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20 Questions with Guitarist Howie Simon

  20 QUESTIONS WITH…



Guitarist HOWIE SIMON

from the Jeff Scott Soto Band

Who the fuck is Howie Simon? That’s what we said, and then he informed us that his parents are Howie Long and Simon LeBon. Not really, but Howie is a Guitar whore like Keri Kelli, and plays in a half dozen bands. So, that’s reason enough to interview him. Besides, he’s recently shook hands with the legendary Keri Kelli. Its funny how big the music world is, and how small it is at the sametime. Howie grew up dreaming of playing guitar like Yngwie Malmsteen and years later he ends up playing with one of his former frontman in Jeff Scott Soto. He has a lot to say, so we’ll let Howie Simon spew his guts out for all of you to read.

1. This is your chance to plug your webiste, tours, releases and so forth?

You can find my website at www.HowieSimon.com. By the way, I know you bag on a lot of people for spelling errors on Sludge, so I should point out that you spelled "website" wrong and we are only on question # 1. Nice! As I’m typing this, I am in Belfast, Ireland finishing up the 2005 Jeff Scott Soto band European tour. We have done 6 and 1/2 weeks covering 10 countries (Dates we’ve completed can be found here: www.hillockproductions.com/JSSBsummer2005tourdates.htm). I would’ve liked to have finished these questions earlier to promote these gigs , but typically internet connection is very hard to find in Europe. The next tour coming up is at the beginning of November with the Jeff Scott Soto band again. We now have 2 weeks in 4 countries in South America (dates are at bottom here http://soulsirkus.com/JSStourdates_2005schedule.html). We already played in Brazil last year and the shows were amazing. We also did 2 weeks in Australia last September which was a great experience, although the plane ride there and back is 14 hours of hell. As far as the newest couple of releases I’m on…the newest JSS solo release is "Lost In The Translation" on Frontiers Records which is a year old now. I also play with Jeff in another band with 3 guys who live in Sweden called Talisman. This band has been around 15 years and I’m the newest member. In March of this year we released a double live DVD called "The World’s Best Kept Secret" and matching double cd titled "Five Men Live". The DVD is a great retrospective of the band’s career and features live shows we did in 2003 including Sweden Rock and Lokerse Festival in Belgium. I’m quite proud of these discs…the band was on fire! Anyway, I could plug for days but this should be good for now.

 

2. Now that you’ve plugged that, can you give the Sludgeaholics a few reasons as to why they should care who you are and why they should continue reading forward? Who is Howie Simon?

Nobody should give a crap about me at all! I guess things are slowing down at Sludge if you go from huge names like Zakk Wylde and Don Dokken to C list names like me! Kidding. Most stuff about me is easily found on my site. I am originally from Buffalo, New York and came to L.A. in 1994 – well after the whole hair scene had gone away. I did quite a bit of touring and recording with a hard rock singer named Ken Tamplin, who is known more in the Christian music circles. The Christian thing is definitely not my bag, although Ken is a great guy and his music really isn’t that preachy. We are still good friends to this day and work together on various projects from time to time. I am most known these past few years for playing with Jeff Scott Soto (Soul Sirkus, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Rock Star Movie soundtrack) in his solo band and also as I mentioned before, Talisman. The JSS Band has played around the world the last 3 years in a row, and we have 2 live DVDs available that show what we are like. One of them is from the Annual International Queen Fan Club Convention in Wales where we performed 2 and a half hours of only Queen songs. I also played a few shows these last couple years with Graham Bonnet (Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz,etc.), who was one of my musical heroes growing up.

3. When we interviewed Jeff Scott Soto he referred to you as King Genius. Huh, what the fuck does that mean?

Hahaha. I AM THE MOST BRILLIANT FUCKER ON THE ENTIRE PLANET! No not really…actually it’s my name on Ebay!

4. Your website bio says: "Howie was a winner at the 1989 Buffalo Music Awards in the Best Hard Rock Guitarist category." Great, fine & cool. What did you win? Is it still hanging on your bedroom wall? And did you ever win best guitarist in the Rock City News local Hollywood polls?

