The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
The Rockpit 2013 Interviews BRIAN TICHY















It's early moring for Brian out in LA and on the other side of the world downunder we're hoping the coffee does the trick as we settle down to chat to the man who until recently sat behind the WHITESNAKE drum stool and is now out with his own band S.U.N. which also boasts Sass Jordan - a name that will be familiar to some readers. In short S.U.N. sounds huge - this could be the beginning of something big...





Mark: Hi, how are you?



Brian: I’m good, where in Australia are you again?



Mark: Perth, Western Australia.



Brian: I’ve never been there, I was supposed to go over there with Billy Idol in 2002, but I have twin girls and that was around the time they were born, so I had to cancel the trip. I have never been to Australia, and I’m bummed that I’m sitting here talking to you, and I can’t believe I’ve never been in a band that’s been to fucking Australia!!! Everybody always raves about it you know!
Mark: I can’t believe it neither! Most of the bands that you have been in have been over here quite recently. Whitesnake were over in 2008, which was before you joined.



Brian: Yeah, we thought we were going to get over there in 2011, and it didn’t happen. I do want to get down there, and hopefully someday it works out.



Mark: I actually saw you playing with Whitesnake in Kuala Lumpa, and Singapore.



Brian: You saw that?



Mark: Yeah, we are only five and a half hours away from Singapore; we are as close to Singapore as we are to Sydney!
Brian: Singapore is the really rich area with all those insane hotels, and the one with the ship on top!! It’s a really interesting place. Touring’s fun, and it’s cool to say you did it, but in the middle of the tour it just doesn’t have the impact as if you went there on a vacation.



Mark: Yeah, you don’t get the time to spend in each place; I think you played Kuala Lumpar about two days before. I’ll always remember those two drum solos you did, where you throw the sticks in the air, you couldn’t catch any of them in KL, but outside in Singapore you were catching everything!! It was crazy!!



Brian: You get nights like that where you fixate on the tricks more than on the drumming! I always want to play the drums as best I can, but sometimes it’s really frustrating when you know, sometimes it works out perfectly, and I couldn’t do it better if I tried, and sometimes it just bounces off the drum and shoots backwards, usually it works out, but sometimes it gets fucked up!! Were they the shows I was bringing out chop sticks, and knives?







Mark: Yes, they were! We’ll talk about that later, but to start the interview, how are you? You had a mountain bike accident a while ago, are you fully recovered from that?



Brian: Yeah, totally. The good thing about that accident is that it happened while I was actually mountain biking on a mountain!! I was going downhill pretty fast, and I hit a wrong turn, misjudged the turn and hit a little mound and flipped over, so I was technically mountain biking! It would’ve really sucked if I was just riding round the streets with my kids, and I did a wrong turn, fell off and broke my collar bone!! At least there was action involved!! But, it’s fine now, it’s a little bit numb, but I can do everything.



Mark: It was funny you were giving away your x ray with the pre-release signed copies of the album.



Brian: Yeah! That was my idea because we were delayed, I thought let’s add to it, it didn’t help that I wasn’t able to do stuff, but I thought let’s sign a few x rays, and give them away with the CD which was kind of funny!!



Mark: We have just been at The Stone Music Festival, in Sydney, where Van Halen and Aerosmith played, you actually played with Eddie Van Halen a few years ago.



Brian: Yeah that was definitely a highlight in my career. That was just a random thing that ended up happening, in 2006, he had a backyard party, he had done some music for an adult film, so he had this party, and he hired a cover band, which included me, John Corabi, and Dizzy Reid, Gilby Clarke, it was just like this cover band that started years ago, at The Cat Club in LA, and it was like a big place, the hot place to go on a Thursday night. There were so many people in this band over the years, including myself playing the drums and at that time I was with Billy Idol. It was great, Eddie’s like one of my top guys, it’s like, Bonham, Paige and Neil Peart, those are the top guys for me! You hope that one day he’ll remember it, and want to play with you again.



Mark: You also played with two of my heroes recently, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Taking you right back, you studied at Berklee, college of music, playing the drums, but you also play the guitar with the band S.U.N., but then previously with Ball, who only had a release in Japan, which I haven’t managed to track down, was that your first experience of playing the guitar in a band?



