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SPIDERS AND SNAKES LIZZIE GREY INTERVIEW 2014

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS 2014 - SPIDERS AND SNAKES LIZZIE GREY

LIZZIE GREY

FROM

SPIDERS AND SNAKES

TALKS TO THE ROCKPIT

ABOUT THE GREAT NEW ALBUM 'YEAR OF THE SNAKE' AND SO MUCH MORE...

NOVEMBER 2014

LIZZIE GREY HAS HAD A CAREER IN WHICH HE'S PRETTY MUCH SEEN IT ALL HAPPENING ALL AROUND HIM IF NOT TOO HIM. AS FOUNDER OF LEGENDARY SUNSET STRIP BAND 'LONDON' HE SAW SOME OF THOSE THAT PASSED THROUGH THE RANKS GO ON TO MUCH BIGGER THINGS, AND FAMOUSLY DESCRIBED THE BAND AS A 'ROCK STAR TRAINING ACADEMY'. FORMING 'SPIDERS AND SNAKE' 25 YEARS AGO HE WENT BACK TO THE MUSIC HE LOVED WITH A MORE SEVENTIES GLAM FLAVOUR. FAST FORWARD TO 2014 AND DESPITE PERSONAL TRAGEDY, HE MAY WELL HAVE JUST RECORDED THE ALBUM OF HIS CAREER WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS BANDMATES...


Mark: We’ve just been listening to the new album ‘Year of the Snake’ this morning – it sounded like it was a lot of fun to make.


Lizzie: Absolutely!


Mark: To kick things off then for our Australian readers who might not be up to date with your musical history – can you take us right back to where it all began? Back before Spiders and Snakes, before London; before Sister even – where did it all begin for Lizzie Grey? Where did it all start for you – when did you realise that you had to be in a Rock and Roll band?


Lizzie: Well as a kid I was a huge Mott the Hoople fan, I thought that Ian Hunter was a walking, talking Jesus (laughs) and actually I saw them live! The other big influence was Alice Cooper; I was enraptured by the whole visual aspect of rock and roll, that whole Glam Glitter Theatre side to the music. I was hooked on it and there was no way I was ever going to get away from it.  


Mark: I loved Mott, and it would have been great to have seen those reformation shows they did last year.
Lizzie: I heard they were great and I do love the new Ian Hunter songs.


Mark: So what was it like back in those early days for you as a musician at the end of the seventies?


Lizzie: It was like Alice In Wonderland! I mean it was an ‘alter-world’ that people really don’t know about, so while people know all about the eighties and the Rock Scene the seventies was more about the Glitter Rock. Like being in Alice in Wonderland, the whole fancy-dress and the whole thing.


Mark: (Laughs) That’s a great image. And I guess to the outside world we knew so much less about the seventies in LA before that big Hard Rock explosion. Was there a sense that was around the corner?


Lizzie: Well yes, what happened was that people like Kim Fowley and Rodney Bingenheimer were the kings of the strip in those days and that attracted bands from LA and outside and gradually they wanted to be more than just ‘witnesses’ to the scene, so they came in and slowly a scene developed and the seventies became the eighties and the scene mutated and went hog-wild! It was a huge moment for Rock. For LA too!


Mark: It must have been a great time to be in a band!


Lizzie: It was! But what people don’t understand when they just talk about the all night partying, groupies and all that it was only just a part of this whole lifestyle that was permeating the whole Hollywood scene.

Mark: And of course you actually played with and met a lot of people along the way some of whom went on to make it and others not. The first time I read about you was (and remember readers no internet and little mainstream media coverage) in Kerrang which kept us up-to-date with the LA scene and in the Penelope Spheeris film where you came up with that wonderful quote…


Lizzie: “We are not role models for your life!”


Mark: I was thinking more of when you were talking about the band London and said “We’re a Training Academy for Rock Stars” which really showed how hit and miss the scene was, you had to be in the right band at the right time almost.