I won a little plaque and your damn right it’s still hanging on my wall. I have never even been nominated in Rock City news awards I don’t think. I’m way too under the radar for that – maybe someday. A girl can always dream…….

5. Rate a guitarist 1-10. 1 being a broken fingered hack and 10 being a Guitar God.

Ahhhhhhh – here we go. I’m not gonna shit talk too much ’cause I might run into one of these guys somewhere and get my ass kicked.

Warren DeMartini = 8 Great smooth player with awesome phrasing (for non-players phrasing means he chooses cool notes at just the right times and plays them with good timing). He loses points for playing in RATT who I never really liked.

Eddie Van Halen = 10 You wouldn’t be able to make this list of guys if it wasn’t for him. I’ve actually come to appreciate him a lot more now than when I was younger.

CC DeVille = 4 for playing – 10 for his personality.

Yngwie Malmsteen = 10 My hero growing up. I wouldn’t be the player I am if it wasn’t for him. I’ve met him briefly twice and he was cool both times, even though I wish his newer cds were better than they have been. The last one I really liked was "Facing The Animal" from 1998.

Darrell Roberts = I’ll give him a 9 for guitar playing, a 9 for singing and even a 9 for songwriting. He loses one point in each category for being a homo.

George Lynch = Hard to give him a number…sometimes he blows you away and sometimes he’s not very good (like a few times I’ve seen him live). I’ll give him an 8 for the inconsistency.

Dj Ashba = Only saw him play once or twice with BC. Just an average player…cool tattoos though if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ll give him a 5.

Fredrik Akesson = 10. My partner in Talisman. Amazing player and one of the funniest (when not trying to be) people I know. It’s really cool to play with him, he keeps me on my toes as a guitarist. Just joined Arch Enemy…I hope he does well.

Russ Parish = 10. He came into a guitar a shop I worked in when I first moved to L.A. and did some finger picking stuff on a guitar that just blew me away. I don’t know him that well but when I bump into him he is always pretty cool towards me.

Marty Freidman = 9. He is a great guitarist although not one of my favorites to listen to…he was never in any bands I liked. Plays a guest solo on the Tamplin – "Wake The Nations" cd I did in 2003.

By the way you forgot some of my all-time favorites: Gary Moore, John Sykes, Michael Schenker, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore…all 10′s!

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

Sometimes I’d like to smack Jeff Soto. But probably Gene Simmons for continually pointing out how much money he has. We all know he makes a lot of dough but what is with the constant reminders? Insecurities anyone?? Anyone?

7. Lets go back a bit. You played in a local Buffalo band called Storm Warning and then joined Ice Water Mansion that had a regional following mainly on the East coast. What became of these bands, and could the band names be any worse?

Actually you have that backwards. Ice Water Mansion was 1st, then I formed Storm Warning. I always liked the IWM name which came from Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot’s epic "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" that was about a sunken treasure ship. Maybe that was a sign of things to come for that band since it is now a sunken ship! (hahahahahaha….ha……ho…..er……fuck you). That was really a good band in its day (even before I joined) but just never had any decent management or "connections" to get out of the clubs. Before I was in the band, Rick James produced a demo tape for them at his home studio in Buffalo, but they only got negative feedback from a few managers and producers (maybe Ted Templeman was one of them?) so a few guys left and I joined. Rick had given up on them at this point. I played a ton of gigs with them in the 2 years I was a member, traveling all over the East Coast when I was 19/20 years old. I could never get along with the singer, though…he was about 8 years older than me and always resented the fact that his buddy (the old guitarist) wasn’t in the band anymore. I quit once and they asked me back, then quit again giving a 2 month notice…yet they "fired" me 5 shows before I was supposed to leave which fucked me up financially at the time. It would have been a lot cooler to let me finish the gigs, shake hands and be friends but they must have liked being the ones in control, or whatever. I know one guy from the band is married with kids and works in an electronics shop in the middle of New York State now, but the others I have no idea where they are…I don’t think any of them are even in the music biz anymore. Storm Warning was a regional cover band I formed after IWM and yes I know the name was terrible but I couldn’t think of anything else at the time. It was pretty much all hair metal cover tunes. We just did a "reunion" gig in Buffalo this past April to a packed house of all our old friends from back in the day…it was a blast and we’ll probably do it again at some point.

