‘We’re just ready to get up there and tear it up.’
Interview by Rob Billingham
MR: Firstly guys, can I thank you for taking some time out to speak with Midlands Rocks this evening.
Nate: It gets me out of setting up…sweet!
MR: OK, this is your fifth night headlining in the UK….?
Chad: Yeah, I believe so, just halfway through.
MR: So how are things going so far?
Chad: Great! All the shows are filled with people that love our music, the band that we’re with, Heartbreak Remedy, are great guys and the vibe of the whole tour so far in the UK has been pretty fantastic.
Nate: We’ve been touring for over ten years. Been to Europe a couple of times, but this is our first time touring the UK and yeah, the fans and the people have been great, it’s been a really good time so far.
MR: Have you been surprised by the response you have received or did you have certain expectations?
Nate: It’s been really good, actually. We expected the crowds to be pretty, you know, energetic and they have been.
Chad: It’s exactly what we kinda wanted to go down.
MR: That’s great! Have you had any offbeat moments on the tour so far?
Chad: Well, it’s only our fifth day in, so we’re expecting a little bit more craziness to start happening soon!
MR: Well here in Stourbridge you are in a heavy metal heartland, so who knows!
Nate: Yeah, the history around here is pretty impressive, so we’re pretty honoured to be playing in this area.
MR: It’s good to have you. Moving on to your new album, Sweet Salvation, how was this born?
Chad: Well it was definitely due time for us to get in the studio and start working on some new music and on this one we had a lot of songs – we all write constantly all the time, so we farmed out the ones that we really liked a lot and worked with one of our friends, who is a producer named Roy Z. Half was done in Chicago, the other half in California.
Nate: Thing with this record is that Roy pushed us and we kinda like wanted to get back to that live energy of Last Vegas that we captured in some of our earlier recordings, you know, just kind of raw tracking, no drum samples and stuff like that, you know just loud amplification, big drums, room sounds and you know just like a classic rock recording the way that all the bands that came from this area used to do it!
Chad: We made it sound like there were five guys in a room together playing it and not fabricating it over computers and we just tried to keep it as raw as possible on this record.
MR: And have you aimed for this type of raw, live style with all of your recordings?
Chad: I think we try everything a little bit different. We are gonna try every different way that there is to do it and if we like it we’ll probably do some of that again, but it won’t be the same thing.
Nate: You know I think that rock music always has been and should be this very primal art form and that’s what we tried to capture on this record and we’ve tried to do it on all of our records. We try to diversify on each of our records and mix things up a bit. We’re constantly writing and recording and trying to grow as musicians, writers and artists and we tried to capture that on this record.
Chad: One thing with the live feel to our stuff is when we do our stuff on stage we don’t have back up tracks or computers putting samples in anything. It’s just five guys on a stage.
Nate: Yeah, you listen to classic records, like old Sabbath records or Zeppelin records and you can just feel and hear what those guys were doing when they were recording and I think that’s what people want to hear, not necessarily perfection or digital cut outs!
MR: You mention the constant songwriting. Is this as collaborative as you say?
Chad: I would say that all of us are…we are the writers, we are the band. There is not one dominant person that does everything. We’re all in there doing it, trying to make it sound good, filtering out what we like and what we don’t like and at the end of the day we’ll have a Last Vegas song, with much arguing, but all of that is natural, though! (laughs)
Nate: Usually someone will bring an idea to the table and then we usually all collaborate and then form a song. I think too that there’s like, you know, no right way or wrong way to write a song. Sometimes you can try to write the perfect song for six months and it never comes out and sometimes in six minutes, you know when you’re just hanging out, it just happens.
MR: Given that, do you ever discard a song completely or would you leave it for a rainy day?
Chad: I think all of us, we’ve written so many songs together and half of them we’ll probably never use (both laughing) and the other half we turn into album tracks! Once in a while we’ll take bits and pieces of stuff and keep on processing, recording and so on, but as long as we keep coming up with new stuff, with the stuff we didn’t like before there’s really no sense in going back to it.
MR: Your first two albums were self-produced. Given that you have now worked with esteemed producers like Nikki Sixx and Roy Z would you ever go back to self-production?
Nate: Possibly. I think we’ve learned to work with producers who are open to our ideas….they don’t just come in and tell us what to do…. It’s sorta like everyone has sort of an equal vote and we wanna work with people that respect our opinions and we respect theirs. So in general we’ve always found it kinda nice to have someone else, like with Roy Z, we kinda met him five or six years ago and just stayed in touch and he’s like a fan of the band and we wanted to work with someone who wants to work with us. But you never know. I think we could still self-produce our own record ‘cause we’ve learned a lot from working with guys like Nikki Sixx and Roy.
Chad: When you’re working with the right producer they’re gonna take what songs you thing are great and if they believe in you are gonna make them better, so that aspect of it I really think highly of. They’re really good producers. I think most bands that already have producers within the band will have other producers do their music. It’s just a different ear to listen to what you’re doing and they can have good advice and they can have bad advice, but they’re your songs and if you don’t want to change anything on them you don’t have to, but they are there to suggest better ideas and I think that’s great and as Nate said it’s the whole learning experience with pros that know what they’re doing and it’s just great having them around and to work with.
Nate: And these guys learned from other people to….Roy worked with Rob Halford and Judas Priest and Bruce Dickinson and Nikki’s learned a lot from those guys who’ve also learned from someone else.
