20 Questions w/ Tuff bassist Todd "Chase" Chaisson
Todd "Chase" Chaisson
Well folks here it is, another installment of our infamous 20 Questions.
This time it’s with Todd "Chase" Chaisson who co-founded the band Tuff back in 1985. It’s been many years since Todd has done any interview so we thought it was time to catch up.
1. This is your chance to plug your shit. What’s going on in your world?
The biggest news in my life right now is that I am back in Tuff for the first time in over 17 years. It really doesn’t feel like it has been so long. I am having so much fun with the guys and we have a few shows booked. The first one in coming up on Friday, March 13th. How weird that my first show back is on Friday the 13th! Then the next week we head to Mexico City to play with Skid Row, Enough-z-nuff and Pretty Boy Floyd. How cool is that! I am a big fan of all three bands, but I am most excited to play with Skid Row. I still listen to tracks from Slave to the Grind. Other news is that I am planning to do some substAnce D reunion shows this summer. I have really only been in two serious bands in my life and I am blessed that I still get the opportunity to play two very different styles of music.
Jorge DeSaint & Todd Chaisson of Tuff – 1991
2. How did your journey in music begin. You formed the band Tuff, chased the dream, moved to Hollywood, etc..give us the details?
I think I was born tapping my foot or humming songs. It has always been in my blood. It certainly helped that I come from a musical family and had two amazing mentors in my brothers Greg & Kenny. It became obvious to me that music was my path when at the age of 12 or something I wanted my parents to buy me this electric guitar from a garage sale. I think the guy was asking for $50, but at that time my parents struggled to support seven kids and simply couldn’t afford it. I cried my eyes out for like two days. I think maybe a few weeks later Greg brought me home my first electric guitar (to borrow) and said I could keep it as long as I practiced every day. He would show me licks and cords from time to time, but not really the knowledge in how to put the two together or how to apply them. That I figured out on my own. At some point in my life, I crossed the threshold from simply mimicking other players to writing my own songs. As for Tuff, I met George my junior year in High School (1983). I thought he was so cool because he was the only kid in school that could play Diary of a Madman. We started to hand out flyers for my brother Greg’s band Surgical Steel to first and foremost, get chicks and I’m sure that secondly, to gain favor with my brother Greg who I idolized. George and I became inseparable. We were like brothers and began to spend all of our time together jamming. Our senior year we both dropped out of school and moved in together with a few older girls that had a house next to a graveyard and that would let us form a band and rehearse in their garage. Next Came Michael, who was a very stylish dude and really popular on the local scene. We blended well together, loved the same music and quickly became a real band when we stole Jim Gillette from another band. (I was always breaking up other bands to get the line up I wanted). We began to gain a pretty big following in Phoenix. I remember selling out the JC’s Hall and at times some smaller clubs like Bootleggers. Wow! Bootleggers! I have not thought about that bar in 20 years. What great people and I think I was dating the owner’s daughter at the time. Anyways…. Poison was coming to town and was playing Bootleggers. We (Tuff) were the obvious choice to open the show. We were fascinated by everything about Poison and became friends with the guys, kind of… After they had come to town a few times, we would hang out with them at the after parties. At one party, Bobby Doll was fucking my girlfriend on their bus while I was helping Bret Michaels with an insulin shot inside the house. I think the final trade off was that if I didn’t get into a fight with Bobby and when we move to LA, they would give us furniture or some shit. However, it was really Bret Michaels that convinced us that we could only go so far in Phoenix and that we’d be perfect in Hollywood. So we went to Hollywood in 1986 and began a whole new adventure.
Todd, Michael, Jorge & Stevie – Tuff – 1988
3. You then cut ties with Tuff in 1991 while signed to a major label, on MTV, touring, all that work and then you left. What happened, and why did you leave?
You know, that decision has been maybe one of the most significant and impactful choices I have ever made. It boils down to three key issues.