Brian: Yeah, I guess, kind of!! It was nothing serious or getting full attention. But talking of Steve and Joe, playing with them was such an honour and a highlight, and it really meant a lot to me personally, as I used to play to their records and Aerosmith were one of the first bands that I learnt how to play drums to. I still listen to them and I still listen to all that old stuff, their records had a huge impact on me and my playing. To play all that stuff with those guys was just insane, and a super duper highlight!!

Going back to the guitar stuff, I was always a drummer who wanted to play guitar, I would learn from friends, and records and stuff. The “Ball” band was something I started, I wanted to find a singer, but couldn’t, but I said let’s try it, so we went out and did it. We did the release in Japan, and had a deal in the States, but, it all fell through! We had a massive record, art work about to happen, and the label distribution went under, we tried to get new deals going, but it just didn’t happen. That was a while ago, in 2000/2001. Soon after that I was playing with Billy Idol, for a long time, as his drummer, but we started writing together, and that of course involved playing guitar, so I was playing a lot then, the guitar was really cool, and was like my writing tool with Billy. We created a tonne of music together, and released a record, and a Christmas record, so we got a lot done. The S.U.N. stuff was just Sass and I coming together, I played drums on a record of hers a long time ago, and we started talking again through My Space, and it was if you’re in LA, let’s write. I always thought she was a great singer. Anyway, she came over and we hit it off, we had no clue what was going to happen, I just knew that I write, and there was something about her style, and together we could be pretty cool! For her, the intention was to be new Sass music, but the way we were writing and playing together, and the way the recordings were coming out, it really just sounded like a band. After we had got together a couple of times, we thought let’s call this a band, let’s name it, and make it a real thing, we are definitely gelling, as we are on the same page! We put the record out last year and it got great reviews, I’m very proud of it. It’s an uphill battle, with any new band in this day and age, unless you are an Audioslave/Chickenfoot supergroup or something!!





Mark: I was going to ask you about that, it is a brave step to leave a paying gig like Whitesnake, and put your time and energy in to a new band. When did you realise it was time to dedicate your time to S.U.N. rather than go on the next Whitesnake tour?



Brian: Well, it wasn’t like I was sat around last year with a big plan, last year there was no Whitesnake tour. Now they have a new DVD and CD out, from the 2011 tour we did, which is great, so while they are touring all year they are promoting the stuff that I was involved in, which is cool, as somehow, I am still involved with Whitesnake. The promotion is all stuff that I’m on, and it’s cool that, that’s still happening. At the end of the year last year, it was the holidays, and I started getting a few bits of information about the Whitesnake tour, so it was going ahead, and I couldn’t wait around to tell people how I feel, so I had to do it then. It had a lot to do with S.U.N., and also an entire year of your life goes by, so, whilst Whitesnake is a big band, it’s a paying gig and when we are working, we’re working, but when we’re not working I’m not sitting around counting cheques, just being a member of Whitesnake, I’m working! So, all 2012 we are off the road, and I’m setting up other stuff, so when Whitesnake come and say we’re touring for best part of a year, you basically have to stop everything you’re working on. For some people that’s great and that’s what they’re waiting for, for me it just felt a little bit weird, saying everything comes to an end for however many months, and I’ve done that before, no problem. But it felt weird leaving a band I believe in, to play drums in another band, and when that tour finishes, I don’t know what’s coming next! There was nothing negative in particular, it wasn’t the band, it was just the concept of leaving for that long, at this point in time this year was just a little bit too much compared to how I felt about what I want to see happen with my life.
Mark: Is a part of that the need to have some creativity, because you spent a lot of time writing with Billy Idol, and you’ve put together the album with Sass, was there an opportunity with Coverdale/Aldridge to have an input?



