DON’T CHANGE THAT SONG
Here is a Metal Sludge exclusive with founding Faster Pussycat guitarist Brent Muscat
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD – Once the toast of Los Angeles as the star guitarist for legendary glamsters Faster Pussycat, Brent Muscat returns to California for a show with his Las Vegas band Sin City Sinners on June 7 at the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip.
The event figures to be a big one because Muscat doesn’t return often since relocating to Nevada a decade ago following a messy divorce with Faster Pussycat, which has gone on without him — singer Taime Downe is the only original left – but without nearly as much popularity as when the great Muscat was involved.
Muscat and Sin City Sinners are part of a bill that includes underground heroes Blackboard Jungle, which is making its annual summer return for what figures to be a triumphant night for all the old fans from back in the day who are primed for one last hurrah.
We caught up with Muscat, now 47, for a candid talk about the way things were, the way things are, and the way things are going to be, and the guitarist with a penchant for melodic, infectious hooks was more than happy to be brutally honest in a way that should please Sludge readers far and wide.
Ready, set, go.
METAL SLUDGE: Hey Brent Muscat, what is the very latest with you?
BRENT MUSCAT: I’ve been living in Las Vegas since 2007, doing my band Sin City Sinners, and it’s doing really well. People from all over the world come to Las Vegas, so being in this band, it’s kind of like touring, but I get to sleep in my own bed every night. We’ve also raised more than $1 million for various charities through the years and for cancer. Anytime there is a legitimate charity, we do it. We can’t do everything, but we do a lot. It feels great for the right reasons.
The whole thing started when I had a fallout with Taime Downe. I finally had to give up on Faster Pussycat and let it go. That was a chapter in my life that I had to let go.
METAL SLUDGE: How much contact do you have with Taime these days?
MUSCAT: We’re friends now. We had some problems in the past, but we’ve put that behind us. He has jammed with us three or four times.
METAL SLUDGE: I still enjoy listening to old Faster Pussycat. Did you realize, when you first came out with those records on Elektra, just how good you were?
MUSCAT: I always thought we had chemistry from the beginning. I knew we had something there, the songs and especially the vibe. The truth is, the first album we barely knew how to play, but the chemistry was there, and the songs were fun songs. I think we represented Hollywood well for that time period, and the we represented what was happening on the Sunset Strip at the time. You know, our first record came out on the very same day as Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite For Destruction,” and when we heard “Appetite,” we were like, “Oh my gosh.” That made us try a lot harder on the next record, but still we did really well.
METAL SLUDGE: It actually took like a year for “Appetite” to take off.
MUSCAT: Yeah, at one point, we were selling the same amount of records as Guns N’ Roses, but after they did a couple of videos, they just skyrocketed and left us in the dust. But yeah, the first six months or so, we sold about the same.
METAL SLUDGE: You did a lot of touring, a lot of touring with big bands like Motley Crue and KISS.
MUSCAT: Yeah, we went out with everyone. The first was Ace Frehley, then Y & T, but after hearing “Appetite,” like I said, it really challenged us to write better songs and to try to compete against that, so the second record is better musically. Plus, by the time we made the second record, we had been playing every day for year straight, so that’s why the second one is really good. The third one, we were a little unfocused.
METAL SLUDGE: I dunno. I kind of like the first one a lot still.
MUSCAT: The first one has its place. It’s still a good representation of what we were about at that time.
METAL SLUDGE: You were so young. How old were you when you first started with Faster Pussycat?
MUSCAT: God, I think I was like 19. The other guys in the band, they all came to my high school graduation.
METAL SLUDGE: Where did you go to high school?
MUSCAT: I went to Monrovia High (east of Los Angeles).
METAL SLUDGE: Where you a good student, or did you barely graduate?
MUSCAT: I barely graduated (laughs). The last two years of high school, I almost left because I was busy playing in punk bands and not doing much homework. I remember the band I was in, we broke up, and then I met Taime, and we started Faster Pussycat together. I think we were signed within six months. My old friends kind of teased me at first because I had been into like gothic punk before that.
