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20 Questions with Ethan Collins, 4/19/05


Ethan Collins

Everybody remembers the band White Trash! Well, maybe not everybody, but a lot of people do. Alright, maybe that’s even stretching it a little bit, but there has to be *somebody* out there who remembers them, right? Anybody? Hello?

Well, if you’re still reading this, then either you faintly remember those guys, or you’re so fascinated and intrigued at this point that you can’t tear yourself away from the screen. Either way, we’re here to remind you that White Trash was a band that exploded onto the scene for a few hours back in the early 90s, and are probably best known for the video for "Apple Pie" that was all over MTV for a couple of days back in 1992. White Trash was a little different than other hair bands around that time because they were a 4-piece rock outfit that also had a horn section, giving them a somewhat funky kind of sound. Then just as quickly as they appeared, they seemed to vanish.

A second version of White Trash emerged a few years later, with only the singer from the original band along with a couple of new guys… and no horn section. What was that all about? We’ll let former White Trash guitarist Ethan Collins tell you all about that and more in this week’s 20 Questions. Enjoy!

Ethan Collins1. What are you currently up to? This is your one and only chance to plug whatever it is you have to plug.

I am working as an electronic technician for a company called Transwitch that makes chips for wide area networking and telecommunications usage. I’m married and live in CT. As far as music is concerned, I have been designing effects pedals, maybe someday I can sell them. I’m also playing in a band with my brother, Aaron called "White Owl and the Gotham City Players" As a reminder for all our fans, Aaron was the bassist from White Trash and is now singing/rapping. Mike Caldarella, who was also in White Trash is playing drums. Eric Brodin is playing bass, he also played in White Trash after Aaron left the band. So basically it’s "White Trash" without Dave Alvin, the original singer. It’s more of rap type of thing. We play about once every 3 months . Usually down in the village at Manitoba’s or Don Hill’s.

2. Do you think anyone reading this has any clue who you are?

To tell you the truth, I was surprised you remembered White Trash or me! Unfortunately most people do not remember "White Trash" or me. But there are exceptions. At my last job, I was telling people that I used to play in a band that had a video on MTV and all that jazz. Nobody believed me, but I brought in the video of "Apple Pie". A couple of people sort of remembered seeing it before but one girl totally remembered us and was a fan. She even had our cassette and said she used to listen to it all the time! We did sell 150,000 cd’s. That’s more than David Lee Roth’s last two cd’s combined! So, I think about 35% of people checking out the Metal Sludge website will remember "White Trash". I don’t think many will know about me though. Are you sure ya wanna do this interview?

3. Tell us about the early days of White Trash. When and where did you guys form, how did you all hook up, and how long were you a band before you landed your ?big deal? with Elektra?

White TrashAh, the good old days… We started with myself, my brother and Dave. We all lived on the same block and used to jam and hang out. Our first show was playing at Aaron’s bar mitsvah! We did "Living after Midnight" and "Breaking the Law". I have it on video tape and it’s a fucking riot. The place went nuts. We knew right then that we obviously had something. We did lot’s of Aerosmith, Motley Crue, WASP, KISS, VH, etc… In fact we knew the first two Motley Crue albums note for note! Dave was awesome at doing Vince Neil. We played high school battle of the bands and churches and made our way up to clubs. Eventually Mike, who went to high school with Aaron joined the band on drums and Aaron and Mike clicked perfectly. We knew we had something that made us better than other bands. Our draw was also increasing exponentially. We would usually pack every club and blow away the headliner. It was an awesome time. This all took a span of about 3 yrs. But me, Aaron and Dave had tooled around for about 3 yrs before that. I remember the day that we were actually "discovered". We were playing during the "new music seminar" at the "Cat Club" in the village. There was like 6 wanker bands playing, all trying to get the prime time spot, which back then was about 12 0r 1 a.m. That’s when all the A&R people are checking you out. Anyway, we were slated to go on @ 10:30pm. The promoter, Tommy Gunn comes over to us and tells us that Metallica is playing the Garden and is going to stop by for a jam after the their show. But they need equipment. I said they could use ours for free if we could go on at 12:00 am, the "prime spot". So we went on at 12:00am and the place was packed and we kicked ass. Sure enough, after the show some guy from EMI publishing named Ross Elliot came over and said "I’m gonna make you famous". That indirectly led us to Q-Prime management, a bidding war between labels and Elecktra signing us.

