20 QUESTIONS WITH…
Ex-Saigon Kick, Cold Sweat, and Cold Gin Bass Player Chris McLernon
A few months back we got an email from Chris McLernon after Ralph Saenz mentioned on the page that he met Eddie Van Halen at Staples. Chris wrote:
Got a comment on the Ralph/EVH meeting at Staples (and I don’t mean the local entertainment venue)…
Ralph – you should have asked Edward to jam. A major missed opportunity on your part.
We met in 1989, I asked Mr. Van Halen to jam and he said yes. We jammed, not once, not twice, but, well, more than three times, Mister.
It was one of the highlights of my obscure musical career.
Next time a voice like that pops in your head…
LISTEN TO IT!
Out like Zsa Zsa,
Chris McLernon (the long lost Gabor sister)
ex-you get the picture…
PS-ready for your 20 Questions at any time…
Well we took up Chris on his offer to do 20 Questions and here they are. Chris obviously gets what Metal Sludge is about and put some effort into his answers. Enjoy!
1. What are you currently up to? This is your only chance to promote your shit.
Well?plenty. After leaving Stealth last April, I started McLernon MultiMedia and began web design, production music composition, and anything else I could think of regarding creativity and business. I’ve gone back and forth about writing a book, but who knows. Here are some of the sites I did to give you an idea what’s been going on:
www.bigmick.com – My "career" history. In other words, wise ass commentary by a grouchy ex-rock musician.
www.chrismclernon.com – Online r?sum?.
www.cold-sweat.net – The e-history of a band that sold hundreds of records.
2. First off, are there two of you? Did you know that there is another musician named Chris McLernon who released a country album and is roughly your same age? http://www.songwriterforums.com/chrismclernon/ or http://www.gpservices38.freeserve.co.uk/handstime.htm
Yep – there are two of me, so you watch your ass. I have seen that guy’s site. Nice hat. Looks like Woody Harrison after a hemp bender. Wait, that’s redundant. An Irish Country Artist? The only thing weirder than that is an Irish Catholic Rock Artist who cross dresses as a Hungarian Jew Rock Artist in clown make up.
3. Let’s start with Cold Sweat. The band got a deal on MCA and after a huge LA show at the Whisky A Go Go George Lynch stole your singer right out of your dressing room? Tell us what happened in your eyes.
Glad to, seeing as my recollection is different than accounts I have read recently (grab a beer and some chips, this is a long one). It was a night in Hollywood, and we had just finished our set at Sam Mann’s No Bozo Jam (actually, we got the MCA deal after a Palace show with the BulletBoys, and this night was "post deal", but we were not legally signed yet – insert ominous music cue). We left the stage and headed towards the dressing room. As we passed George, who we had heard was on the hunt for Oni, he drunkenly yelled "HEY ONI! YOU WANNA BE IN A FERRARI OR DRIVE ONE?"
Pretty snappy comment, in retrospect.
During the next hour, George went on and on, right in front of us about how Cold Sweat (AKA Ferrari at the time) was the musical equivalent of eating a dung sandwich and not worth our singer’s time. But Oni, do I have a band for you! It’s called Lynch Mob!
We all sat there, gobsmacked. For the record Marc Ferrari sat there and did nothing except take George’s abuse. The only guy that had to be held back and prevented from "slugging George" was our Chicago maniac and fellow 20 Questions Tour Manager To The Stars, Larry Morand. Eric Singer sat right next to me for the whole ordeal and kept repeating "I don’t believe what I am seeing. George is such a douche for doing this, but why doesn’t Oni tell him to fuck off or SOMETHING?" Crazy kids!
Here’s the "Hindsight is 20/20" appraisal: It was an awkward situation where an old Crow (George) took advantage of some young Turks (Us) who had no idea how to handle the situation. Luckily, there was no slugging.
It led to an awkward spilt with Oni, but it was better for both parties in the long run, really. Oni was happier in Lynch Mob, and we were happy with Rory. Funny thing is, I always got along great with George. He was nothing but cool to me. Same with the rest of his band, too. Who knew?
