Faster Pussycat’s Chad Stewart and Ace Von Johnson: “There are a LOT of new Faster Pussycat fans; it has been interesting seeing the fanbase diversify”
Faster Pussycat rose out of the same L.A. sleaze metal scene that produced Guns N’ Roses and countless other Sunset Strip acts in the late 80s. The band experienced a couple of lineup shuffles over the decades but has remained fairly stable in recent years with its current lineup featuring original singer Taime Downe. The guys are currently out on the road performing all the songs that made them an MTV favorite as well as newer material and are also readying a new full-length album. I spoke with longtime drummer Chad Stewart and guitarist Ace Von Johnson about their roles in the band and more; read on…
LRI: Thanks for talking with me tonight, I understand you guys are in Vegas…what is going on?
Chad Stewart (drums): We’re getting ready for a rock and roll show man! Tonight we are playing a show downtown at Freemont Street and last night was the kickoff of the tour in Tucson, Arizona which was fantastic.
LRI: I love Faster Pussycat but I think the last time I talked to Taime was back in the Newlydeads days. Chad, you were a part of that band as well and have been a part of playing that more evolved kind of music from the “Whipped” album to the Newlydeads stuff and of course the classic Faster Pussycat stuff from the 88-90 period. Do you ever think there is a tug-of-war between the two styles within the band’s presentation?
Chad: I would agree with you actually. I think from “Whipped” on it was clear that there was a progression. I actually think the Newlydeads band was a natural part of that progression for Taime but also, the “Power And The Glory Hole” album from 2009 which was really the next Faster Pussycat mutation or evolution after “Whipped”. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a pull or tug of war between us, we just all have our own influences like Ace is the king of punk rock whereas I love R&B and old funk so it’s hard to not let those influences creep into what you do.
LRI: You guys put out a pretty solid live album a couple years ago called “Front Row for the Donkey Show” that was sort of a perfect mix or representation of your setlist. Is that mix of old and new pretty much what your set is on this tour?
Chad: Absolutely, absolutely and we are hard at work now on a new album and the material we are coming up with is kind of a throwback to the sound of the first record if you ask me.
Ace Von Johnson ( lead guitar): I think it sounds like the first record meets the last record, “Power and the Glory Hole”. If that makes any sense (laughs).
LRI: That makes sense to me, the last album certainly cranked up the sleaze factor to the level of the first album or higher. It makes me happy to see you guys out there not only playing the hits but still creating and being a real active band.
Chad: We are really high on this new record and the entire process of creating it let me put it to you that way.
Ace: We are really excited and really putting a lot into it; I think you’re going to find it’s a little less electronic than the last album and has a little more of that dirty, punk rock New York Dolls feel of the first album yet it still sounds like contemporary music because of our influences and where we are. All of those influences are definitely a part of it across the board but it’s definitely a ROCK record.
Chad: Also, I don’t know if a lot of people know this but we kind of do everything backwards when we record. Taime has a studio at his house so when he’s writing he comes up with some good ideas and puts them down and we kind of expand on them and the drums actually work out to be the last thing we work on which is the complete opposite way that most bands work on songs. As a drummer I can attest that It’s kind of strange but it works for us.
LRI: How far along are you with the new album? How are you planning on releasing it?
Chad: Well, what we’re actually planning on doing it as two EPs, the first five songs will be released in June and then the next EP would be out for our Halloween tour. It’s going to be a digital release initially but there will be physical CDs for both of them available at shows.
Ace: And then after the first of the year we will be releasing the full length album with additional material that wasn’t on the two EPs or digital downloads.
LRI: Are the fans coming out to shows a pretty good mix of old diehards and new, younger fans?
Chad: There are a LOT of new Faster Pussycat fans. A lot actually. So it’s definitely a mix of the two generations, it’s a mixed bag. Doing these higher profile gigs like the Monsters Of Rock Cruise or some of these other shows we do allows us to reach a lot broader fan base and when you put us in front of that big of an audience we’re gonna kill (laughs). It has been interesting seeing the fanbase diversify over the past few years.
LRI: This is a question for Ace. You are part of a band that is kind of known for its twin guitar attack, was that a part of something that attracted you to the band?
Ace: You know, when I first discovered Faster Pussycat I was probably in my teens and it was the 90s. I had always dug their vibe cause they kind of had that Guns N’ Roses, dirty Aerosmith feel to it. It wasn’t just happy, glammy, hairspray music in my opinion, that stuff was there but with Faster it was definitely more street and more gut level. I come from what I consider more of a punk rock background and that first Faster Pussycat album, I tell people all the time, reminds me of the first New York Dolls album. I think that Greg Steele was really underrated and was kind of the underdog of that twin guitar lineup and I think a lot of his stuff is really unique and special.