1. Music Style / Credibility: The label was always pushing for ballads. That is what was hot at the time and we certainly had a few good ones to support. However, soon after the release of “What Comes Around Goes Around” we stopped wearing the make-up and the overly glam clothes and began to get somewhat darker. Not many people may know this, but Tuff started out as a “Metal” band playing music more similar to Accept, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. We were originally a very heavy band. It was only after we realized we were not getting laid, that we changed the musical and image direction to be Glam. I digress… When the label decided to make So Many Seasons the second video, I was like “NO WAY”!!! I wanted to go with All New Generation, which was already a single and getting some decent airplay. Moreover, I began to listen to a lot of Pantera and I knew there was no way Tuff could make such a dramatic transition. I really was tired of not being considered real musicians and I wanted some credibility from my peers. (Which I never really got anyways) so that was the first straw.
2. Lifestyle: Bands are always diverse and Tuff was no different. Me, George and Michael were partiers and Stevie was not. At least in the sense of drugs and alcohol. He certainly fucked a lot of chicks back then. I mean a lot! This one is not so complicated, basically we wanted to party every day and every night and he didn’t like it. He really didn’t like it. And in hindsight, he was probably right. There were a few times where I was too drunk to play effectively, we may have embarrassed ourselves during interviews both on the radio and in print. But I was a rebellious mother fucker and nobody was going to tell me how to live my life. Stevie tried and when I/we wouldn’t listen it boiled over in to the final reason why I left the band…
3. Fighting: Fighting was becoming more and more frequent within the band. And I mean fist fighting. Stevie was no doubt the toughest person in the band and back then he used that against us when he became frustrated and we would not accept his point of view or direction. The first few times was like whatever, but in my mind, it really seemed to escalate, as we grew more tired from touring. I think we were in Utah or Colorado going to do a radio interview and George was smoking pot before the interview. Well, this infuriated Stevie and he and George went fist to cuffs in the van with representatives from the radio station in the car with us. It was really wild! That was the final straw! I wasn’t even in that particular fight, but I was sick of the in-fighting. I considered these guys my brothers, but at the same time there was such a division in the band that I said “Fuck it, I’m out.”
Now let me finish by stating that I had a huge ego back then. I really thought the world owed me big time! So it may sound as though it was Stevie’s doing, but I was an egomaniacal, self serving, selfish prick that probably had a drug problem. So you put that together with a guy who was really very serious about the business side of music and you have a volatile combination. But the deal was that after several altercations, I told the band if it ever happens again, that I would quit. So after the van altercation, I left and never looked back until recently.
Todd & Stevie – The Omni Oakland – 1989
4. Now it’s full circle and you’re back in the band. How did this come about?
Me and the guys mended the broken bridges some years ago. And I think Stevie or George even asked once or twice if I would ever come back and I said, “while I love you guys, I will never play Tuff music again”. Funny how life and time changes people, as maybe a year ago I began feeling nostalgic and began to listen to rock music from the 80’s with my wife again. We found ourselves really enjoying ALL of the old hair metal music. Dana (My wife) and I would have a ball reliving our musical adolescence. So she said that I should consider getting back into music as I had retired from music when we got married, but I think she sensed that I continued to long for the outlet that only playing music can provide. Stevie and I became better friends after I left the band and remained in contact with each other. T the drummer from substAnce D, who I had been playing with again was also the drummer in Tuff and I think that he and Stevie spoke or something and I got a call from Stevie asking if I’d be willing to do a single show Mexico. I said “hell yes” and we have been casually rehearsing in preparation since. Since I have been back in Tuff and sub D, I feel so much better in life. I am a pretty intense guy at times and having the outlet of music is necessary for me to remain calm and sane. So thanks to all of my band mates for inviting me back!
Todd "T.M" Burr, Jack Aurora, Todd Chaisson & Stevie Rachelle – March 2009
5. Rate a bass player 1-10. A 1 being a total hack and a 10 being a bass God.
Kenny Chaisson x-Keel = 10+ Kenny was always a real solid and proficient player and great performer. I love this guy!!!!
Jerry Dixon of Warrant = 7 Just listened to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Nice tone, Jerry!