4. White Trash was kind of a funky hard rock band that also included a horn section (the ?Badass Brass?), which gave you guys kind of a pre-Ska sound. It?s pretty clear that you guys were years ahead of your time as this sort of style didn?t truly become en vogue with the masses until later in the 90s. Most of the credit for ushering in that genre is typically attributed to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Do you ever feel like White Trash got the short end of the stick?

I don’t think we got the short end of the stick. We could have stayed together and made a another great album. We chose to end it, which was obviously a huge mistake. We were definitely biting off the Chili Peppers which drove me nuts. It’s a style I didn’t really care for. I’m a metal head! By the way, I don’t think Chili Peppers should be credited for ushering in that funky genre all. Van Halen were the first ones who started blending heavy metal and funk and making it cool. Just listen to the whole "Fair Warning" album. Chile Peppers blow. That being said, I should mentioned that I did audition for the Chili Peppers several yrs ago. I had a great audition and I thought I was in for sure, but they didn’t like my image and style. Flea said I was too bluesy and didn’t look enough like an "art fag". I think the Keidis dude liked me though.

White Trash
White Trash circa 1991

5. Rank the following guitarists on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being someone who truly sucks, and 10 being a virtuoso.

Joe Perry = 7
Mick Mars = 5
Kirk Hammet = 6
Ace Frehley = 9
George Lynch = 6
Zakk Wylde = 5
Nuno Bettencourt = 7
Dave Navarro = 5
Craig Leblang = 8 (nice try)
C.C. DeVille = 5

6. Who?s the most overrated band today and why?

Jeesh, they all blow. I don’t really know what’s out there these days. I know what I see on MTV and headbangers balls usuallly sucks. This includes limp biscuit, godsmack, lincoln park, blink 182. Well, I kinda like Blink 182. They all sound like crap to me. No good singing, catchy hooks or musicianship at all. The record companies are really, really pushing crap now and wonder why everybody is utilizing mp3 file sharing. Most overrated band? I’d have to say "Velvet Revolver". I haven’t heard anything really cool from them. They are just kind of blas? rock. I like Scott Weiland’s look and character but I don’t see him jelling with Slash and Duff. Remember, all the catchy and groovy Guns and Roses stuff was written by Izzy. Name one good song that came from Slash without Izzy. You can’t. Scott Weiland needs to work with writers that think more "outside the box". I think that pushes him to be more creative and come up cool melodies.

7. Your brother Aaron was also the bassist/keyboard player in White Trash. Did you guys get along like the Nelson twins, or were you guys bitter offstage rivals like those brothers in Oasis or the Black Crowes? Did you ever pin him down and empty out a spit valve on his head or anything whacky like that?

Ethan & Aaron Collins of White TrashMe and my brother get along great now. Back then, occasionally we had arguments but nothing serious and in the end we always looked out for each other. There was never a bitter offstage rivalry and he is my best friend. However, we both like to have musical control, so this can cause weird moments for us.

I have a funny story about the Nelson Twins. You can edit this out if it is too long winded. "Hollywood Records" had signed Nelson twins and was trying to sign us. I had no idea who the Nelson twins were. So Pete Paterno, president of Hollywood records treats us to day at Disney Land. His A&R rep (who was also his daughter) was dating Gunner Nelson. So we get to Disneyland and the Nelson twins are there waiting for us at the entrance. The first thing we say is, "who are these dorky posers". I mean they looked like hot chicks! Anyway we assumed they were rubbers tagging along for the free Disney Land treat. So we all kinda abused and busted on them. They turned out to be very nice and cool people and we had a great time. They were a little weird though. Matt Nelson swore to me that he invented the KORG guitar tuner, which was kind of a strange claim to make, I don’t know maybe he was screwing with my head.