4. What hard rock/heavy metal band should give it up and call it a day?
None – if you’ve got an audience, you should play for them. What I want to see is a Gave It Up And Called It A Day Early-apalooza! ? (DBA: Unlikely LA 80′s Unsigned Bands Reunion Tours?) Where’s Reinkus Tide? Where’s Hans Naughty? Where’s Roxbury Drive? Rocknee? Creature? St. Valentine? Rik Fox’s Sin? Drag them all out of their day gigs, hide their guts, cover their bald spots, open the Whisky doors, give them their Jackson’s, some Carvin amps and ROCK! Bill Gazzarri would.
5. Rate the following bass players on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being somebody who sucks and 10 being a 4-string master.
(I’ll employ a three tiered system: success/ability/X Factor – bear with me here, alright? Comment refers to the X Factor, for those of you playing at home)
Gene Simmons = 10/7/10 (For the paint, and wearing that Shravus – that takes balls.)
Tom DeFile = 4/6/8 (For that snake tattoo on his head. WOW.)
Robbie Crane = 6/7/9 (For wanting to be a fireman and tech ability.)
Bobby Dall = 9/6/9 (For business acumen.)
Jerry Dixon = 8/7/8 (Jerry’s a better bassist than people think, and I dug that old Capitol Records "Raise Your Hands" ad.)
Kenny Chaisson = 6/8/10 (Kenny saved me from having to ride the "Shame Train" – LA City Buses – home from work day after day. I hear his older brother Greg can play bass, too.)
Rachel Bolan = 9/7/9 (In a band with Phil, and we compare notes telepathically about him. Can write a catchy tune it seems.)
Nikki Sixx = 10/6/10 (For his unflinching candor.)
Michael Anthony = 10/10/10 (No Mike, no VH vocals. He is the Humongous.)
Kelly Nickels = Now this is just downright mean. Funny, but mean.
6. Cold Gin was a KISS tribute that featured Black n’ Blue members Tommy Thayer (Ace), & Jamie St. James (Peter), and yourself as Gene. How did this idea come about and will there be another Cold Gin show?
Drunkenly, in the Gallery of the old FM Station. Me and two other guys (one was Cold Sweat’s Anthony White – Paul in Cold Gin) formed a self-indulgent cover band called The Marx Brothers. It did well, so Tommy and I started talking about doing all KISS songs – wouldn’t it be a blast? We knew the songs anyway, why not? Plus, we had tried it out a billion times at parties and it sounded great. The rest is Tribute Band History! I’d do another Cold Gin show in a heartbeat, it was hilarious fun. Wait, wasn’t there a Cold Gin show in Sydney, Australia lately?
7. A few rumors circulated that the Cold Gin shows in LA helped push Gene & Paul to put the make-up back on, which ultimately led to the whole re-union, tours, releases and an ass load of cash. Are you partially responsible for this and if so, do you feel that you’re the guy to blame for all of it?
Glad to take credit and blame. We (Cold Gin) joked privately about how we were market research for the KISS Reunion. We did it for fun, and accidentally became huge. Here’s a timeline: We started in jeans and KISS t-shirts, drew big crowds, they had us sign a "cease and desist at anytime" letter, we got GIANT. We play theaters, they tell us to go back to clubs and take the logo off of the drums. All fair, as far as I am concerned – it was their original concept, and their property. And we all got rent money out of it. Nice trade off.
Overnight, abandoned KISS songs like PARASITE made it back into their set list and shite like CRAZY NIGHTS disappears. Fans wet themselves. They do a successful club tour. They do a successful convention tour; Tommy puts that together. Peter plays at one; Cold Gin (with Spiro) plays a few. They hire Tommy to work on their book – which Cold Gin appears in. They do an Unplugged with everybody. They do a reunion tour, full paint and old uni’s. Tommy writes, produces and directs "The Second Coming."