Lizzie: Both are too true! It’s funny how it all happened for me. I was sucked into the scene first as a fan and then the band developed: the original London band with Nikki (Sixx) and Nigel Benjamin who had just left a stint singing with Mott, having replaced Ian Hunter who had gone solo.


Mark: That must have been a trip as a big fan of Mott to find yourself paying with a member of that band!
Lizzie: It was, I first met Nigel at The Starwood when our drummer came up to me and said ‘I just met the singer from Mott the Hoople and he wants to jam with us’!  And I said “You’re crazy Ian Hunter’s not here” but of course it was Nigel he was talking about who went on to join the band. The band was a huge success in local legendary folklore and it was a wonderful time, we were packing 2000 people a weekend into the Starwood and in there again it was like Alice in Wonderland!


Mark: It’s such a shame that so many of those great venues are under threat or closing down – it seems like every time I go to LA another is gone, like the Starwood, The Cat Club, The Brixton out at Redondo Beach and the Key club (formerly Gazzaris) just last year. Then there are rumours about the Whiskey too.
Lizzie: It’s awful, and we play the Whisky on the 18th December and that’s going to be the big release party for the new record. We love the Whisky it’s a blast!


Mark: it’s one of those icons of Rock Music from the Doors to the present day


Lizzie: We love it, but I guess the scene is only going to last so long and Hollywood isn’t what it used to be but we are going to try and give our only little piece back!

Mark: Are there any more dates likely or just the one-off Whisky?


Lizzie: Well at this stage we are just playing the Whisky but we are also looking to hopefully get this band out to Japan. One of the songs off this new record is called ‘Kawasaki City’ which Tim the drummer wrote, and it’s a lot of fun and we have a YouTube video of it out there as well and so it’s a great time for us, a lot of fun and if we could get to Japan that would be the cherry on top of the sundae!


Mark: That would be great – ‘Kawasaki City’ is a great song, a little bit heavier than anything else there on the album


Lizzie: Yes, this record is really different because we let everybody go ‘hog-wild’ with song writing on this one while previously I’ve been the major contributor of material. But it reached the point because of health reasons that I wasn’t able to participate as much as I wanted to and so the other members picked up the flack and started writing songs and I loved it – It was a good time for the band and we really evolved. And what we evolved into was more variety in the music. All the way from early Glam rock to the new Metal ‘slash’ Glam ‘slash’ you name it! We threw in the whole book.


Mark: It’s a great album and I’ve only had the chance to play it over two or three times but it has everything on there from The Sweet-sounding Glam to Metal to ballads. It must have been fun to record it all, and also I loved the cover of The Young Rascals track that Angel covered – ‘I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore’.


Lizzie: ‘Eat My Heart Out’ yeah; Angel was a band I loved with that whole Angel costume gimmick! And for that one we ended up bringing in Betsy from ‘Bitch’ into the studio to record it with us! And she plays it live with us too, and she and I get on great onstage – we’re kinda like Lucy and Ricky!  It’s a fun relationship and here cameos are really a lot of fun.


Mark: It’s a great album to mark the 25th Anniversary of Spiders and Snakes too!


Lizzie: We think So.


Mark: What has the reaction been like in the couple of weeks the album has been out now?


Lizzie: It’s been really positive; we’ve really gotten a lot of positive feedback on this one. So much happened to get this record to come out, I mean I got sick – I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s which is a real drag – it robbed me of my guitar-playing abilities, but thank God my voice is intact! So it’s been a crazy run really and with Parkinson’s you have to use the parts of your body that still work. So my vocals are as good as if not better than they have ever been but it was really hard letting go of the guitar and Chris (Sheridan) coming in who I was a kind of mentor for – telling him “do this part like this, do this part like that” and he is such a great guy he dealt with it perfectly. It’s really been a positive thing – so what could have been a disaster for our band’s future has really turned into the opposite. He is in a wheelchair and I’ve got Parkinson’s so we have our battle scars but we’re still hanging in there because we love Rock and Roll.