8. Back in 1991, White Trash?s single ?Apple Pie? was put into heavy rotation on MTV?s ?Buzz Bin.? Likewise, your song ?The Crawl? was used as the intro for Jon Stewart?s show back when he was on MTV. With so much MTV support, why do you think White Trash didn?t become a bigger band than they were? Who dropped the ball?

Well, for one thing, I don’t think we ever got the full MTV support. They pushed "Apple Pie", a video we made for $2000. Then we gave them "The Crawl" video which we made for about $100,000. MTV only played that video at like 4am. And I think they only played it 4 times. I don’t know, they must have thought the song and video sucked. I thought the song was ok but the video was definitely a little weak. By the time Jon Stewart got a hold of the song, we had all left the band and Dave had formed the mach2 lineup. So thanks for trying, Jon!

There was also another infamous major incident that I think indirectly stalled our success and prevented us from opening up for major bands. We were having a our record release party at the "Cat Club". All of the record company executives, publishers, managers, lawyers, accountants, etc… were there. It was big night and we were opening up for Dweezil Zappa. Most of the audience was there for Dweezil also. So we get on stage and Dave walks up to the mic and starts slamming Dweezil, saying that he sucks and the only reason he is there is because his dead father had talent. This went on throughout the show and the crowd started booing us. Dweezil’s roadies started coming onto the stage and wanted to pull Dave right off. It was really creepy and uncomfortable, even though everything Dave was saying was true. I actually thought it was great Dave had enough balls to come out and say that. I could feel all the suits saying, "uh-oh, who can we possibly put this band on the road with?". Well… we went on the road headlining medium to large size clubs which was awesome anyway.

9. Yes or No, has Ethan Collins ever:

Been booed off stage = yes
Walked through the ghetto on a Sunday afternoon = yes
Done a shot with Eddie Trunk = no
Pawned one of your guitars = yes
Signed your name in blood = no
Pissed in an elevator shaft = no
Shit in a tuba = no
Jacked off with trombone slide cream = no
Tasted your own earwax = no
Touched another man?s penis = all the time

10. The entire band (including the Badass Brass) split up after the self-titled White Trash debut album. Singer Dave Alvin reformed White Trash, releasing another album and touring with a whole new lineup of players. Word has it that Dave Alvin suffered from a severe case of Lead Singer?s Disease. Is that true? Why did you guys split? Please tell us what the fuck happened.

I would have to say that Dave did suffer from L.S.D. I guess to the point that none of us wanted to really play with him anymore. Looking back it’s ridiculous, cause these issues could have probably been worked out. Also, remember that you generally want a singer with LSD. Only the good singers have LSD.

The band split up due to creative and personality conflict issues. For me, I hated the musical direction we were heading. We were becoming Chile Pepper clones. That, and I hated playing with horn players! They occupied my frequency range man! All you could hear on stage was out of tune horns. It drove me nuts. I wanted to be much heavier and more rock oriented with no slapping and funk drumming. Before we added the horns, we were much more rock sounding, kinda Aerosmithy and Van Haleny and we were much much better. But the others guys kinda felt that the horns was the gimmick that made us different and we should keep using them. I also wanted much more writing and control input. These were my main beefs. I felt that I was big enough to launch a successful solo career so that’s what I tried to do. That might sound ridiculous, but it’s true. I thought recording contracts grew on trees. It obviously didn’t work out to well for me, but that’s life.

Aaron did not really want to play in White Trash without me and I think he was getting fed up with Dave’s scamming and scheming so he and Mike formed "Hash" with another singer they used to play with in high school.

11. Some of the guys from the original White Trash went on to form a new band called ?Hash.? Who all was in that project, did you record anything, and why didn?t Hash end up working out for you either?

Hash was Aaron, Mike and guy named Seth. They asked me join but I didn’t for a couple of reasons. One being that I though it was just gonna be more funk and like I said, I wanted to get heavier. The other reason was that Seth was a great singer/songwriter who also played very good guitar. There just wasn’t a need for me. I also wasn’t sure if the singer was able to work a crowd that well. Dave was very quick witted and great at working a crowd. Hash got picked up by Electra and put out a terrific album. You really should check it out. I guess Seth also had LSD and It eventually fizzled out.