Hmmm?I dunno. What do YOU think? We’ll take the credit, and we’ll take the blame.
Personally, I think it’s great, and I got my photo with them in full paint. All in the master plan, hatched at FM.
On a side note, the four of us apologize for the overwhelming number of crappy "Tribute" bands taking our imitative lead. But, at least one great band came out of it: Atomic Punks. Though, if you think about it, no Cold Gin, no Atomic Punks. And one more side note – Ralph auditioned for Cold Sweat when Oni spilt. Oh, and one more – Brian Young, Punks’ guitarist was the Nun in Sykotic Sinfoney and Cold Gin did shows with them. Small world, eh? It’s like Six Degrees of Jaime St. James.
8. Name the 3 low points and the high points of your musical career?
1 – Moving to LA in 1985, and realizing how tough it was going to be. Ouch doesn’t begin to cover it.
2 – Cold Sweat gets dropped mid-tour. Our video had been added to MTV that day. WTF, MCA?
3 – Having to quit playing music because I had reached, and was about to pass, abject poverty.
1 – Cold Sweat gets signed. The LA move was clearly worth it.
2 – Cold Gin gets hired for Paul’s 40th Birthday party, and I get a check from Gene. How may KISS fans can that THAT?
3 – Getting a Gold Record for "Love Is On The Way" onstage in Miami. Who cares if I didn’t play on it? It’s mine!
9. When we interviewed Phil Varone, he said the following about Jason Bieler: "Don’t get me started on this asshole." Would you share that sentiment?
That it’s wise not to get Phil started? Yes. He’ll go off on a neck-vein-popping rant that will take at least a year off of your life. As far as Bieler and the Saigon Kick acrimony, I say we are all culpable to a point. Jay did some things that were not in the best interest of the aggregate and he’ll tell you that. But at the end of the day, we are big boys. We could make up our own minds. Would I have done some things differently? Damn right. But Jason Bieler (or anybody else) didn’t force me to do anything in my musical "career", so I try to move on and keep the doors open. Life always seems to take care of itself. But that’s me; I’m just that kind of cat.
10. What do you remember about the following years:
1980 = Garage bands, moving back to the USA from Saudi Arabia.
1984 = Being a bar star in Madison, Wisconsin. Opening for Helix, Icon, Vandenberg, Motorhead, and others. Seeing Van Halen for the final time.
1988 = Playing gigs in LA, recording demos. Working at the Galleria, dude. Meeting, hanging out and jamming repeatedly with Ed Van Halen.
1991 = Cold Sweat getting dumped from MCA, trying and failing to get resigned to ANY label (also having Jason Flom tell me about this great band he just inked called Saigon Kick), auditioning for Unruly Child and later finding out Marc Free became Marcy, playing softball on Sundays in Burbank, watching Cold Gin become absolutely huge and selling out the Celebrity Theater in Anaheim. Chuckling as my team beat Gene and Paul’s team in the T.J. Martel Bowling Tourney. Quite a year, really.
1994 = Huge in Indonesia with Saigon Kick. I mean big. Who needs an American record deal when you sell out the same place Sting did?
1997 = Quit music, went into the business world as an employee of Stealth. Disillusioned, but relieved.
2001 = Learned about how business and the real world works, became president of Stealth, tripled Stealth’s sales and revenue and essentially graduated from real-world business school. It was invaluable experience, combined with local and state recognition for business excellence. And the first thing I’d get asked at these black tie award dinners was "Were you really on MTV?"
11. Do you think Paul Stanley might be gay?
No, but that Silvertone guitar is.
12. If you could join any 80s metal band touring today and play the ‘hired gun’ role what band would you most likely want to work with?
Van Halen. Hands down, I don’t care if they aren’t touring. I’ll rehearse. Second place – Thin Lizzy. Third – Alice Cooper (70′s band really, hence the placing). Honorable mention: D’molls. See what I did there on that last one?