METAL SLUDGE: You got to tour the world, so it must have been worth it.
MUSCAT: Oh yeah, a lot of the people I knew in high school, they contacted me later. Some wanted to say hi and congratulate me, but some, I was like, “Hey, weren’t you one of the guys who used to pick on me?”
METAL SLUDGE: Did you used to get in fights? Were you that kind of kid?
MUSCAT: Not really because I had two older brothers. My dad was real small, but he was real tough, kind of a Napoleon complex. I guess I knew how to fight, but I wasn’t into fighting.
METAL SLUDGE: Your brother, Todd, was a good musician, too.
MUSCAT: Yeah, he’s a lot taller than me. He played in Junkyard, Kill For Thrills and Electric Angels and a few other bands.
METAL SLUDGE: What’s he doing now?
MUSCAT: He does editing for TV. He does “Walking Dead” and a few other shows in Hollywood.
METAL SLUDGE: Wow, is he rich?
MUSCAT: I don’t know about that because it’s like, a few years ago the writers went on strike and he was really hurting. It’s kind of feast or famine in that business.
METAL SLUDGE: Just like rock and roll.
MUSCAT: He still plays in Junkyard sometimes. I think he’s coming to the Blackboard Jungle reunion show on June 7 at the Viper Room with Sin City Sinners, too.
MUSCAT: I am. We’ve played the Cat Club before back when it was still the Cat Club with Slim Jim Phantom, but now it’s an Irish bar or whatever. It’s been a few years.
METAL SLUDGE: Do you miss L.A.?
MUSCAT: Well, when I left in 2004, I was still in Faster Pussycat, but the scene was just dead. The Strip was dead. It was sad. I remember Taime and I, we were playing a club, and it was raining out, and no one came, and I was like, “This just blows.” I was working two jobs to afford the rent, and I just decided I needed a change. I had some money saved, so I looked at some houses in Vegas, and they were so cheap that I decided to rent out my house in L.A., and I bought a house in Las Vegas.
I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just started networking and meeting musicians. I guess my goal was to turn Vegas into the new Los Angeles, and that’s exactly what it’s become, so I’d like to take credit for that. I was one of the first to move out here, kind of a pioneer because at the time, there was nothing going on. I mean, there were a lot of great rooms, a couple of bands, but no scene, so I started with a couple of friends doing Tuesday nights at a bar, the Dive Bar, kind of modeling it after the old Cathouse with Riki Rachtman and Taime, and I was determined to make it work.
METAL SLUDGE: Interesting.
MUSCAT: The Cathouse, that’s what I modeled it on, one night a week to have some fun and play all our favorite covers and a couple of originals, and I started inviting musicians from L.A. to come down and come hang out because there was no other place like it. That’s why a lot of guys like Ron Keel all moved out here eventually. I would pay them money and give them a hotel room, and it became a really cool thing. So that’s how it all started, and before you knew it, Sin City Sinners, we were playing bigger places like the Hard Rock, and all these people were coming out to see us do casino gigs. We’ve won best band in Vegas like three or four times.
METAL SLUDGE: What’s going on in your personal life? Are you married?
MUSCAT: Yeah, I’m married. My wife is a poker dealer.
METAL SLUDGE: Who makes more money, you or her?
MUSCAT: It depends. Sometimes it’s me. Like this week, we’re playing the afterparty for Guns N’ Roses, so I’m making great money this week, but some weeks are slow. But usually I play two or three nights a week, so I’m doing OK, and I get to go home every night and come sleep in my own bed with my family, two kids. It’s way better than touring. I’m making more money here than I could if I was touring with Faster Pussycat.
METAL SLUDGE: Speaking of Faster Pussycat, I’ve got to ask you about that new video that’s been circulating, the one where the bass player falls over drunk and can’t continue. You must have seen it, Brent.
MUSCAT: I have. I’ve seen it a few times.
METAL SLUDGE: What do you think of that?