Brian: No, nobody asked, and I didn’t offer, because I was hired as a drummer, and Doug and David are the writers, and that’s how it’s been for the two records. I guess, David can do what he wants, he can have outside writers, but he and Doug hit it off, I was never going to go in and say, hey! here’s all my cool ideas!! It would be an honour to do it, but, the only experience I had was with Billy, in Foreigner, I didn’t do any writing. It took me three years, with Billy Idol, to write a song, and that song was “Scream” and it became the first single on the record! It was hilarious, as it was only an idea, I was messing around one day, and we were doing a tour, and I was at home in my studio, and I thought this could be a cool Billy record! At that time we were working on new ideas for a record, and I just showed the demo to the bass player, in the car, and everyone liked it. That was about 2001, Billy called me one day and said let’s write and work on the song, when he sang it, it sounded right, when I sang it, it sounded stupid!!



Mark: I really enjoyed that album, it was a return to the earlier sound he had.



Brian: Thank you! I think it was the most like rock album he did, it had been years since his last stuff. We were out of the eighties and nineties, and he hadn’t had a record out in a long time. It was pretty raw for the stuff he was known for, and which I think was amazing, back in the day, and this was a little rawer. The song was thrown on the backburner for a while, and in 2002, we did a bit more touring, and in 2003, I got a studio with a buddy, and that’s when Billy called and we got together and hit it off. We sat down for a few weeks and wrote a bunch of tunes, we were obviously on to something and that continued in to 2004, we wrote the record and it came out in 2005. Billy then rerecorded “Scream”, with him singing, and he put his spin on it, and it stood out in pre-production of the record, and the record label said this should be the first single.



Mark: Looking forward now to the S.U.N. project, Sass has a fantastic voice and it comes across really well on some of the tracks on the album. One thing that intrigues me, is where did the name come from,” Something unto Nothing”?



Brian: Thanks for the vocals comment, she kicks ass! What you see is what you get! She is a real natural in the studio, so tracking her is like brainless!! The name S.U.N., came after we had written a bunch of songs, we had no band name and no plan really, this was the beginning of 2011, before the Whitesnake tour, and we said let’s give this band a name. I had this acoustic stuff that I’d had for years, for the song Sun. I knew it was going to be long winded and acoustic, but then it was going to get heavy, and I showed it to her and she liked it, and so we started writing the song. While we were writing, I said let’s make this an epic song, write about everything under the sun, we then used sun as an acronym for the band name, and came up with Something unto Nothing. You can interpret it how you want; it doesn’t have a direct meaning, which we liked. It seemed to sum up where we were at that time, and we liked the simplicity of S.U.N., and also like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, we have a song on our first record named after the band!



Mark: It is one of my favourite songs on the album. How are the live shows going? You’ve played The Key Club, Vamped in Vegas, so how’s it going?



Brian: Yeah, the shows are great! I wish we were playing more. When we get together, Sass comes down and stays at my place, we just need to get more stuff happening. She went home in February, and we said let’s make a plan, it’s all about getting on a tour with somebody, we all have a bunch of connections, it’s just a matter of timing. So, that’s what we’re doing, trying to make a plan that will tie in with the near future.



Mark: So you are going to put out some promo, try and get a tour?



Brian: Yeah, we did have some options fall through, we were ready to go and then the budget changed, we had something planned for March or April in the UK and that fell through! There’s still some stuff going on and something will happen soon, it’s all about budget and routing.



Mark: It must be incredibly frustrating! Listening to the album, the thing that hits me most is that it has a massive sound to it, and I guess if you want to stick a label on it, you’d call it “Blues/Rock”. The song “I’m the One” has got a Zeppelin feel to it, do you think that’s fair? It’s captured that 70’s album, big sound.



Brian: Thank you. Yeah, I’m cool with that. We’re all happy with it, Michael Devon played just about all the bass on the record, and he killed on it! He took some of my demo bass’s, and redid them, and it was awesome! When you’re tracking the bass, it can end up a little loud, but I like that we ended up keeping it a little louder in the mix, it was cool, in a Geezer Butler kind of way! I just went for wide open drums, and no studio trickery, it’s all real drumming, and it’s nice to know that people are hearing the real sound of the record, because it doesn’t sound like a current record. The Rival Sons have a cool sound, it’s really organic, and that’s what the drums would’ve sounded like in that room. Nowadays, there’s a formulated, processed drum sound, which for certain things is killer, I tip my hat to Vinnie Paul for that, when Pantera came out, he’s a beast in the studio and an amazing drummer, I love the band, but what he did with their sound, was he heard what they wanted to sound like, they came out and everybody followed after that with the Pantera style production.