8. Sticking with your hometown of Buffalo. Are you a sports fan, do you like the Bills, and if so, were you suicidal as they lost FOUR Superbowls in a row and was that part of the reason for you moving to Los Angeles in 1994?

Not suicidal but it certainly did suck. I actually left to drive to L.A. about 2 hours after the 4th loss (although that was already planned- win or lose). I take consolation in the fact that NO team has (and because of free agency nowadays) no team probably will ever again go to the bowl 4 YEARS IN A ROW! Not even Green Bay, Stevie.

9. You also played in a Metallica tribute band called Alcoholica. That band featured Darrell Roberts (W.A.S.P.) as the James Hetfield. The group was chosen by Limp Bizkit to play on the Napster sponsored "Back to Basics" summer tour in 2000 with Cypress Hill. How did that run of shows go and is there anything exciting to report looking back?

Well that was 5 years ago now so it’s a bit of a faded memory and Darrell has already told a couple of cool stories from that tour in his 20 Q’s. The shows were all completely packed (5000-7000 each night) since the tour was free to the public. You had to win tickets on the radio or wait in line to get them, and Bizkit was huge at the time. I just remember our drummer driving our RV at one point, and in the span of 10 minutes scraped the top into a hotel wall overhang, and then drove over a large curb and some music equipment inside went flying into the stove and smashed the glass stove door into a million pieces. The drag of the whole thing now is that the 4 guys in our band were and probably still are ultra-lazy and we never took any photographs or video taped anything on the entire run…wish we had some of that now.

10. What hard rock band should call it a day and why?

Probably me…does anyone even know who the hell I am?

11. You are now faced with a hard decision. Both of your hands will be cut off clean at the wrist and you will never play guitar again! UNLESS, you quit all of your current projects and join a reformed version of Pretty Boy Floyd. You will write, record, and tour with the band for 3 years straight. You will wear a glam outfit, make up and the overall image will make Poison look like Tesla. Do you save your hands and join PBF or let them get chainsawed off clean?

It depends…who’s gonna be in PBF with me? I doubt they’d let me join anyway, I’m way too fat for those guys. It might actually be cool to walk around with 2 bloody stump arms and freak people out. Flip a coin on this one…..

12. Time to pick your Poison…

Winger or Warrant = I have no problem with saying that I have always liked Winger. They are all great players and if Kip hadn’t danced around like a fairy in the videos, they probably would have had a lot more respect. Their 3rd cd PULL was amazing and had no cheesy ballads. Yes- I know I will get called a pussy for this. Warrant I never liked though.

Cowboy Hats or Cowboy Boots = I’ll go boots on this one, but only if I can wear them OUTSIDE my pants.

Slipknot or Pantera = Pantera. Dimebag died on my birthday.

Howie Mandel or Paul Simon = I’ll take Howie Long and Simon Cowell.

Beer & Brats or Sushi & Sake = I’m not really a beer guy…give me the sushi and sake. Cold sake. But I’ll take vodka and bourbon any day of the week.

Touring the US or Touring Europe = Most of my touring has been Europe, but it’s nice to actually speak your own language after a gig. Ask me this question when I get back from South America in November.

Fucking or Sucking = Fucking someone who is already sucking someone. There are no teeth in a vagina. At least not the ones I’ve seen.

A loud lead guitar or A pure acoustic = A loud lead guitar when I’m playing, an acoustic when someone else (who probably sucks) is playing.

Big Fake Boobs or Small Perky Tits = Don’t care either way as long as the nipple itself looks nice. I don’t like those silver dollars.

Oj Simpson is guilty or Not guilty = of what?

13. Of all the bands you’ve shared the stage with in your musical career who were the biggest dicks to deal with and who was the coolest to you?

