mercredi 3 janvier 2018
Alex Mitchell - Circus of Power's leader interview
2017 has seen two of the best bands from the late 80s released their first albums in 25 years. First, Junkyard delivered the brilliant "High Water" and now, Circus Of Power's "Four" is out. Both records will be featured in my list of the Top releases of the year. But that's another story.
For now let's have a chat with the legendary Alex Mitchell himself.
Hi Al, and thanks for accepting to give me some of your time to discuss Circus Of Power past, present and future but also of your other musical projects over the years.
C.O.P. formed in 1986 and were signed in 1987 by RCA. The band released its first album in 1988. What are your recollection of the early times ?
Going out every night in NYC when it was affordable and interesting, hanging out in Freebeing record store, being broke, having rock and roll dreams, it was a good time to be alive.
From the outside and through the English press I was reading at the time it seemed there was a tight Hard Rock n Roll scene in New York then involving C.O.P., Smashed Gladys, Raging Slab, The Throbs, Cycle Sluts From Hell, Princess Pang... Tell me more about this, myth or reality ? Were your friends or competitors ?
Yeah we were all good friends, some competition yeah but it was a healthy one. A magical time.
The second album "Vices" was also released by RCA. Did the label had a clear vision of what to do with the band and how to promote it ?
I've never been one to criticize labels, that's a cop out to me. 'Making it' has to do with a few things : accessible songs, look and vibe of the band, live performance, videos, tours, right place right time stuff. No regrets.
C.O.P. seemed to have an ever changing line-up back then but still now. What view do you have on this ?
Bands are difficult beasts to maintain, that's why so many musicians end up hating each other. This version of the band is somewhat fluid, people come and go...
At this period 2 live E.P. have been made available, "Still Alive and Well" and "Live at the Ritz". I can tell you I was quite happy to get them since you never toured France. Did you ever come to Europe and what do you think of these records ?
I think those live records were okay but not great. The Europe shows were very spotty. By that time our band was done.
The third album "Magic and Madness" was on Columbia records in 1993. What happened with RCA ?
I really don't remember what happened with RCA, I guess we needed a change but that had no effect on us at all, we got worse in my opinion after we left and came to L.A.
Did you pursue some musical project immediately after the demise of C.O.P. or went to other occupations ?
After the band split up I played in some other groups and went back to work but no other band has meant as much to me as Circus, its my baby, my illegitimate son.
In 2003 you self released the one and only Plastic Gator Machine album. What is the origin of this comeback ?
Plastic Gator was a group of friends I knew in L.A. and we put together some jams, I guess I pursued getting a record company but by then things had changed by then.
After that you regularly released new music with Fat Nancy and Captain Zapped mostly. But the only one I never listen to is "The Showbiz Al E.P." Can you give more details on this one ?
There was no Showbiz Al EP. I want to do one and it'll be all Sinatra type songs, some original and some covers. It will be called Showbiz Al's Love Machine.
Billy Tsounis is your main partner in crime since the last 15 years. How did you meet ?
I met Billy through the Music Connection, a magazine here in Los Angeles. Within two minutes we had written the Tea Song, so I knew there was some mojo there.
10 years ago a tribute compilation to C.O.P. has been put together by circusofpower.net (my then band Medicine Ball Caravan was part of it). Have you been involved in the making ? And what do you think of the project and the result ?
No I had nothing to do with the tribute record but thought it was a nice thing for Bob Polomik to do.
Since 2006 C.O.P. are back, at least for live gigs and sometimes with former members involved but you also done a few videos and put online digital singles via your bandcamp page which is no longer working. What led you to make C.O.P. fully functional again ?
I decided to make it functional again because I got tired of asking the original members to do it and getting turned down,
Last June you told me you were about to record demos for the upcoming album and now 6 months later I got the CD in hands. I didn't expect it would happen so fast, how come ?
We got on a roll songwriting and I guess desperation played a part in it too.
Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Che, ...), an iconic figure of the stoner rock scene is playing drums on the new album. How did he become involved in the recording of "Four" ?
I met Nick Oliveri and he introduced me to Brant Bjork. They were both supposed to play on the record but Nick got busy doing something else. Brant is a good friend and was very good on the record- no practice, no pre production, He just came in and nailed the songs in the studio- the whole thing cost 1500 dollars, amazing.
Some of the songs featured on the album are already known by your followers and were first heard on Plastic gator Machine, Fat Nancy or Captain Zapped records (see below for details *). Why did you decide to re-record these tracks to include them on COP first album in 24 years ?
Those songs are good but they never got listened to, that's why we put them on "Four".
Did all the songs recorded during the album sessions ended up on the record ?
No, we had some more songs and I've been writing tons more.
On "Four" we can find classic C.O.P. tunes, some co-wrote by former members ("Hard Drivin' Sister", "Half a Dozen Roses"), a song really T-Rex ish ("Hot Rod Girls") and a couple of tracks that wouldn't be out of subject on a Stoner rock records ("Blood at Standing Rock", "See The Sun").
Did offer a diverse album was a goal for you ?
We don't think like, okay let's write a stoner song, we just write. I'm not hung up on sticking to one genre, like 'we're a metal band' or 'we're a rap band'... we're just a band, doing whatever the fuck we want. I like diverse records- you don't go into Baskin Robbins and order vanilla every time, there's thirty three fucking flavors in there, enjoy them all.
Do you have plan to tour in the US and in Europe ?
We would love to tour Europe but no plans yet...
How do you see the future of the band and yours ?
'The future is uncertain and the end is always near'- Jim Morrison
* The first appearances of some of the songs :
"American Monster" first appeared on Fat Nancy album, "The Tea Song" (aka "Letters From The Inside") and "Half A Dozen Roses" first appeared on Plastic Gator Machine album, "Sin City Boogie" (aka "Shake That Pussy") first appeared on Captain Zapped "Heavy For Your Head" album, "Hot Rod Girl" on Captain Zapped "s/t"
Alex Mitchell Album Discography
C.O.P. "s/t" (RCA - 1988)
C.O.P. "Still Alive" (RCA/BMG - 1989)
C.O.P. "Vices" (RCA - 1989)
C.O.P. " "Live At The Ritz" (RCA/BMG - 1990)
C.O.P. "Magic & Madness" (Columbia - 1993)
Plastic Gator Machine "Rock 'n' Soul Music!" (self released - 2003)
Uncle Max's Cosmic Band "Licking The Toad In The Black Church" (self released - 2003)
Fat Nancy "Pure American Muscle, Baby" (Perris records - 2005)
Captain Zapped "s/t" (self released - 2010)
Captain Zapped "Heavy For Your Head" (self released - 2011)
Captain Zapped "Space Age Blues" (self released - 2013)
C.O.P. "Four" (Noise In The Attics records - 2017)