White Trash
Old-ass ad for White Trash’s debut CD

12. Does it bother you that a Google search for ?Ethan Collins White Trash? generates less return matches than a search for ?horse mucus,? ?mutated potato? and ?afterbirth shampoo??

What kinda sick fuck googles "horse mucus"? By the way, it’s spelled mucous. Try googling "White Trash Apple Pie" then you’ll be in business.

Nah, it doesn’t bother me. I had my 15 minutes and am very proud of it. Fuck Google. I’m gonna try it right now.

13. What ?rock star? deserves a smack in the mouth and why?

Eddie Van Halen. Man, he disappointed everybody, big time. He’s such an egoed out and jealous dick that he cannot give the fans what they want and let Dave back in the band! The timing was right for everybody and he just blew it. Remember the MTV awards when Dave came out and started gabbing right away? It was awesome and Eddie was so jealous that Dave had the spotlight that he tried to cover Dave’s mouth and shut him up. What a dick! I wish Dave gave him a smack right there.

14. Of the following, which do you prefer and why?

Apple Pie or Cherry Pie = Apple Pie, you ever get whipped with a cherry pie?
Corned beef hash or Moroccan hash = believe it or not, I never had neither.
Oprah or Dr. Phil = They both blow, but if I had to choose, I’d go with Oprah. My wife forced me to watch Dr. Phil in an attempt to mend some issues. That guy just piles on the horse shit.
?Good God? or ?Judge-Me-Do? = Ya know, the fact that you asked me this question shows that you do your homework! For all you readers out there, these are the only two songs I got any writing credit for on the cd. I like "Good God" it’s kinda like "psychotic reaction" by "Count Five" and one of the first songs we wrote… back in the day when I had more stroke in the band. I love that 60’s garage type thing. I don’t know if it comes across like that, but I was listening to a lot of Yardbirds at the time.
Sublime or No Doubt = Is the singer from Sublime the guy that’s hosting "X-Tra"? If so, he loses major points. I prefer No Doubt. I think Gwen Strafedalkjzzqw is talented, but that bass player annoys me.
Hand jobs or rim jobs = Hand jobs, I can’t lick my own ass…yet.
WSOU or WNYU = WSOU. That station was great until it became strictly thrash. I never could get WNYU clearly and when I did they had blues or spanish music. They did used to play garage bands, which is very cool.
McDonald?s or Burger King = McDonald’s. Hands down. Burger King gives me diarrhea. Every time!
Phil Collins or Bootsy Collins = Ya need to ask? Man Bootsy was great on that "delight" song!
Twisted Sister or Quiet Riot = Ya know, I saw Quiet Riot open for Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath and they were awesome both times. They had alot of energy, played great and sounder great. I like Twisted Sister but they had 2 guitar players when they only needed 1. I don’t like waste so Quiet Riot wins!

Ethan Collins15. Out of all the bands that White Trash toured or shared the stage with, which ones were the coolest to work with, and which ones were the biggest bunch of jackasses you?ve ever met?

After the Dweezil Zappa fiasco, we never really played with any big bands. Do you remember "Collision" ? We played with them many times and that was always fun. We once did a show where we both setup on the same stage and would take turns doing a song. That was pretty nuts. In the beginning we opened for bands who thought they were the shit and would get blown off the stage by us. These were bands like "Circus of Power", "Skin and Bones", "Bang Tango", "Mike Monroe". I don’t know if you ever heard of these bands but none of them were ever cool to us. I don’t think they ever talked to us. We played some college with "The Mighty Bosstones". They were pretty much assholes. I tried talking to one of the guys and he blew me off.

16. Did you know that back in the late 80s, there was a recurring character named ?Ethan Collins? on the short-lived NBC drama ?Midnight Caller?? The character was played by actor Sascha Radetsky, who is also known for being a skilled ballet dancer. Radetsky more recently appeared in the music video for Mandy Moore?s ?I Wanna Be With You.? How does that make you feel?

