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The Birds Of Satan has the same line-up as your ’70s cover band, Chevy Metal... How did you guys all get together in the first place?
“Well, Chevy Metal really started out as a drum gym for me – it was a fun way of keeping rehearsed and in shape. Me and my buddies Wiley and Dangerfield [Akim, guitar], would just go and have a blast playing our favourite dirt-rock covers at little bars close to my house.
"What I love about Chevy Metal – and it’s the same with my other projects – is that it takes us all back to when we first started playing and keeps music honest, you know? When Dangerfield moved away, Shiflett [Foo Fighters guitarist Chris], played with us for a while, and that was great. But when he got busy with his own thing, The Dead Peasants, we needed to find someone else and that’s when Mick came on board.”
It was your great friend John Lousteau who works at the Foo Fighters’ 606 Studio, and also engineered and produced The Birds Of Satan, who introduced you to Mick, wasn’t it?
“That’s right. Lou has been such an important part of this whole project... Mick is an amazing guitarist and has played in heavy metal hard rock bands his whole life. He’s a real shredder and has brought a new guitar complexity to the party.
"Like me he wears his heart on his sleeve when he plays – in terms of the individuals and bands that have influenced him – and he also understands, and likes, all the ’70s stuff that I’m into. After Mick joined us, Dave [Grohl], started to play with us every once in a while too, which helped our profile, and things continued to develop from there.
"We started to get good offers to play and eventually found ourselves heading off on fun little tours doing our favourite Van Halen and Stones covers.”
Chevy Metal has traditionally always been a covers band, but the idea of recording an album together started to take shape after the Sound City Players tour, didn’t it?
“I always knew that I wanted to do something when the last Foo Fighters cycle finished. Originally I thought it might be a Coattail Riders-type record, but Gannin [Arnold, guitar], lives down south now and Chaney [Chris, bass], is constantly busy doing sessions in LA – so it was always going to be hard to get those guys together.
"And then I ended up doing the Sound City stuff, which was great, but I could see the window of opportunity that I had to make my own record disappearing fast... Because I’d already been doing so much with Chevy Metal it just made sense – and I knew it would be fun – for Wiley, Mick and I to do something different together.
The records that I grew up listening to had feel, and the drummers that inspired me – like Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart, Phil Collins and Roger Taylor – all had their own voice and individual style
"Wiley is one of my best friends and such a great bass player; I’ve always wanted to do something special on record with him and his style of playing just fits this music perfectly.”
So how did the writing process all take shape?
“In very much the same way as my other stuff has in the past, actually... I’m always writing songs and, when I have a bunch of ideas, I’ll just head over to the studio with Lou and we’ll spend some time getting things down.
"It’s always very rough at that stage – nothing’s ever finished – but from those initial ideas I have a pretty good idea of how I want something to end up sounding and feeling. I’ll send those fledgling ideas out to the other guys and then we’ll work on them together.
"Sometimes it can mean starting off with something as simple as a couple of chords – which was the case with ‘The Ballad Of The Birds Of Satan’. That track was literally put together and recorded in a day; Dave, Mick and I just poured all our loose scraps together to make one great, big musical stackfest... As I’m discovering, it’s a track that people either love, or are left totally confused by!”
The whole Birds Of Satan album was recorded in only a week and your approach was old school in terms of the fact that you were out to capture a live and organic feel, rather than exploiting the technology that’s available in the studio today to produce something that sounds ‘perfect’...
“There’s a raw, live feel to it and yes, things might be a bit shabby here and there, but that’s just the way I like it. I’ve talked a lot in the past about how so much of today’s rock music sounds too perfect, and the fact that Pro-Tools and all the trickery can take away that all-important feel and personality.
"The records that I grew up listening to had feel, and the drummers that inspired me – like Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart, Phil Collins and Roger Taylor – all had their own voice and individual style. You instantly know it’s them, and that’s what I miss hearing today.
"Making this record felt very natural to me but, at the same time, there were challenges because we had to get the performances quickly. It really helped that we were all in good shape, with a lot of playing under our belts.”