get the chance. Scream at your promoters to bring us down to Mexico for another tour. I have really enjoyed myself on my previous tours of Mexico!! Oh yeah, if you're a hot female send us your pictures!
Leviathan Records
P.O. Box 745
Tyrone, GA. 30290


Southern Gentlemen photo

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On-line Review 2/16/2000