The Last Vegas are a band of boundless energy and have been building to this moment, a moment of freedom, all their own. The band, founded by Rockford, Illinois natives Nate (drums) and Adam Arling (guitars) have released a series of uncompromising, straight-up rock albums, toured with Motley Crue and AC/DC and generally lived the rock and roll life they exude in their songwriting Through all that nonstop touring and a hard-to-deny charisma they have truly built a loyal and rabid fan base of TLV Warriors who will be most pleased to see the band now has a brand new record label ( Toronto based Frostbyte/E1 Records) and a brand new record coming late August called “Bad Decisions”. We have talked with vocalist Chad Cherry about the band’s past so we were most pleased to get caught up on the present with the Arling brothers, including their big gig here in our area at the ROCK’N THE VALLEY festival July 13 and 14th. Read on…..
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hi guys. I will throw my journalist hat out the window and admit I love your band. So glad to be talking to you guys again. I have the new album which is amazing…Are you calling from the road right now?
Adam Arling: Yes, we are on the road right now and have been for a while now. The shows have been going really well though, playing some interesting places and getting ready to come back home and do some of these one-offs and festivals. Wow, you have the album already? You have it before we do (laughs).
LRI: It’s really great and picks up and runs with the same energy that was on your last EP, “The Other Side”. It’s a pretty long album too and incorporates the EP so everyone is getting maximum bang for their buck which is cool since the last full length came out in 2009.
Adam: Yeah, it’s a nice long player album. We’ve always been a band that does a lot of songwriting, collectively and individually and we’ve spent so much time on the road working on ideas. We had no shortage of material and even though it’s an era of iTunes and singles we really are rooted in that old-school 70s mentality of full albums. After this much time there was no way we were going to compromise anything. We wanted every song to be as important as the next.
Nate Arling: It’s really cool because I think we actually managed to get exactly what we want and everyone who hears it seems to have a different “favorite” song. That was the goal.
LRI: Obviously the last album “Whatever Gets You Off” did a lot of good for the band and made a lot of waves but was it at all frustrating being a band that plays and writes so much and having an album that was comprised of previous material? Or even having to wait so long to release the next record?
Nate: A little bit yeah. That’s part of the reason we’re so happy with our current situation and the new label because it gives us an opportunity to be out there touring and working but also a chance to release more new material on a much more frequent basis as compared to our old deal. We’ve had more than enough material for a while now and should have released a record or could have released a record a year ago. It feels really, really good to be back in the swing of things in terms of getting new music out there. Everyone in the band writes songs and we have so much material and are always working on demos and stuff at our loft so we’ve already got enough material to start thinking about even more releases after BAD DECISIONS.
LRI: It’s all lining up for you guys and but it is cool that you were able to take your time and record in Chicago.
Adam: Yeah, it’s kind of funny. Everyone knows we’re a Chicago band but other than a EP we did a few years back we really haven’t had a chance to make an album in town. It was really comfortable and we were really able to focus, plus our producer Johnny K is from Chicago which really made the whole experience of recording so much easier.
Nate: It’s definitely helped to get that Chicago vibe on tape. It’s there, as much as we enjoyed working in Los Angeles and all that, there is something to be said for capturing a band in its’ natural setting.
LRI: I’ve talked with the Megadeth guys who worked with Johnny and I know he was involved in bands like Disturbed so I really didn’t know what to think about him working with you. I love Megadeth but Johnny tends to get a certain sound that is much more clinical and precise than the rawness and soulfulness of a band like yours. I was so relieved to hear that it basically sounds almost like it was produced by The Last Vegas.
Adam: Yeah, totally, thank you. We were thrilled that he wanted to work with us because he’s a cool guy, obviously a talented producer and also thrilled that we’d be working in Chicago but yeah we were a little hesitant initially as to what we would sound like based on some of the work he’s done with bands that really sound nothing like us. I’m sure the Megadeth guys told you how laid back and cool Johnny is and that was exactly the case with us. He really isn’t one to change a band or dictate like so many producers do. We didn’t have anyone breathing down our neck or looking over our shoulder. We were almost allowed to do it ourselves, he’d check in on what we did and of course have the final say on mix and and production but we had plenty of space.