Jason Newsted former Metallica/Flotsam n’ Jetsam = 10 Great Guy and a great player.
Bobby Dall of Poison =5 You fucked my girlfriend, so you lost a few marks : )
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden = 15 A God!
Rachel Bolan of Skid Row = 8 Great tone and heavy riffs. Love it!
Billy Sheenan = 10+ Technically amazing, but not my preferred style of player.
Chip Z’nuff of Enuff Z’nuff = 8 Super cool dude with classic bass lines.
Duff McKagan of Velvet Revolver = 7 Duff said…
Greg Chaisson x-Badlands = 50+ He’s my idol as far as bass players go. I know that he didn’t grade me as high, but the fact remains that I have never heard a bass player as good as him, period! In my book, he’s the best to ever have played.
Tod "T.M." Burr, Michael Parnin, Todd Chaisson & Eric St. Michaels – 1993
6. You started a new band after leaving Tuff. First it was called Criminal Minds, then blAck, then SubstAnce D. Give us the 411 on this project and where is it now?
When I left Tuff, my goal was to form a mega-heavy band like Metallica or Pantera but somehow fell into the Criminal Minds project through Todd Meahger. He knew a singer named Eric St. Michaels who turned out to be a super great guy, but not a heavy singer. Moreover, it was through this project that I met Michael Parnin and Tod (T. M.)Burr (Two of the best fucking guys ever!!!!) So, after some time doing shows and recordings with Eric we realized that he could not lead the band vocally the way we had wanted and we were forced to release him. We immediately changed the name of the band to blAck (which later became substAnce D) and began the process of trying to find a new singer. We must have tried out dozens upon dozens of guys, including Drew Hanah from Wildside (who we wanted) but we just couldn’t get him or find anybody as good as what we envisioned. So I began singing the demos as a road map for potential singers. It didn’t take long for Mike and T to say “We don’t need a fucking singer dude! You’re it”! I was very reluctant, but after some time working out the kinks I began to feel very comfortable in that role as long as I was still playing bass. It took me a little while to learn how to do such extremely aggressive/progressive music and sing at the same time. But once I got it down, we were a force to be reckoned with. I finally began to get some of the credibility I so desperately wanted. But you know what, credibility is over rated and normally fluffed for alternative means. So, we just focused on the music. And I mean we hit it hard! We rehearsed every day and all night. We did two full length CDs with some small indie labels and had a song land on a John Waters movie soundtrack for Cecil B Demented. But mostly we played our asses off. We got to play all over Europe and of course the US. But like all good things, this too came to an end and was most likely as a result of my bad attitude and ongoing drug problems. Those days are behind me now and the band has jammed a few times in the recent months. I think that after the Tuff shows are done and T goes out on the road, Mike and I will begin to write some new songs for a new recording. Right now we have any plans to shop it. It would just be for us and for any die-hard fans that may still be interested.
Todd Chaisson, Tod "T.M." Burr & Michael Parnin – 1994.
7. You come from a family of bassists. Your older brother Kenny was the bass player in KEEL and oldest brother Greg was the bassist in BADLANDS. Did you follow in their footsteps, or was it just ironic that all of you played the same instrument?
I originally wanted to be drummer, but my parents were like, “No way”! They couldn’t afford the equipment and most definitely did not want me bashing the drums in the house. So I moved onto guitar and began taking guitar class in high school. I passed those classes with high marks, but I still can’t tell a whole note from a doughnut hole. Thanks George! He always showed me the test and I would just pretend to read the music. At some point in my Junior year of high school, Greg or Kenny told me that drummers are gay, singers are bitches and everybody else is a guitar player. So with that in mind, everybody needs a good bass player. It was then I made up my mind to take my brothers’ advice and try to follow in their very large footsteps. I think it really bothered them when I changed my last name to Chase. It wasn’t that I was ashamed to be a Chaisson. On the contrary, I was as proud as any member of my family was. However, I also wanted my own identity and to not be known as Greg and Kenny’s kid brother. When I left Tuff, I also left them the name Chase. Now’s it’s just a nickname from old friends.