Can’t really think of anyone who was ever a dick to any of the bands I was in. I guess I’m lucky in that respect. Pat Travers tried to jump up on stage with Ice Water Mansion once in Florida, but he was plastered drunk and our main roadie threw him off before he ever played a note. The club’s employees thanked us profusely later as apparently once he started jamming he would refuse to get offstage. As far as the coolest, almost everyone has been nice. We just played with Skid Row in Nottingham last month and I hung out with Rachael Bolan and Kerri Kelly afterwards. They even gave us their bottle of vodka after ours ran out. Great guys and their band kicked ass too. We did a couple of shows with the reformed Tyketto last year and their guitarist Brooke St. James was a blast to party with. The Limp Bizkit guys and Cypress Hill were all totally cool to Alcoholica in 2000.

14. Yes or No, has Howie Simon ever:

Played a Poison song live = (sigh) yes.

Wore spandex and make up = spandex yes…makeup no. Unless you count Halloween 2 years ago where I dressed as Vinnie Vincent and looked completely terrible.

Drove drunk = unfortunately yes.

Shoplifted music supplies = Can’t remember but probably.

Paid for sex = Yes but not with cash. Paid DEARLY with conversation, having to be nice, etc.

Watched a Michael Angelo instructional video = Ha…only saw a preview clip once. The Paul Gilbert videos are hilarious.

Earned his red wings = I’m not exactly sure what this means but if it’s what I think it is, yes- it was an accident and I don’t dig it at all.

Saw Darrell Roberts nude = Yes- the absolute nicest clit you have ever laid eyes on.

Killed an animal = I think I shot a bird with a beebee gun when I was a kid. I love dogs though…I wish I could go back and kick my ass when I was around 12 for being stupid.

Touched another mans genitals = Not yet but a girl can always hope….

15. Memory Lane:

1980 = 11 years old…USA wins Gold in Ice Hockey.

1983 = Started singing in the 1st band I was ever in – "TYR"! They wouldn’t let me play guitar because there were already 2 guys and they didn’t want to be like the Molly Hatchet of metal.

1986 = Junior year in high school…saw Yngwie live with Jeff Scott Soto. Little did I know I’d be staring at his naked penis every night after gigs 19 years later.

1989 = Joined Ice Water Mansion and played 300+ shows around the East Coast for the next 2 years. I was a dick with a big ego then. (To the people that know me- yes, I was actually worse then!)

1992 = Playing with Storm Warning around Western New York and Pennsylvania every weekend…good times.

1994 = Moved to LA on February 1st. Got my dog Sparky who I still have now.

1997 = 3 tours and some recording with Ken Tamplin. The next year we went to Japan.

2000 = Limp Bizkit/ Cypress Hill tour with Alcoholica

2002 = Played the GODS fest in the UK with JS Soto. Came out as my 1st live cd and DVD.

I will add my own 2003 – One of my best years musically. 3 trips overseas with JSS solo and Talisman. Had 2 cds released (JSS – Live At The Gods and Tamplin – Wake The Nations). Recorded the live Talisman cd and DVD (released in 2005). Played a few shows with Graham Bonnet and Alcoholica…I was very busy.

2004 = More touring Europe with JSS. Went to Brazil and Australia as well. Recorded the "Lost In The Translation" cd.

16. Over the years the community has lost several great guitarists. How did any of these affect you as a person or a player?

(Randy Rhoades/Ozzy, Steve Clark/Def Leppard, Robbin Crosby/Ratt, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Dimebag Darrell/Pantera)

It always sucks when someone dies too young and for a stupid reason. None of these players were huge influences on me but they all affected me in

some way. Dimebag was killed on my birthday so it’s going to be a drag thinking about that every year at that time. I was too young to have the Randy Rhoads tragedy hit me hard. The Stevie Ray crash bummed me out, even though I didn’t listen to him much at the time. Crosby and Clark weren’t in bands that I liked but it still sucks to hear about it.

17. Name the 3 high points and the 3 low points of your touring experience in Europe to date?

High –

1) Playing in Spain is always killer, especially Madrid where you feel like you are in the Beatles. Everyone wants an autograph and a photo with you. I love the fans there!