Jeepers, I don’t know how to respond to that. That is absolutely bizarre and uncanny. People are always ripping me off, one way or another. One thing I can tell you is that I am the original baby!

17. Time for a walk down memory lane! Give us your fondest memory from the following years:

1980 = my bar-mitzvah, starting 7th grade
1984 = VH’s 1984, buying a good TOKAI guitar.
1987 = nothing good happened, bad year.
1989 = Playing L’Amours East during Banana Eating contest.
1991 = Recording, touring the country and partying with White Trash and friends.
1993 = being soundman at "Foremost Tavern", partying way too hard, getting BA from Queens College.
1996 = Working at EMI Music, having my own apartment.
1999 = Living with Sue, going back to school, getting a Harley.
2001 = Getting degree in electronics.
2004 = Moving out of New York, buying my 1st house!

18. What are the other former members of White Trash up to and when?s the last time you talked to any of them?

I talk to all of them except for Dave. Aaron did some time with Hash, Stuttering John, Murphy’s Law, Scarhead and is now fronting "White Owl" with me and Mike Caldarella. Mike also works for "Q-Prime" who is a big time management company for rock bands. They manage Metallica, Def Leppard, Hole, etc…

Last I heard, Dave was in film school in San Francisco. I don’t really see the horn player guys too much, although I did play in a band for a little while with Brendon Styles (trumpet) singing. He was a great singer!

19. The Last of Ethan Collins:

Last CD you purchased = Fu Manchu (thought it would be good but it sucked).
Last fast food drive thru you hit = Dunkin Donuts.
Last concert you watched from the audience = Black Crows (lame).
Last movie you saw in the theatre = Collatoral Damage
Last song you wrote = RUM (for me)-co wrote.
Last interview you did (before this one) = I can’t remember, it’s been too long, maybe some Japanese magazine 15 yrs ago.
Last gig you played with White Trash = An outdoor festival in Norwalk Ct. It was an awesome gig!
Last time someone asked you for your autograph = about 14 yrs ago in a mall.
Last time you said a prayer before pizza = Hah! Dave was the one who prayed for pizza. I pray to no god. Except David Lee Roth.
Last time you barfed = About 3 wks ago when you asked me to do this interview!

White Trash
White Trash v.1.0

20. Time for Metal Sludge?s Word Association! We mention a name, and you give us your thoughts.

Nikki Sixx = 2 great albums, after that just a mediocre talent. A letdown.
Mike Caldarella = The greatest drummer of all time! Seriously, I have played with a million drummers and he is the best.
Gene Simmons = I love Gene. He is hysterical when he’s on Howard Stern. He’s had some lame moments (wish upon a star) but ultimately a living legend.
Pauly Shore = I don’t know, I think the guy’s funny!
George Drakoulias = dick.
Sebastian Bach = He tries but… too much of a poser.
Jon Stewart = I never met him but the "Daily Show" is very good and so is he.
Uncle Dickie = Awesome uncle/dentist who took me and Aaron to see Van Halen, Black Sabbath and Grateful Dead. Also took me backstage to meet Bruce Springsteen. What else can I say?
Dan Baird = Came to studio once while we recording our album. Nice old hick that was a little fruity about the echoplex.
Ted Nugent = I bought an old Amboy Dukes record. It was freakin awesome! He was whippin on that guitar. It was like AC/DC meets Frank Zappa. I tell ya, he deserves a lot more credit than he gets.

Now that wasn’t too bad at all! After all these years, Ethan Collins finally steps forward and answers all those burning questions about the band White Trash. He gave us good, thorough answers and told some entertaining stories along the way. And now you can rest easy tonight knowing that Ethan’s alive and well! We know you were all concerned about his whereabouts and well-being, so there you have it.

Ethan doesn’t have anything even close to a Web site, but feel free to send fan mail, hate mail, your eBay auction listings, and pictures of that White Trash tattoo you got back in 1992 directly to him at ecollins@txc.com.

And if you’re REALLY bored, you can take a trip back in time and watch the video for "Apple Pie" by clicking HERE.

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