MUSCAT: I think it’s sad and shocking and pathetic. People are laughing at them, even the other guys in the band. But you know what? That guy, that’s Danny Nordahl, and he has been doing that since 2002, all the way back since the time that I was playing with Taime, too.
METAL SLUDGE: Oh, is that why Taime was acting like it was no big deal? Like it wasn’t an emergency?
MUSCAT: Yeah, he’s done it a million times. He gets so drunk that he can’t stand up, and Taime has seen it so many times. I do think it’s sad that it’s still going on 10 or 12 years later. I can only imagine what his liver looks like. I love the guy but I hate to see him drink himself to death. He’s actually a great bass player and quite a good singer, too.
METAL SLUDGE: Taime is very talented. You can still tell how talented the guy is, you agree?
MUSCAT: Oh yeah. I think Taime has always had a vibe. He has chemistry, and he has a great way of writing lyrics because he’s really smart. As far as writing lyrics, he’s one of the best. He’s right up there with Axl. He might not be able to sing as well as Axl, but as far as lyrics, he’s right up there, maybe even better.
METAL SLUDGE: I’m wondering if maybe Faster Pussycat should have sold like ten million records.
MUSCAT: I don’t think we were ready. I mean, the first record, when we came out, we were great, but we were not Guns N’ Roses. Everyone has their moment, and we did have some great moments and sold a lot of records. I have two gold records.
METAL SLUDGE: The band had a lot of problems, though, a lot of bad luck and a lot of mistakes, like when the drummer, Mark Michals, tried to Fedex himself heroin and got busted.
MUSCAT: Yeah, at the time, that was unfortunate, but we kept going. We never missed a show. When Mark got busted, Frankie Banali (from Quiet Riot) flew out right away, so we didn’t lose any momentum. You know what really hurt us the most?
METAL SLUDGE: What?
MUSCAT: It was getting dropped from our label. We were on the road at the time, opening for KISS, so why would they drop us when we’re doing a world tour with KISS? Why not let us at least finish the tour? But Nirvana had just come out, and you know the story.
METAL SLUDGE: It must have really hurt your feelings. Were you in pain?
MUSCAT: Oh yeah, I was devastated. Very upset and very depressed. I had just bought a house a year before, so it really hurt, but I went out and started working right away. I never did lose that house.
METAL SLUDGE: And then the feud with Taime.
MUSCAT: Yes, that got ugly, but we’ve put it past us and made up.
METAL SLUDGE: And you got cancer, too.
MUSCAT: That was in 2005, and that’s one of the reasons I started Sin City Sinners. I just wanted to play for the right reasons. We had a Faster Pussycat reunion in 2001 and ’02, and I just felt we weren’t in it for the right reasons, me included. If we needed to pay the rent, we would go out and tour, and we were short-changing the audience. The new music, with the Newlydeads-type industrial stuff, that’s what Faster Pussycat had turned into, and Taime and I had a falling out, and they ended up touring without me.
I didn’t want to do it anymore because by this point, it was crazy and about living dangerously for 40-year-old guys, and I thought it was pathetic. I needed a change, and I was hurt and angry for a while, angry and mad at Taime, so I put out my own version of Faster Pussycat and toured Europe, and it was a mess with lawyers involved and all that stuff. I look back now, and I probably shouldn’t have done my own version, though it was a good time, but me and Taime, we had been like brothers for a long time, and sometimes brothers love each other, and sometimes they fight and hate each other. At some point, I think I hurt him really bad, so I had to let it go and make a new start. I needed to. I’m glad I did because what I have going on now, it’s ten times better than anything I could be doing with those guys, not to say what they’re doing is bad.
METAL SLUDGE: You’re playing June 7 with Blackboard Jungle as part of Blackboard’s annual summer return, and you’ve actually known those guys for a long time, having produced them and toured with them, right?
MUSCAT: Yeah, and I think there are a couple of other local bands from a long time ago.
METAL SLUDGE: You were kind of Britt Penella’s mentor, the bass player.