Mark: It’s an inspiring story and has produced such a great album. What are some of your favourites on there: there’s hardly a tune that doesn’t grab you from the off and the opener ‘Don’t Step Out of Line’ is a great start? And as you said there’s variety there – ‘Over and Over’ comes on like a sixties ballad almost?


Lizzie: Absolutely, we threw that in the mix too, both that song and ‘The Digital Church’ have a sort of Sci-Fi theme and I guess a lot of that comes from the fact that we had Billy Sherwood come over and play keyboards for us on those tracks. He really put a colouration on it that was really great. And of course both ‘Don’t Step Out of Line’ and ‘Too Angry’ we love and both include the sax work of Angelo Moore of Fishbone.


Mark: I was going to ask that especially on ‘Too Angry’ which has a real energy and aggression to it.


Lizzie: ‘Too Angry’ was really difficult for us to release I was kind of worried that we were kind of exploiting the horrifying thing that teens are going through these days with bringing guns to school and everything. We weren’t as much trying to exploit it as saying “gosh when we were your age we were out, what’s the word, getting laid? Well we were out enjoying ourselves and bringing a gun into the picture made no sense whatsoever.  


Mark: The world has changed in so many ways…


Lizzie: Yeah and for me growing up was Rock and Roll! Ian Hunter was such an influence on me and that period of time for me was about having fun and I don’t see kids having too much fun anymore they are too busy shooting each other. It’s terrifying it really is, the whole world has changed so much and maybe it makes us look a little naïve when were busy trying to carry the torch for Rock and Roll and everyone else is out there trying to end the world. I don’t know what to make of any of it.


Mark: I think you have it spot on and it’s hard to see where it all started to fall apart so bad. It’s not like it was when I was a kid that’s for sure.


Lizzie: Maybe we are naïve for believing that Rock and Roll is the saviour of the whole big picture?


Mark: I’m still with you on that! The album title ‘Year of the Snake’ presumably comes from the fact that the album was recorded mainly 2013 into 2014?


Lizzie: Yes, and again it was one of those things where so much was happening with my sickness and people brining in different songs, so it ended up taking a little longer than that but we still loved the title so we’re fine with it.


Mark: Will you be playing a lot of the album at the Whisky in December?


Lizzie: We will, we pretty much play all of it except the heavy keyboard stuff ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Digital Church’ as at this point in time we don’t have a full time keyboard player for live shows. All the others will make it and who knows down the road we might even talk Billy into coming on stage with us. 


Mark: It’s a great mix of guests on the record as you’ve mentioned as well as Billy and Angelo, we have Betsy from Bitch, members of Asia and Yes! 


Lizzie: Yes it’s great and we knew we wanted them all and with Billy it was great to have someone like that with that background working on our material.


Mark: I love the song he plays on; it reminded me of The Sweet.


Lizzie: That’s great and we’re all huge Sweet fans and one of the highlights of our live show is when Betsy and I do ‘Ballroom Blitz’ together. She’s so good with that song and I’m a a huge Sweet fan so it’s the perfect closer. I think people are going to enjoy the Whiskey show – it will be just like it was in the 70’s. I think this material is strong enough to pull it off.


Mark: That would be cool.


Lizzie: We’ve been doing this for so long, 25 years plus that these days for us success is that we got the record made! People say to us what are you still doing Rock and Roll, why are you  carrying the torch for the Hollywood scene – it’s as dead as a doornail. I say it’s only dead if you let it be that way. But if you believe in it and  you enjoy it it’s still there! It’s about loving the sound of that Marshall blasting out, people having fun, decked out in fancy dress, and just having a great time and that’s what Rock and Roll is all about for me.


Mark: Yeah I agree, I think we should be past the time when people started taking themselves too seriously by now, but you still see so many bands out there that have forgotten that the essence of Rock and Roll is all about having a great time. It would be great to see that spirit back in Rock and Roll.
Lizzie: Exactly taking it too seriously means no fun!


Mark: It’s the whole getting out and seeing a live band and so many people miss out on that these days.
Lizzie: Absolutely.


Mark: As someone who has already had such a long and interesting career, what have been some of your personal highlights over the years?


Lizzie: Well I think the original London band when I first met Nikki, who was still Frank at the time, he and I hit it off so well and had such similar influences and success came so quick but for such a short space of time and then it was over, and boom! Nikki shifted gears with Motley Crue – and it was boy how did he do that!? But I was always more into the Seventies thing than the Eighties, even though the eighties was a lot of fun. For me though it’s pretty much every time I put out a record it’s a great moment for me, I love creating. So there’s no one particular defining moment  other than the one thing that most people define Lizzie Grey with – in that I had a ‘Rock and Roll school for stars through the eighties’ – everyone that came anywhere near London or any of the other bands I was with ended up with a platinum album! I could get a little bitter about it, but I judge my success by just putting out and album, it doesn’t have to be platinum!

Mark: Do you still keep in touch with any of those guys?


Lizzie: I talk to Nikki every now and again, but not a lot. After all this time it’s hard to keep track of everyone, but we run into people every now and again and it’s always positive. We’ve had members of Guns and Roses, WASP and other bands through the ranks and they are always cool when we meet. They always tell me how thankful they are I influenced them. And I always ask ‘how much do I get paid for influence! (laughing)…   


Mark: It’s that time in the interview when we ask all our interviewees a few standard questions, and the first is if you could turn the clock backwards what era would you feel most comfortable in?


Lizzie: No doubt 1978-79 absolutely!


Mark: Who is your most enduring influence aside from Ian Hunter and Mott?


Lizzie: Well the Sweet goes in there and Marc Bolan too, I’m a huge T-Rex fan


Mark: Do you listen to any contemporary music?


Lizzie: I’d be lying if I said I did, pretty much everything I love musically happened in the Seventies! I live in a musical museum! But I’m fine with that and I’m seeing that there’s new breed of kid out there who also loves that stuff, so maybe there is hope for the younger generation! I remember having a long talk with Arthur Kane (of the New York Dolls) before he passed away and he said that what people don’t realise is that Glitter Rock only lasted a couple of years but the influence is constantly recurring. It’s an amazing thing how this kind of music refuses to go away!


Mark: Do you have any unfulfilled musical ambitions?


Lizzie: I think Japan at the moment is at the top of the list. I’d love to see this band onstage in Japan and then Europe. We have 25 years of material and to be able to take this thing overseas would again be the cherry on top of the sundae!


Mark: And of course Japan is only a short skip from Australia!


Lizzie: And of course we would love to come to see you guys too!


Mark: Do you think music still has the still has the power to change the world or have we lost that?


Lizzie: I think it does when you don’t contrive it. I think in the eighties music lost its credibility as being the ‘saviour’ and it got washed out and now it’s coming back. We can only hope!


Mark: From what you’ve learned so far what is the most valuable advice you’ve been given so far as a musician?


Lizzie: Don’t take yourself too seriously!


Mark: If you could have been a ‘Fly on the wall’ for the creation of any great album from any period, just to see how the magic happened and it all came together, what would it have been for you any why?
Lizzie: Well, that’s a good one. Somewhere between The Sweet’s ‘Desolation Boulevard’ and ‘The Hoople’ by Mott the Hoople, always my favourite album by them. Yeah, ‘The Hoople’ for sure.


Mark: And finally the easy one: what is the meaning of life?


Lizzie: I’m still working on that one. You know its disarming when your body starts letting you down but if you can still stick in there and make it happen. I think the meaning of life is to face adversity, not take yourself too seriously, and make a positive effort to do that which is true to your heart.


Mark: A great thought to live by! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us today.


Lizzie: Thanks man, take care!

 

Lizzie spoke to Mark Diggins in November 2014

 

 

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