2) 2003 with Talisman at the Lokerse Festival in Belgium and the Sweden Rock festival. Huge outdoor shows both captured on the live DVD.

3) Not Europe, but playing in 2004 in Brazil was awesome. Richie Kotzen went on before us and the show was packed…can’t wait to get back there next month. CAIPIROSKAS!!!!!

Low-

1) Many of the hotels in Europe…what the fuck is with those tiny beds and showers with pressure like a 9 year old boy is peeing on you. I can’t wash my hair like that. And would it kill them to spend 50 bucks and get wifi internet? It’s 2005 fer Christ sake.

2) The low fare inner EU airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet that wont let you have hardly any baggage weight. Do I always have to fight to carry my guitars onboard? Why don’t some of them come over here and fly once…just ONCE on Southwest to see what customer service is supposed to be like. Fucking idiots.

3) A lot of the food.

Honorable mention – The "organization" of things in Italy.

18. What was your biggest musical related pay check for and what did you buy with it?

I’m supposed to get paid? I usually just pay my bills with my money..I’m really not that exciting.

19. Word Association:

Graham Bonnet = Love this guy…one of the nicest people I know and still has the loudest voice I’ve ever heard. Some of the most fun shows I’ve had were playing with him

Paul Scott = Hahaha. My singer from Storm Warning (and another band barely worth mentioning Crash Laroux). Has come a long way as a person and I’m glad we are still friends and do these reunion gigs once in awhile. Also glad he shaved his mustache.

David Lee Roth = Other than Elvis the best frontman ever.

Bob Rock = The producer, the drummer or the singer? I assume you mean Rob Rock the singer since I guested on one of his cds. Killer voice, nicest guy you have ever met. I need to email him and see how he’s doing.

Darrell Roberts = One of my close friends…great musician. Needs to move beyond WASP and do his own thing.

Ken Tamplin = Great friend, writer, player, singer and producer (except his over produced drum sounds!).

Pauly Shore = The Weasel. Why are you putting him on this list?

Glen Sobel = Great drummer and close friend….will drive around forever to find a parking spot. This makes me want to kill him.

Nikki Sixx = That dude in Motley Crue.

Jeff Scott Soto = Just the sweetest, most compassionate, caring individual one could ever hope to meet. I love sharing my innermost feelings with him because we have a special bond that only the closest of friends could have. Sarcasm anyone?

20. The Last of Howie Simon…

Last country you couldn’t wait to leave = Italy

Last fast food you ate = Quizno’s Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm…………toasty.

Last Rock Star you shook hands with = Kerri Kelly?

Last time you barfed from drinking = 1994…after my going away to L.A. party.

Last concert you watched from the crowd = Skid Row after we played with them.

Last time you broke a string live = About a month ago in Holland.

Last 80s CD you listened to = Zeno s/t…Uli Roth’s brother.

Last song you learned on guitar = Had to re-learn Queen’s "No One But You" to play acoustically at the fan club convention in Wales. This song was Queen after Freddie had already died…Brian May and Roger Taylor sing it.

Last time you shit your pants = Just now….be right back.

Last time you visited Metal Sludge = a few weeks ago…love seeing what Mark Slaughter might be up to.

Thanks for the chance to join the elite 20 Q’s club. Keep checking my website at www.HowieSimon.com for updates and hope to see all the South American fans soon!

What did we learn from todays 20 questions? Well, we learned that Howie thinks Dj Ashba has cool tattoos, he wore spandex and has played Poison songs live. He also loves to fly to Australia, he loves European food, he thinks Darrell Roberts is a homo, and he hates chicks with silver dollar nipples. We also learned that Howie had a bigger ego in 1989 than he does today. Is that even possible? The big ego was during the hey day of his playing in a local band called Ice Water Mansion. Huh? Who? WTF? Exactly! Then again, it holds true that most local bands are bigger dicks to deal with than the National Recording artists themselves. Thanks to Howie for bellying up the Sludge bar and throwing down!

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