13. You wrote some articles for Metal Edge. How did that come about and who do you prefer, Gerri Miller or Paul Gargano?
Well, Paul has a better QB rating, but Gerri is clutch in the short yardage situations. Apples and oranges, here. Paul is a great friend and gave me column space. He had a CD review to do for Deep Purple and knew I liked Dinosaur Rock. So, he asked me to review it. He liked it and published it. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t. I got assigned to interview Alice Cooper (and he answered my entire Alice Copper trivia question list) and Nikki Sixx. Both were cool, Nikki and I talked about how we both loved The Sweet. Fun stuff.
Gerri’s also a friend, and gave me national press when I had no band. For that I am grateful. She kept me in the public eye when she didn’t have to and asked for nothing in return. Plus she called herself Brillo Woman. I love any self dis. I know you guys would sponsor her sodomization by Crackhead Bob on Pay Per View, but she was good to me.
14. What rock star deserves a smack in the mouth and why?
Easy one – All members of Saigon Kick, past and present. We blew it. Who did you think I was gonna say? Axl Rose?
15. The last of Chris McLernon….
Last time you played a Saigon Kick CD in your car = Maybe in ’97, listening to test mixes for what became Super Transatlantic.
Last time you put on the Gene make-up = At my briss, last fall.
Last movie you saw = Devil Bat
Last CD you purchased = Actually, three: Ultra-Lounge, Vol. 13: TV Town; Al Caiola, Bonanza 1960-1969; Rondellus, Sabbatum.
Last foreign country you played = Jakarta, Indonesia on New Years’ 1995-96.
Last time you saw the inside of a tour bus = Two nights ago. Visited with Toad the Wet Sprocket at the House Of Blues.
Last time you signed an autograph = Uh, dunno. A year ago?
Last time you got a royalty check from Saigon Kick = When did I get my first one? Never.
Last time you saw Kiss perform = October 7, 2000 – last show with Peter and Ace in Charleston, SC. And at that show were Tommy, Spiro and me. We had most of Cold Gin present and were ready to go if needed. We saw the make-up re-start and we saw it die.
Last rock star you met = John Hawthorn.
16. Of all the bands you shared a stage with, who were the coolest and who were total dicks to you?
With Cold Sweat it was Dio, by a mile. Ronnie taught me the importance of consistency and the nuts and bolts of the music business. He did not have to be that gracious, but thankfully he was.
With SK, it was Extreme. We did a USA theater tour with them and they were generous. No boundaries, no limits, no bullshit. We were 50% of that bill in their mind, and treated accordingly. Class act.
Easy one – Jackyl. Saigon Kick did a show with them in Dallas and they squashed everything we did. They actually saw a need to soundcheck that fucking chainsaw for 15 minutes. During our set they clamped the PA and I saw our soundman Andy screaming and gesturing at Jackyl’s toady. I had wondered why our volume dropped violently during All I Want. Andy’s flying hair and spittle gave me a clue. They were everything Extreme and Dio were not.
BTW, I have to comment on the Dream Theater story. Portnoy is exaggerating. There were at LEAST 12 people when we were supposed to go on. He’s right, it was a battle of the tour manager’s egos and the place emptied out after their set. I heard mice fucking it was so quiet. Stay and play? Are you kidding me? So, we did the proud thing and bailed. Hell, we’re dumb but we weren’t stupid.
The funniest part of that event was their singer running out of the dressing room after our techs, Casey and Spidee, threatened to kick his arse for mouthing off. Pull Me Under, indeed.
17. Yes or no, has Chris McLernon ever:
Seen Phil Varone’s penis = Are you serious? I have seen it more than my own. He’ll show it to anyone, whether they ask or not. It’s like having a stunt phallus on the set. It’ll do everything your dong considers "too risky".
Turned the station when "Love Is On The Way" came on = I am having trouble finding a station these days where it’s actually on – makes it hard to turn it off. But no, I never did.
Been to Gene Simmons’ house = Nope, but Saint told me Gene does have a Cold Gin poster on his office wall. So, technically I am there 24/7.