Chad: I think having all the knowledge that trickles down into you is a good feeling cuz you have that too and you can teach other musicians and someday it could be one of us doing somebody’s record that’s not even affiliated with Last Vegas because of all that we’ve learned.
Nate. I’d say some of the music that we’ve self-produce is personally still some of my favourite, but we strive for something different with each record, so if working with a new producer helps us achieve that ….well that’s what we strive for.
MR: So would you say your music evolves?
Chad: I would say we evolve as people, without music. I mean we change so much each year and that affects our personal lives and of course it affects our music, because music is what we’ve basically been doing for the last twelve years….it’s a big part of our lives, so it’s all connected.
MR: OK, so you’ve worked with some great producers, but you’ve also shared a stage with some equally great bands; Motley Crue, AC/DC, Buckcherry immediately spring to mind. Is there any one band you would love to appear with?
Chad: Well, I’ll answer for Nate……Cheap Trick! That’s our goal, Cheap Trick! They’re not the biggest band in the world, but they kinda are to us, We just love those guys. Cheap Trick is definitely one we’d like to do a tour with.
Nate: It’s an honour, you know to play with any of the classic bands that we grew up listening to for sure, but I’d say it’s also cool to play with, you know, or find new bands that we haven’t heard before an maybe have them open for us, but it’s always good to see younger bands that we can look at and recount what we were like ten years ago when we were getting started and seeing that fresh perspective that they have.
Chad: We get some pretty cool opportunities to open for bands that definitely influence us and when we get back to the States we’ll be doing a festival with Rob Zombie, so we get some breaks here and there and that’s pretty nice.
Nate : And we get a free ticket to see the show (big laugh) too, so that’s cool. Free beer too!
MR: Many artists who take to the stage have pre-show rituals or superstitions. Dare I ask if The Last Vegas guys have any?
Chad: Nah, we’re pretty simple. We’re just ready to get up there and tear it up. That’s pretty much what we are. We’re not one of those bands that huddles or prays or do jumping jacks together. We just kinda do our own thing. If other people do it then maybe it works for them, but it’s not what we do.
MR: I often wondered if bands had chance to “de-brief” after a gig and be self- critical so as to continually improve the show.
Nate: Yeah you know I think you can always, as a band or a person, strive to be better.
Chad: You can be better at anything in life.
Nate: It’s always good to talk to each other, if you feel someone isn’t doing something right or that they’re doing something really good….let them know. We help each other, you know. We’re a band. We band together and make the best music we can.
Chad: And we have to think about some of the places we haven’t been to and we have fans that love certain of our songs, so you can’t disappoint them by screwing things up. Because they’ve waited forever for you to come to their town and if you sound like crap they might not wanna get into your stuff anymore, so you kinda have to latch onto your legacy.
MR: By always including popular numbers?
Chad: You have to.
Nate: Our band is, you know…. We have a pretty deep catalogue now and have a lot of diverse styles within our catalogue, so we tailor the set to suit the venue or the crowd that you think you’re going to be playing to and I think we’re very fortunate to have enough songs that we can pick and choose what we play where.
MR: So you would mess with your set list right up to the time you step on the stage?
Chad: Oh we have totally done that!
Nate. Sure, but when we get ready for a tour we get the core songs, but usually we’ll swap around a fifteen song set. You know , three or four of them will change every night just to keep it fresh in our heads and the crowds heads…you know, just keep it fun, I guess for numerous reasons.
Chad, And we’ll always do the songs that we’ve made videos for, because they seem to be the most popular songs that we have. We don’t necessarily wanna play new songs that nobody knows yet, so we’ll do the oldies.
Nate: But now we’re out playing a good amount off the new record, Sweet Salvation, and we’ve had pretty good success with a song called “I’m Bad”
MR: Your bassman Danny describes the band as “heavy-assed rock and roll”. Would that be a fair way to describe TLV?
Chad: I think that’s a great interpretation of the band. I mean we are a big sound. We love guitar rock, arena rock, but at the same time we love punk rock, so I think we’re a fusion of the attitude and swagger of the big bands as well as the punk bands and we’re kind of a mixture of those.
Nate: It’s kind of a tricky thing, I mean they’re almost like terms or labels, you know. I’d say, if anything, we’re a band that is good time and when someone comes to a show they can forget for at least an hour or two that their job sucks or that their relationship sucks…all their problems, you know, they leave at the door and when they walk in the venue and see the band they just get lost in the thrill of being at a Last Vegas concert.
Chad: If we can entertain anybody then we’re doing our job, right?
MR: Just one more question the guys, please. You’ve obviously worked very hard to get what you have today, that’s obvious. Do you have one piece of advice for any up and coming band wanting to break into the rock arena?
Chad: Stay in school! (lots of laughing) Get a real job!
Nate: I mean, I think it’s all like, write really good songs and don’t get caught up in writing for the music industry or to be popular or make money. You know, write for yourself, write for your fans and have fun.
Chad: The bottom line is it’s all about writing songs and the music.
Nate: Work hard, be cool everyone, support other bands.
Chad: Just be honest about what you’re doing, cos if you’re trying to be something you’re not the audience is gonna see right through that and they’re gonna be turned right off.
Nate: Yeah, you can smell bullshit a mile away.
MR: Guys once again many thanks, I’ve really appreciated your time, it’s been fascinating. All the best of luck for the rest of the tour.