Nate: Johnny K is really cool dude and basically let us record the songs with our engineer and would go over the tapes with us each day and do his producer thing, it would be like “Ok, guys that’s cool, get back to work and let’s see what you have tomorrow.” It was as laid back as any sessions we’ve done if not more. We were really free to try anything and he’d be open to listening to it and giving his input and advice.
Adam: The end result is that “Bad Decisions” sounds like an album by The Last Vegas, we didn’t want to sound like Disturbed or anyone else at this stage in our career. At the same time, it does expand on our sound and we’re able to explore a little more space than we have on the previous albums which is something that was also important to us. We definitely want to keep growing and that’s what this record is all about. We don’t want to sound like a typical one dimensional “heavy” band like Disturbed, that’s just not our thing. We’re a classic, two-guitar band with a lot of 70s influence and we need a lot of room.
LRI: My favorite bands like KISS and Cheap Trick are known as live bands first and foremost and I think that’s how your fans view you guys. There are very few bands that care as much about their show as you and very few frontmen that are as tailor-made for the spotlight as Chad Cherry.
Adam: Yeah, yeah we are and that’s always the trick. How do you translate that energy of the night of the show into a studio album. I mean, you wanna capture that energy and those performances but you’re in a truly high-tech, professional setting. I think that being close to home and having that freedom of just “checking in” with Johnny K allowed us to keep it sounding fresh and vital while still keeping that energy.
LRI: You also went down to the old Chess Records studio and got some of that down home Chicago blues flavor right?
Adam: Yeah, we went down to Blues Heaven Studios where all the Chess acts were recorded and it was easily one of the most amazing experiences of our career as a band. We worked on a few tracks there including a cover of the old Ray Davies classic “It Ain’t Easy” and Willie Dixon’s granddaughter was helping us do background vocals. It definitely lent itself to keeping that Chicago vibe in the forefront.
LRI: The first track on BAD DECISIONS is called “Beat To Hell” which is one of the heaviest songs I’ve from you guys and kind of a kick in the teeth way to start things off. Is that song also something you might work into a set as an opener?
Nate: It might be yeah, we’ve worked that into some shows before and it’s definitely a good song to come out swinging with on the album. That one is definitely a good first punch.
LRI: It’s not all brutality though and if there’s anything different about the new album that I’ve noticed it’s that Chad in particular seems to be exploring more territory than ever before. There’s more voices and styles than on previous albums.
Adam: That’s true, he really kicked ass and the album is a bit more diverse as a result which is what we were going for.
Nate: That’s cool that you say that because that really is what we were going for. Right now as we’re talking, we’ve got Aerosmith playing in the van and guys like Steven Tyler or Axl Rose don’t just have one voice. The sign of a really good singer is that ability to be able to have different styles and bring different things to the table. Having more than one voice is always going to add something to an album.
LRI: “The Other Side” is a song that would easily fit on a “best of” or “greatest hits” package and is a great choice for a radio track. The video you guys made is crazy.
Nate: That video was a lot of fun to make. Chad is a big horror movie guy and we got Sybil Danning who is like a big scream queen, Cinemax flick star to do it.
Adam: That song is a big part of our live show and people are really responding to it
LRI: The MTV era is gone but the art of making a great video is still really important to your band isn’t it?
Nate: It is. It’s still really important to put something out there to visually represent other than just being a nameless, faceless computer file to someone. It’s like the whole record and CD thing, the idea of having an actual physical product of a band or having a total LP like you said. It’s a big deal to us. We’re actually hoping that our label releases “Bad Decisions” on vinyl.
LRI: What was the inspiration for the title track, “Bad Decisions”? Knowing the evil that your band can brew I already have a few ideas.
Adam: It’s not so much about making mistakes as much as it is about the rock and roll beast in general.
Nate: Well, the lyrics were mostly written by Chad and if you know Chad he definitely makes a lot of BAD DECISIONS (laughs)
LRI: Another heavy track is “Evil Eye” which once again almost treads into the metal territory. Did that song begin from the guitar riff?
Nate: Actually that one goes a few years back. We were looking at different producers and were going to work with a guy out in L.A named Roy Z who had done Priest and Halford and even Bruce Dickenson of Iron Maiden. The song was originally like a really fast burning punk song and he kind of steered the song into a new direction by suggesting we slow it down, cut it in half and add some groove to it. I really like that song in it’s finished form on BAD DECISIONS.