8. What band off the Sunset Strip should have had more success, and which band(s) had no business getting signed in the first place?
Ya know, it’s really not my thing to talk shit about others, when I have my own personal train wrecks to contend with. Anybody that made anything out of themselves, I say “right on”! I really think bands like Tuff, PBF, Wildside and others from that time worked real hard to make shit happen, but only saw marginal success compared to Poison or GNR. There is not room for everybody at the top or there wouldn’t be a top. We did the best we could. Do I wish we had greater success? Fuck yes. But I don’t sit around crying that the world owes me shit. I got what I got and that’s all that I got. I’m happy to have had a small piece regardless.
Chase & DeSaint – 1990/91
9. You’re faced with a hard decision here. You will lose 100% of your ability to play and perform the bass unless you join TRIXTER for their next recording and 2 year tour. You will also have to let your hair grow long, bleach it and wear a sleeveless flannel shirt 7 days a week. This will last for 2 years and then you can go back to being yourself! What do you do, lose the skill, join TRIXTER or jump off a tall building nude giving everyone the bird?
Easy! I join Trixter. I would have joined Trixter even if I still lose my super powers. Besides I already wear sleeveless flannel shirts. They are comfy!!!! Don’t fuck with Trixter. They’re not just for kids anymore!
10. If you smack any rock star in the mouth, who would it be and why?
This would be a more appropriate question if you asked which major label A&R reps I’d like to bitch slap. But you didn’t so I would have to say The Black Crowes. Not all of them. just the guitar players and singer. We met them at a bar in London while Tuff was on tour and tried to approach them as fellow American musicians on tour and I believe they had their security guards restrain us or something. I was hammered on ale, but I do recall hating their music even more after that night. His voice fucking irritates me.
Todd, Michael & T – SubD
11. Tour memory of the following cities. (w/ Tuff or Sub D, make note of which band)
Are you kidding me!?!? I don’t even know where I played my last rehearsal. But here goes!
Dallas, Texas = Sub D: drunk and partying hard on tequila with the guys from Pissing Razors at Dimebag’s club.
Salt Lake City, Utah = Cold? The times must have been good because I can remember nothing. That usually means I had a great time!
London, England = Tuff: The first time I ever felt like a Rock Star. I don’t recall the venue, but we did a huge in-store and there were fans lined up around the block. I felt like we were The Beatles for six hours. The in-store was awesome and the show was off the hook! First time I experienced fans doing the pogo. Let me tell you… that is some fucking real deal fan appreciation.
Portland, Oregon = Sub D: It wasn’t exactly Portland, but more on the way to Portland. (right T?) Me and a member of our crew, (Ron) got off the RV to brush our teeth and use the toilet at a gas station while T filled the gas tank. Well when we came out of the washroom the RV was gone! So here is me and Ron sitting in our fucking pajamas basically with nothing but our toothbrushes. No Money, no coats, no phone, no food, no water. Get the picture? Several hours later (8-10) T & Michael pull back in to the gas station laughing. This was not a smart idea. I have never been so pissed off in my entire life. However, today I can and do laugh at it. I’m laughing now. No hard feeling guys! But next time…. Do roll call or a bed check! Oil spotting sucks!
Cleveland, Ohio = Sub D: Ma n’ Pa Parnin’s hospitality! I love his family! His parents actually sat in for mine (who are both now in heaven) at my wedding. That’s how much I love his folks! Cleveland is in my top three all time places to play, stay and rock. I would move to Cleveland anytime! I met my wife there on tour. She thought I was disgusting. I’m sure at the time I was. I had been traveling with sub D for days without a hotel or real shower. I think I kissed her hand, but couldn’t stop staring at her chest. She was hot! She is hot! I will play a show in Cleveland any day of the week for free. Great people and great memories are there for me.