MUSCAT: Yeah, I took Britt and the rest of the guys under my wing with Faster Pussycat.
METAL SLUDGE: How did you wrestle them away from Kim Fowley at the time?
MUSCAT: Kim was there in the very beginning, but at one point he gave up on them. They were pretty nuts, some of the stuff they did, and Kim was more into discovering stuff that was more ready to go – and these guys still needed a lot of work. I put in a lot of hours with them, re-arranging their songs and kind of teaching them how to sing and basically how to play. We took them on tour with us.
METAL SLUDGE: Yeah, they went on tour with you with no record company, no support. Did Blackboard Jungle earn your respect by doing that?
MUSCAT: They did. To this day, whenever they play one of these reunion shows, people come from all over the world. We’re going to come down with them, and we’ll have t-shirts and CDs. It should be pretty cool.
METAL SLUDGE: Looking back now, Las Vegas is a city of gamblers, a city of a lot of losers but also a lot of people who arrive there to make a new start. Was it a gamble for you to make a new start there, a gamble that paid off?
MUSCAT: My thing now is we’ve been doing it for a long time, with like five CDs, but yeah, I guess we’re one of the lucky ones because I did take a gamble, and I’m really proud of what I’ve done. The mayor even proclaimed a Sin City Sinners day, and like I said, we’ve raised more than $1 million for charity, and we’ve been named best band in Vegas a few times. We don’t have a major label, but we’ve got to play with so many people, including Lemmy and Sebastian Bach and members of the Runaways and just about every member of Guns N’ Roses.
METAL SLUDGE: Do you play Faster Pussycat songs? I remember you sang “House of Pain” one night, and you did a pretty good job.
MUSCAT: Yeah, we do two or three like “Bathroom Wall” and maybe one or two others. We have some videos on youtube, and you can find us on itunes and download some of our original songs like “It’s Not You, It’s Me” and “Going to Vegas.”
METAL SLUDGE: By the way, whatever happened to Mark Michals? Have you heard from him?
MUSCAT: No, I haven’t heard from him in the longest time, so long that I assume he has passed away because people have looked for him, and no one can find him. If he was alive, someone would know because it’s a small world.
METAL SLUDGE: Let’s do a little more where-are-they-now. What about Brett Bradshaw, the drummer that eventually replaced him?
MUSCAT: Last I heard, he had moved back east and was doing something.
METAL SLUDGE: And what about Eric Stacy, the bass player? I think he’s doing security now.
MUSCAT: Yeah, that’s what I heard last time I touched base. I think he moved to Seattle, Washington.
METAL SLUDGE: Great, the heroin capital of the world. But for some reason, I think he’s sober now. I know he’s been working on it a long time.
MUSCAT: I hope so. He had actually joined me back in Faster Pussycat when we did my version.
METAL SLUDGE: Me and Eric, we used to live on the same street on Encino Avenue when we were growing up, just a few houses apart. We’ve actually known each other since we were 12. His real name is Eric Waxman.
MUSCAT: Really? Yeah, the truth is, he’s kind of a fuck-up.
METAL SLUDGE: He came from a really wealthy family, actually. His dad was really rich.
MUSCAT: Yeah, I know.
METAL SLUDGE: What about Greg Steele?
MUSCAT: I think he’s working in the movie business, in post production, doing sound editing.
METAL SLUDGE: What about Faster Pussycat’s original manager, Warren Entner?
MUSCAT: Gosh, I don’t know. He managed so many different bands. He managed Faith No More and some others.
METAL SLUDGE: And your first producer, Ric Browde?
MUSCAT: He produced Poison, too. I don’t know what he’s doing now.
METAL SLUDGE: What about your tour manager, John V?
MUSCAT: Oh god, I don’t know. I lost track of him, too.
METAL SLUDGE: Do you miss any of these people? It’s been a long time.
MUSCAT: Yeah, I guess so, but you know how it is. The years go by, and you grow apart and make new friends. That’s the way life is.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]