Mark: I think as well, one of the refreshing things about it is more of a Zeppelin like effort, in the fact that it sounds very unselfconscious, and it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to recapture sounds. It’s like you take the seventies as a reference point, and you go ahead and do your own thing.



Brian: Yeah, totally! It was conscious, in that I wanted to do it the way you are describing it. I just think for rock and roll, just let the drummer play and look up to him and hopefully that’s going to create your own groove. I’m a drummer, so I have to think that way!! Over the past decade, the drums are all sounding the same, so I am definitely proud of the way our record sounds. Also we did it in our house on our own, there were no engineers, no producers, just my buddy Alex, mixed it at the end, he just tweaked it a bit, but what he started with is pretty close to what you are hearing.



Mark: That’s amazing to hear, because I think the production is fantastic! You’ve done a great job.



Brian: Thank you. The drums are in my living room, we have wooden floors and that gives it ambience, we just stick some mikes down, away from the drums, and blend it all together. I love Physical Graffiti; I love Zeppelin the most that record is so Bonham, it sounds so effortless, they had such a great band to work with, in those days nobody sounded like that, prior to Zeppelin. It was the perfect blend, and the world needs stuff like that!



Mark: I think you’re right, the first track on the album, “Burned”, really captures that Zeppelin vibe.



Brian: That was the first song we wrote, I gave it to Sass, I had a riff, here’s two bars, said what would you do with two bars alone, and then I answer you with this riff, it was total “Black Dog!” It’s a unique song writing style, not all songs are like that, but it’s still popular, like “Still of the Night”, “Spoon Man”.



Mark: And I guess that style goes right back to the Blues. I think a lot of people should go out and listen to the album, it’s wonderful! You have distribution in the US, what about Europe?



Brian: I think we are about to release in the UK, through a label called Spinefarm, but then we have to get it out in Europe and keep moving. I hope it gets out in the UK soon, as that would give us a great reason to get a UK thing going, and hopefully do a tour with a UK band. We have to be patient. We’ve had lots of nice comments, reviews and interviews, which made Sass and I think, yeah, we really have something here; we just need to get it exposed. We are confident that we can deliver the goods live, but to get better, we have to play live!



Mark: It is frustrating, as someone who owns a website, I probably get 60-70, CD’s, downloads a week, I can’t listen to them all, and I probably only get behind 6-12 a year that I really love, and honestly, this is one of those albums for me, it’s one of the best I’ve heard this year. Years ago, you would tell your friends about a new album, and they’d rush out and buy it, nowadays, with the digital stuff, I think there’s often a delay, and it’s therefore hard for bands to build momentum.



Brian: Yes, it is, it’s a whole different day and age! When you were assigned to labels in the eighties and nineties, there’d be a budget, and touring, and you’d be able to buy the CD in the stores, there wasn’t the illegal download stuff going on. Back then you had different ways of getting out there, these days you only get one chance with your single, your video and your record. Back then there were the budgets to get you out on tour, get the record out and so on, and radio was way more valid, than it is now. So, even though people complained back then, about the amount of money being wasted, right now the struggle is getting out there and taking care of business, just to be able to afford to get out there and get exposure is hard. I believe that life is short, and if I believe in something, I have to go with that to a certain extent, I have to work to make money to take care of what I have to take care of, but at the same time, is that all there is, I have to believe in what I think is cool! You have to respect people who get to a point where people are talking about them, I want to get to that point, where you have to survive on your own music, rather than waiting for someone to call you and hire you. Don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome, but at the same time I would love to have my own band.



Mark: Well that’s about it, it’s a wonderful album, good luck, and if you need anything just let us know. Thanks for talking to us, it’s been a pleasure.



Brian: Thank you, and thanks for the interest, and hearing the record for what it is, I appreciate it.





By Mark Diggins April 2013




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