Chicago, Illinois = Tuff: Fucking cock suckers at the Thirsty Whale didn’t want to pay us and it almost escalated into a gang fight. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Chicago, the local music and the people. George’s family was from there. But those dicks from the Whale can still blow me!
Las Vegas, Nevada = Tuff: We never played a show in LV that I can recall. However, what I do recall is that this was the first pit stop on our very first tour on a real deal tour bus. I was on top of the world. Loved it!
Memphis, Tennessee = Really!!! Memphis? They have a cooperative yet ineffective police department. Tuff was there and left, but unfortunately, our gear was not so lucky. In fact, the show was amazing and so was the after party. However, a few guys on our road crew decided to gamble with our gear and our Ryder truck got jacked. I got nothing back. I lost maybe 6 to 10 guitars, 4 to 6 SVT cabs, everything! The worst part is that it really damaged my relationship with my endorsements. But I hold no grudges and hope to see that shit for sale on eBay some day. I had some really cool basses and I miss them.
Phoenix, Arizona = Tuff: Maybe the best day of my musical life. We played a massive festival with Badlands. The only time ever Tuff was on the same bill. I think we played different days. I don’t recall. But what I do remember is sharing that day with my entire family. My sister Teri, my brothers Mitch and Brad (RIP) and both of my parents! It was the best!!!! The fans were crazy and show was one of our best ever. We got driven around in golf carts and had private security and 2 to 4 RVs and my parents finally got to see for the first time what I was all about. I believe my dad was even signing autographs. The best day ever!!!
Oshkosh, Wisconsin= Tuff: The Hansetters! Stevie’s mom is awesome! This is like Ohio was for SubD Except the chicks were never that hot and if they were, Stevie had them all.
Robbie Crane & Todd Chase jamming.
12. Tell the readers something they would be surprised to know about Todd Chaisson?
Anybody (if anybody) ever followed my career, I have always been pretty open to public/press and made my life an open book for all to read and criticize. You know as hardcore as I am with my music, people may be surprised to know I sometimes dig a good chick flick or romantic comedy. Go fuck yourselves!
Michael Parnin, Todd Chaisson & T.M Burr in Substance D – 1999
13. Name the 3 high points and the 3 low points of your musical career?
I think I have covered these within this interview already, but I will summarize.
1. Tuff getting signed by Atlantic
2. Finishing the blAck & Addictions CDs
3. Reuniting with both bands in 2008
1. Quitting Tuff
2. Firing T from sub D (I could never replace him)
3. Retiring from music
14. Speaking of highs, rumor is that you partied quite heavily in the 80s and 90s. Care to elaborate on a common party practice for the readers?
Well that would be a very long story. But let’s just say that I was no stranger to any drug that didn’t require the use of needles. I had ties to local biker gangs, carried firearms and was involved in some heavy criminal activity. I’ve spent time in jail and don’t ever want to go back!
15. Of all the bands you shared a stage with, who were the coolest and who were the biggest jerks to deal with?
While I’m sure there were some dicks out there, I try not to remember those times. Most all of the bands were cool. I recall especially enjoying sharing the stage with Vain in San Francisco. We were always treated well up North. I also enjoyed touring with Lita Ford. She’s a real kick in the pants and her band were awesome guys!
16. What Tuff or Sub D songs would you put in the “songs that suck” vault never to be heard or played again?
Nothing from Sub D, my song writing had matured considerably by that time and I love every song we ever recorded. Tuff on the other hand…. Glamour Girls. I’m sure there are a few others from that era that I might prefer never be heard again. But for the most part, I’m very proud of every song I have been involved with. Good, bad or really bad!
17. What was your biggest ever musical related check for and what did you buy with it?
A publishing check from Sony for like 10 or 12 grand. Most of it I tried to save, but the day the check cleared I took 4 or 5 friends that had been picking up tabs for years, out to the Rainbow and dropped maybe a grand on pizza, lobster, champagne and a bunch of booze. The rest my old girlfriend blew on her other boyfriend while I was on tour. Whore!