Chad: I agree completely.
LRI: Would you be comfortable playing in a band like this if you were the sole guitar player?
Ace: Well, Xristian’s (rhythm guitarist Xristian Simon role in the band is strictly rhythm so I have to play all the parts and sometimes have to compensate for parts but I would never want to be the sole guitar player in the band or any band actually. I think that most bands, especially hard rock bands need two guitar players. Xristian is great at what he does and I really enjoy my spot in the band here because I am the lead guy, period, end of story. It’s cool, it’s nice to get to show off and it took me a minute to get comfortable in my position within the band but I’ve been here for four or five years now and it’s going great. Taime and I have had a lot of conversations about the fact that I do try to do justice to the original material. I try to play most of the solos not necessarily verbatim but let’s say 80% to the letter as far as how they were recorded. There are some moments where I kind of do my own thing and I like to get creative and like that I’m allowed those moments to do my own thing. You mentioned having other guitar players in the band and there are songs where I’m playing something from the last album that C.C. (Deville, Poison guitarist) played or Marc Diamond or Jerry Cantrell or something from the past like a Muscat solo or a Steele solo or something I came up with myself and I can say that is a really cool challenge. It’s really cool to be able to interpret all those guys and play all those great spots.
LRI: Of course I have a question for you too Chad. It is a pretty cool thing to be a part of a band which has a song that has a signature drum lick. Quiet Riot has the opening of “Bang Your Head” and Pussycat absolutely has one in “Bathroom Wall”; is that opening drum lick an absolute blast to play every night?
Chad: Sure! (laughs). “Bathroom Wall” is the signature Faster Pussycat and sort of encapsulates everything that Faster Pussycat is. It’s a special song and I am honored to be a part of that every night, every night the crowd hears that intro and it is magic.
Q: As a drummer are you real into the industrial stuff and samples and triggers and all of the stuff that electronics and computers bring to the table?
Chad: Oh yeah. Understand something, I am a big, big fan of electronic music not just industrial or hard rock but dance or anything involving great rhythm whether its Nine Inch Nails or Prince doesn’t matter to me as long as it’s killer. Adding electronics into our music or our show is definitely an exciting thing for me and allows me to move around a little bit while the machines are carrying some of the heavy load so I can sort of show off or do whatever. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in a straight ahead rock band with a straight ahead approach and that is what I will go to 90% of the time but yeah the electronics and stuff can be a lot of fun as a percussionist and there are definitely times where I enjoy the dabbling. Once you’ve been in a band that uses some form of electronics or whatever you get to understand just how huge it can sound during a show and what a rush it can bring to an audience which is really the whole reason we do this.
Q: I think triggers and samples can definitely have their place in a show provided that the rest of the evening feels absolutely live. Obviously a band like Faster Pussycat has a certain legacy to live up to and you guys aren’t going up on stage with your sweatpants on and setting on stools noodling away on guitars. Do you think Taime and you guys still love all the visual elements of the rock show?
Ace: Without a doubt. On my behalf, I try to kick it up a notch from what we’ve done in the past if anything. We pride ourselves on keeping things interesting and always like to have a few looks up our sleeve.
LRI: Thanks for talking with us guys, look forward to reviewing one of the shows on the tour and seeing you again, last question…..Are the girls still showing up at Faster Pussycat shows in various stages of undress after all these years?
Chad: YES! (laughs).
Ace: Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way (laughs). We’ll see you out there!
Faster Pussycat Spring 2014 Tourdates
4/8/14 OTTAWA, ON OBSESSION LIVE LOUNGE
4/10/14 MONTREAL, QC PETIT CAMUS
4/11/14 TORONTO, ON THE ROCK PILE WEST
4/12/14 FOSTORIA, OH THE NEW NEST
4/13/14 INDIANAPOLIS, IN 8 SECOND SALOON
4/15/14 TAYLOR, MI PERFECT PITCHER
4/16/14 KOKOMO, IN CENTERSTAGE
4/17/14 GREEN BAY, WI PHATHEADZ BAR
4/18/14 CUDAHY, WI THE METAL GRILL
4/19/14 JANESVILLE, WI THE BACK BAR
4/20/14 LINCOLN, IL ZERO TOLERANCE
4/23/14 SALT LAKE CITY, UT THE ROYAL
4/25/14 CHINO HILLS, CA SHAMROCK
4/26/14 FRESNO, CA FULTON 55