Fucked a chick wearing Gene’s makeup = Meaning her or me? Not yet. As far as you know.
Sold a CD to a used CD store = Hell yes. Thank God for Moby Disc. Quick showbiz story: I remember standing in line at Moby Disc to sell CD’s with about five other LA musicians. Jeff Martin (in Badlands at the time) was at the front of the line, trying to unload a half dozen copies of Voodoo Highway. The counter guy would not take them, repeating "Sorry dude, it just isn’t selling." Jeff left with no cash, and six CD’s. His own.
Snuck into a movie theater without paying = No. But I have snuck into KISS shows without paying.
Thrown up on St. Patrick’s Day = Nope. That’s amateur night for the non-Irish. The real Micks stay home and laugh at those who drink green beer and eat green, boiled food.
Wanted to start a tribute band to Warrant where you play Jerry Dixon = Sure, but only if we got Josh, Joey and Erik onstage for a blistering guitar army rendition of "Baby Loves to Rock." And it’s a Whoa Nelly Production. And I get to pre-sell 1500 tickets at ten bucks a pop, and kick in 25% of the BAM ad.
Gone a week without showering = Absolutely. It’s occurs most during "Tertiary Market Rock Touring" – "HELLO, ALTOONA!" It’s easiest to not bathe in Europe. They don’t notice a "bad" smell, and actually encourage its development.
Had sex with a girl who didn’t speak English = No, but I did get a hand job from an amputee (leg) – does that count?
18. Don’t you think it’s lame that Kiss has Tommy wearing Ace’s makeup and Eric Singer wearing Peter’s?
No. I think it’s a great, subversive version of Cold Gin. Look, no one got pissed 20 years ago when Ronnie James Dio and Vinnie Appice were 50% of Black Sabbath. These people who complain that Gene is taking all of their money are blind and deaf. Gene has been doing this since 1972, unapologetically and consistently. The only difference is now YOU’RE the adult paying for it, not your parents. I’ll bet they had the same beefs with Gene back then that you have now. Listening to full grown adults cry about this is the same as these Star Wars geeks who complain that George Lucas is taking all their money and ruining their childhood by introducing Jar Jar Binks. If you’re going to complain about KISS, complain about The Elder.
19. Are you happy that Jason Bieler’s project Shuttlecock totally failed?
- Nah. I woulda gotten song money. Skunked again.
20. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association. We mention a name and you give us your thoughts.
Tommy Thayer = Father Bison. KISS is lucky they have him. HEINOUSLY underrated as a guitarist.
Oni Logan = I wish I had Oni’s talent. Kind hearted gypsy.
Tom DeFile = Always cool to me. Thanks for the gig, Tom.
Phil Varone = Angriest, funniest man on tour right now. Philly Freak Out, The Skinny Guinea, The Italian Combo, etc? great look, good drummer.
Paul Garagano = Garagano? Who? Oh, you mean Paul Gargano? Great friend, huge Green Bay Packers fan like me. Paul is smart – extremely so. If you think the top of life’s ladder for PG is Metal Edge, you are wwwwaaaaaaayyyy wrong.
Jaime St. James = Nicest man in show biz. Saint makes me laugh harder than almost anyone else. Plus, he was in a band called HELL. The Saint rules.
Marc Ferrari = Cold Sweat guitarist/Crucial Taunt guitarist. Can you believe he was two timing us? I blame that meddling bitch Cassandra.
Gene Simmons = Honestly greedy. Coming to a wallet near you, and will tell you so. He thinks I am good bass player, so apparently he isn’t that smart. But, I dig him.
Rory Cathey = Mouth of the South. Great singer, Yosemite Sam-esque approach to life always kills me.
Hope you get a chuckle from these. Thanks for the time and look for me hanging billboards – wait, I’m the guy from Saigon Kick, not KIX?
I’m out like the Ba’ath Party?
Thanks to Chris for giving us some good answers and stories and even dropping the name Rocknee and Reinkus Tide. Now that’s obscure shit!