Adam: That’s probably one of the tracks that will be pushed and definitely one you’ll hear at shows.
LRI: “Don’t Take It So Hard” and “Devil In You” are tracks that kind of have that same vibe that “Loose Lips” had. Perfect Summer songs and that swinging Aerosmith sound suits you well.
Nate: They have a lot of that classic rock and roll sound that’s always been a big part of what we’ve done. “Devil In You” is something that crowds have really had a lot of fun with and “Don’t Take It So Hard” is one that Chad and our bass player Danny had been working on for a while. Totally written during a hot, sunny Chicago summer on the porch with some acoustic guitars and then from there it kind of grew into a big midwestern classic rock song.
Adam: We’ve worked “Devil In You” into the set over in Europe and people really seemed to have fun with it, especially the lyrics.
LRI: I am a big fan of you guys and the sleazy and heavy stuff but right now one of my favorite songs on the album is “She’s My Confusion” maybe because it’s so out of the ordinary. It’s almost got a bouncy, poppy new-wave punk kind of feel. How did that track come about?
Nate: I think Chad had a lot to do with the writing and arranging of that one. Usually he has a heavy hand in the lyrics more so than the music but on that one he was actually behind a lot of what you’re hearing there. Chad used to play bass in a bunch of like punk and grindcore bands and I think he worked on the bassline and then brought it to the rest of us. I really like it a lot too, I like my drum parts on there which are really simple and straightforward. It’s a fun song.
Adam: That is a perfect example of what we’re trying to do in terms of keeping that classic sound but moving into some modern or different territories.
Nate: There’s some interesting guitar work on there and different sounds with pedals that Johnny (Wator, guitarist) and Adam are doing. It’s a great track because of that diversified sound. It was important that we make a record that captured the here and now of the band and that has that 2012 stamp on it.
LRI: “Leonida” is friggin awesome. It is another one of my favorite songs from you guys and the lyrics are um, interesting. There has to be a story there but I’m not sure if it’s family friendly.
Nate: Actually that song does have a story to it (laughs). It came about when we were on a European tour and our VISAS got messed up and we couldn’t make a show in England and were stranded in a town in Belgium for like a week. We stayed at our agent’s house out in the Belgian country and just grilled out and drank Belgian beer and that song really has kind of that UK/European Thin Lizzy vibe to it. There was actually a chocolate store there in Belgium called “LEONIDA’S CHOCOLATES” and we went there all the time. That song was born out of being stuck in Belgium drinking beer, grilling out and eating chocolate all the time.
LRI: Wow, I thought there was way more sin involved in the creation of that one.
Nate: Well, my story is about the musical inspiration, There’s a whole other story about the lyrics but I might get someone into trouble if I went into that (laughs).
LRI: The album closes out with another classic TLV torch ballad called “Good Night” and my version has a couple bonus tracks which are great. Any idea where those songs are gonna turn up, “Waste Your Time” is good enough to be a single.
Nate: Yeah, Good Night just seemed to fit perfectly or logically at the end. Again, we want it to be an album that’s played from beginning to end and it was sequenced that way. Yeah, those songs you’re talking about are going to be bonus tracks on like the digital versions or import versions or maybe even the vinyl. It’s fun to have extra stuff like that for the fans who would like a little more or want to collect different versions.
LRI: The Last Vegas is in a unique in that you’re headlining shows to your following but you’re still so tight as a band musically and personally. When I did this series of Guns N Roses related interviews everyone from Steven Adler to Vicky Hamilton mentioned that it was the band living together and that close knit relationship was which kept the creative juices flowing and it just wasn’t the same after they all got their own places. Do you agree that while you’d love to all have million dollar homes there’s something special about your band’s chemistry, especially since Chad joined?
Adam: Yeah, obviously you know, G-N-R was in a totally different time and place from us but I can understand that and relate to that chemistry, that band as a gang concept. That’s a big part of what makes us tick. There’s something there that’s real when you’re a band that hangs together, that’s true.
LRI: The public that truly appreciates rock and roll is NOT stupid. They can sense if a band is real or not or if the songwriting was done by sending tapes halfway across the country or recorded in a room full of empty bottles and cranked up Marshalls.