Todd, Jorge, Michael, Stevie & photographer William Hames – 1990
18. Word Association. We mention a name, you give us your thoughts:
Howard Benson = Love him. He always took my calls and gave it to me straight
Michael Lean = Dear old friend that I don’t see enough of
Kenny ‘Ken Dog’ Caruth = Awesome friend and great bass tech
Rob Jones =My Nigga! Another real deal guy
Michael Parnin = One word cannot describe this truly awesome dude. He is my best friend and hands down, the best producer, engineer and guitar player I have EVER worked with. He’s saved my life more than once and I would do anything for this fucking guy! Love you man!
Jorge DeSaint = Great guy with terrible luck. I wish his life was going better so we could maybe jam again someday. Hang in there kid!
Warren Croyle = Heavy cat! Would love to work with him again someday/any day
Tod ‘T’ Burr = Irreplaceable drummer and one of my very best friends! Hardest working guy I know. I think he’s in like 73 bands and sleeps 45 seconds per day. Hard core awesome guy!
Dennis “Rat” Dudek = Belt buckles and hairspray! Great guy!
Stevie Rachelle = Highly underrated! Like Burr, this guys works his balls off and is also one of my best friends. Thanks for bringing me back man! I hope we get to play a bunch of shows this year. Maybe even record a new EP or something.
Howie Hubberman =Super great guy that gave Tuff years of loyal service
Jim Gillette = Bad ass motherfucker and killer singer
Todd Meagher = Song writing madman. My kind of dude! Miss him!
Todd, Michael, Jimmy & Jorge – flyer for their last show May 1987
19. Jimmy L’Mour (aka Jim Gillette) was the singer of Tuff for a while, and previous to him was a guy named Terry Fox. What happened with these guys and why did the band split with them?
Fuck dude, that was a long time ago! Terry is easy, he was an ice skater and not a singer. I have no idea where he is today. I hope ok. Jimmy is more complicated and to be honest I don’t recall the details. I can tell you I tried really hard to get him into the band and I think he’s an amazing singer. Maybe a little over the top for my particular taste, but still very impressive. I would love to catch up with him someday for a beer and some laughs. We used to be great friends. I believe he’s married to Lita Ford (HOT! ) and lives in Florida. I wish them all the best!
Todd Chaisson, Jorge DeSaint, Terry Fox & Michael Lean – Tuff 1985
20. The Last of Todd “Chase” Chaisson.
Last time you puked from drinking = Never have
Last time you had make up or hair spray on = Make up has been over 20 years. Hairspray, maybe last week! I sometimes roll with a mohawk and that shit don’t stand up on its own.
Last fast food you ate = Philly’s Best Cheese Steaks in Pasadena. Good shit!
Last CD you paid full price for = Pepper: Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations or Bullet for my Valentine: Scream Aim Fire
Last illegal drug you took = I’m smoking pot right now, but pot is legal in California. Sweet!
Last time you broke a bass string = Maybe a Sub D rehearsal from years ago. It’s been a long time.
Last famous person you shook hands with = While I didn’t shake his hand, I saw Clint Eastwood at the W Hotel bar in Dallas. He had a bunch of security and some really hot girls hanging out with him. But he is my favorite all time actor and I wish to this day I would have introduced myself or got an autograph. He’s the coolest!
Last song you sang to on the radio = “I Don’t Care” by Apocalyptica
Last time you cried = A couple years ago when I was in China, I heard my brother Brad had died from an overdose. I was devastated!
Last time you visited Metal Sludge = I visit often. I know the owner. That prick!
Mr. Todd Chaisson at a recent Substance D rehearsal.
Todd’s live shows with Tuff below – All Tuff dates are >HERE<
Fri. March 13th "Paladinos" Tarzana, CA w/ Rhino Bucket
Sat. March 21st "Velvet" Mexico City, Mexico w/ S. Row, E. Z’nuff & P.B. Floyd
Fri. May 15th "Brixton" Redondo Beach, CA w/ BulletBoys & Silent Rage
We’d like to thank Todd for his wordy, yet imformative interview.