Adam: Yeah, I would agree John and chemistry between members and having the lineup intact is a big deal, even like some of the bands we’re playing with at festivals like ROCK’N THE VALLEY, big bands that had hits and platinum success and big names like Warrant or Skid Row. They’re still solid bands, god bless em for keeping on but that little change in lineups or singers can make a really big difference to the crowd. It’s nothing against them but me personally, I could never imagine this band without Chad singing, it’s just not the same once people have gotten used to your frontman and you’ve established a fanbase.
LRI: You play a lot of dark, smokey venues and theatres which suits the vibe of your band. Is it an altogether different vibe when you play outdoor festivals like ROCK’N THE VALLEY?
Adam: Anytime you can get out there on a big festival stage like that and play to a crowd that’s totally in party mode and has been having fun and camping and all that it is a great thing. To be able to play in front of a lot of people and some people that totally haven’t seen you before is an amazing feeling and to do it with a hometown crowd and see a lot of familiar faces is just even better. Growing up in Rockford that whole festival vibe is just engrained in your DNA, the whole history with On The Waterfront or even Lollapalooza in Pecatonica. We’ll be playing both nights at ROCK’N THE VALLEY and it will be a blast Friday AND Saturday night as far as we’re concerned.
Nate: We always try to have a good time whenever we play a show, that’s the whole reason we got into this to begin with but playing a big festival like that at the Fairgrounds where I saw Metallica at back in the day is a pretty cool thing. It’s definitely gonna be a fun weekend and hopefully everyone will turn out to see us both nights. I saw all kinds of shows there in Pecatonica growing up so it’s just another childhood dream we can actually have happen for us. The promoters involved asked us and did a great job putting together a really fun 48 hour camping/partying festival to benefit some great causes and we’re looking forward to it.
LRI: You and your brother went to Auburn and grew up in Rockford, you have always had great shows in Rockford. We don’t always get enough national touring acts in the area and people in town really appreciate when THE LAST VEGAS comes through. Is it kind of a second home for you guys?
Adam: Absolutely. We’ve always had great relationships with press people like you and all the local radio guys at WXRX and everyone comes out to the shows and has a good time. It’s always a blast to come back and see people you’ve known for years. The shows are always pretty good too.
LRI: You’ve been a Chicago band from the beginning but can you still relate to that restless, bored feeling a lot of people in Rockford have. As a kid you must have felt the same way I did whenever something cool like ROCK’N THE VALLEY happened. I still feel that way (laughs)
Adam: I do too (laughs). People from Rockford really appreciate the opportunity to see a rock show or get out of that daily, blue collar grind. I felt that way, sure. I think being from Rockford never really leaves you (laughs). No matter where you go or what you do you are still that same kid from Rockford, Illinois. Which can be a good thing you know, you can relate to real people. The majority of the world has more towns like Rockford than it does places like London or New York. The people in those out of the way places really tend to get excited about what we’re doing and those end up being the best shows. It is always fun to play those big cities but the people who really are hungry and respond are the ones in smaller markets because they’re a little less spoiled and jaded.
LRI: And Cheap Trick will still be a big part of your existence. I remember Chad telling us that you and Nate were the creepy long haired kids stalking Rick Nielsen at the local supermarket. Now you realize that there are kids that are into your band that are all about connecting with you guys on that same level.
Adam: That’s so cool.
Nate: Absolutely. That is the goal. To be able to see those guys in Cheap Trick and realize that they’ve made records and gone on all these tours was a big deal and to be able to give a new generation that same sense of fun on any level is totally what we’re going for.
Adam: Of course. If you’re from the area you have no doubt had some fun at a Cheap Trick show and I sure have, over the years I have probably seen them 20 or 30 times. Rick is the man. I think the music and vibe of Cheap Trick would have been a big part of what we do even if we weren’t from Rockford though. That whole era and the feeling of those first few records was a big deal to all of the guys in The Last Vegas. Those first few KISS, Cheap Trick and Aerosmith albums are the sound of a real band honing their stuff on the road and working hard and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.
You can read our previous interview with Chad Cherry here: http://www.legendaryrockinterviews.com/2011/05/15/legendary-rock-interview-with-chad-cherry-of-the-last-vegas/
visit the band’s homepage here:
and get more info on ROCK’N THE VALLEY festival here: