CVIndependent

Mon11112019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Chris Shiflett’s new album, Hard Lessons, proves that he’s onto something with his high-energy, kick-ass rock-country sound.

After touring with the Foo Fighters behind the band’s 2017 release, Concrete and Gold, Shiflett released Hard Lessons in June and announced a four-date record-release tour—and one of those dates is Friday, July 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

During a recent phone interview before he was scheduled to go back to Europe with the Foo Fighters, Shiflett discussed how Hard Lessons was recorded in Nashville during a hectic time.

“I made this record in the middle of a Foo Fighters tour schedule,” Shiflett said. “We toured behind Concrete and Gold for about a year and a half, and in the middle of all that, if we had a week or two off, I’d head out to Nashville. It was kind of nuts.”

Shiflett said that he enjoys heading into the studio, even in the middle of a tour.

“When I go out to Nashville to record, I tend to feel pretty single-minded about it. I jump in the studio, and I’ll be in the studio all week,” he said. “… If I’m not in the studio, I’m back where I’m staying, making little tweaks on the lyrics or working out the guitar parts.

“If I had been home during that time—home is very busy. I’m married, and I have three kids. My kids are either teenagers or about to be teenagers, so life is very busy at home. Touring and going to record records is almost a more-relaxed environment for me nowadays.”

In the past, his solo records have offered more of an Americana or Bakersfield sound, but Hard Lessons is a Telecaster-plugged-into-a-Marshall-JCM800 blast of country-rock from beginning to end.

“It’s definitely a louder record than the last one, that’s for sure,” he said. “I think on one hand, that was certainly the influence of (producer) Dave Cobb, and he was pushing me in that direction. It also lends itself to having more fun when I go out and play these songs live. It works a little better in that environment, at least for me.”

While many country music fans are at odds with Nashville’s powerful grip on mainstream country music, Shiflett he respects the people working behind the scenes.

“(East Beach Records and Tapes) put out my record, and they are based out of Nashville, and they are wonderful. As far as the mainstream Nashville stuff goes, I have no experience in that scene,” Shiflett said. “I’ve never been in a band that sounds like that, and I don’t exist within that. I have a lot of friends out there who work in that world in one capacity or another. I find that a lot of the people who work behind the scenes and the studio musicians have deep musical taste. They’re cool and hard-working musicians just trying to get by. I have a lot of respect for people just trying to make a living through their craft, because it’s not easy.”

The Foo Fighters announced a hiatus in 2016—and it turned out to be a joke. In fact, the band has been busier than ever.

“We wrapped up touring for the last record in the fall. This year was intended to be a bit of a break, and it is by Foo Fighters standards, but we’re still doing shows,” Shiflett said. “We’re leaving to Europe to do some festivals, and then we’re going back over there in August to do a bunch more festivals. It’s not crazy busy, but we’re still playing.”

When I brought up the subject of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes—a supergroup Shiflett played in with Spike Slawson of Swingin’ Utters, Joey Cape and Dave Raun of Lagwagon, and Fat Mike of NOFX—he explained he was no longer involved.

“For a really long time, it was always the same five of us when it came time to record,” he said. “But Spike and his wife, who have both taken over the band, decided to start releasing music that I wasn’t on. That was a line in the sand for me. … It was always important to me that it stayed as the original five on the recordings, and that went out the window. That’s the end of my involvement in that.”

Shiflett said he’s happy to be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s for one of his four summer shows.

“I’m viewing these dates as my record-release shows,” he said. “We haven’t officially announced them yet, but I’ll have more shows coming up. Touring is always tough, because it’s the most time-consuming part of what we do. Time is the thing I have the least amount of to spare. Pappy and Harriet’s is one of my favorite venues in the whole world. The shows there are always great.”

Chris Shiflett will perform with Jade Jackson at 9 p.m., Friday, July 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

Back in the ‘90s, punk-rock fans looked forward to the Warped Tour every year.

Today … not so much. The Warped Tour has evolved and no longer features such an emphasis on punk—and that’s where the It’s Not Dead festival comes in.

On Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Glen Helen Amphitheater in San Bernardino, the second version of the festival took place. Unlike the Warped Tour, the It’s Not Dead festival is a one-day affair—and attendees have to make some tough scheduling decisions. Everyone who is someone in punk rock fills the lineup, and the main stage features most of the best bands, meaning it’s hard to break away to see some of the bands on other stages.

Shortly after the festival opened, Warped Tour/It’s Not Dead founder Kevin Lyman appeared on the main stage, talked briefly for a moment and mentioned that the large stage rotated. One side was named the Gary Tovar Stage, after Goldenvoice founder Gary Tovar, and the other side was called the Gabby Gaborno Stage, named after the late Cadillac Tramps front man who passed away after a tough battle with cancer earlier this year. Lyman introduced the first act—Wraths, featuring Pennywise vocalist Jim Lindberg.

Wraths kicked ass—but many attendees hadn’t yet arrived or were in the parking lot tailgating, meaning they missed one hell of a show. Lindberg’s stage presence and intensity, which has made Pennywise great, was also present in Wraths. Toward the end of the set, Lindberg said the band didn’t know what to play, given they had only recorded a handful of songs and had five minutes left.

The Interrupters, a Los Angeles ska punk band that continues to grow in popularity, played after Wraths, as the crowd size continued to grow. The 100-plus-degree temps didn’t stop the Bivona brothers from wearing their signature white dress shirts, black ties and black pants, while frontwoman Aimee Interrupter was dressed all in black. The Interrupters put out a lot of positive energy, and most of the crowd was dancing, or slam-dancing in the mosh pit. Kevin Bivona declared that It’s Not Dead is his favorite festival, and that he hopes they come back in the future.

After skate-punk band Good Riddance put on a solid and energetic set, GBH followed—like a shot of adrenaline, which led to an even larger mosh pit. The members of the English street punk outfit that formed in the late 1970s might have appeared old, but they were intense. Vocalist Colin Abrahall declared that they were angry old men (in less appealing terms), and their set was brutal. I saw one attendee in a wheelchair go crowd-surfing—but his wheel chair tipped forward, launching him out of it. It wasn’t long before the guy was back in his wheelchair and rocking out on the security barrier.

Later in the day, former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris and his band OFF! put on a fantastic set. He took some time to talk about how he remembered coming to the Glen Helen Amphitheater in the ’90s for OzzFest, saying that the parking lot tailgating resembled what was shown in the ’80s documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and adding a story about a young woman who said she needed to give blow jobs in the parking lot in order to pay for her ticket.

As early evening set in, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes took the stage dressed in disco outfits. Missing were two regulars—NOFX bassist Fat Mike and Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett—with Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley and Face to Face guitarist Scott Shiflett taking their places. Frontman Spike Slawson sounded like he was calling San Bernardino “San Berdina” when he addressed the audience, and he was full of amusing anecdotes, including one about how he had the hots for some guy who also had the hots for him, and that they were busted in a park “finger banging.” One of the highlights of their covers-filled set was Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

I decided to venture over to the adjoining Fender stages to catch headlining performances by the U.S. Bombs and Voodoo Glow Skulls. Duane Peters of the U.S. Bombs has received a lot of negative attention as of late due to … well, being Duane Peters. He’s made controversial posts on social media as of late, saying that Tony Hawk was involved in a conspiracy relating to his late son’s death after a car accident, insulting local pro-skateboarder Eddie Elguera, and using homophobic slurs. When the U.S. Bombs went onstage, Duane Peters required the aid of a cane, but quickly put it aside when he began to sing. The U.S. Bombs performed well, but Duane seemed to struggle a bit through the set.

Riverside punk-ska legends Voodoo Glow Skulls have also endured some recent social media controversy, after now-former frontman Frank Casillas reportedly began making pro-Trump posts—upsetting the other two Casillas brothers, bandmates Eddie and Jorge. After Frank Casillas declared during a recent show that he was retiring from the band—an announcement which came as a surprise to the rest of the band—the remaining members recruited Death by Stereo frontman Efrem Schulz to finish out the tour. Voodoo Glow Skulls took the stage to a very large and welcoming audience, and Schulz’s stage presence was extremely high energy. The fans loved it.

Dropkick Murphys and Rancid brought their co-headlining tour to a close on Saturday night at It’s Not Dead. The first quarter of the Murphys’ hour-long set was all older material from their first two albums, including “Barroom Hero,” followed by “Do or Die,” “Never Alone,” “Boys on the Docks,” and “The Gang’s All Here.” The band always delivers a great set, and Rancid’s performance was just as good.

Beyond the music, the festival included a tent featuring artwork, photography and … books? Yes, books. In fact, Jim Lindberg did a book signing in the tent in the afternoon, as did Keith Morris of OFF! and Jack Grisham of TSOL.

“To actually be able to talk to the people that read your books, it’s cool,” Grisham said. “It’s the same thing to me as music. If they read the book and they enjoy it, it means we have a connection. We probably connected somewhere else down the line. I actually like to meet the people who like what I do.”

One of the more interesting selections for sale on Grisham’s table was a children’s book, I Wish There Were Monsters, which was written and illustrated by Grisham.

“It’s about a kid who has all this bravado and wants to fight all these monsters, and talking about all these monsters he wants to fight,” Grisham explained. “At the end of it, he says, ‘Hey, I wish there were monsters, just not tonight.’ He cuddles up in his bed with a cat. It was fun to do something that was laid back, and when I wrote it, it was never planned for release. I wrote it for my kids. I would just Xerox copies and hand them to friends.”

Published in Reviews

If you’ve never heard of punk-rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, you’re missing out on a lot of hilarity.

The San Francisco-based band is fronted by Spike Slawson, of the Swingin’ Utters, who is normally joined by Fat Mike, of NOFX, on bass; Chris Shiflett, of the Foo Fighters, on lead guitar; Joey Cape, of Lagwagon, on rhythm guitar; and Dave Raun, also of Lagwagon, on drums. The band has released some hilarious themed albums, including 2006’s Love Their Country, featuring country songs—covered punk-style, of course.

At It’s Not Dead 2, frontman Spike Slawson was dressed as if he was going to a disco, with white pants and a gold microphone. During an interview, he explained where the band gets its inspiration for albums.

“It’s generally Fat Mike (has an idea), and then we end up chasing our tails to meet some unrealistic expectation or standard,” Slawson said. “I think what we need to do, and what we’re probably going to do, is some 7-inch records here and there—do some AM gold or a German song. People aren’t selling records anymore, anyway, so a 7-inch is a good thing. It’s not super expensive, and people will buy it, and you have songs people are going to want to hear live.”

I made a suggestion that perhaps the band should make an ABBA-themed record.

“Sounds good, but there are already too many ABBA tribute bands,” he said. “That’s already been done, including one that a friend of mine, Chris Dodge of Spazz, put out. That (band was) Bjorn Again. They kinda did it more straight and dressed up, wearing wigs and disco outfits. But I don’t know; we’ll try anything once, as evidenced by our body of work.”

Slawson said that his favorite album is 1999’s Are a Drag, which was the band’s show tunes album.

“It was fun to dress up for it, and I like the way the songs came out,” he said. “I also like the production aesthetic of the record.”

At It’s Not Dead, two of the band’s normal members—Fat Mike and Chris Shiflett—were not present. Slawson explained the absences and the substitutions.

“Mr. Jay Bentley of Bad Religion will be joining us on the bass guitar,” he said. “Sir Scott Shiflett is on lead guitar, and he’s a very accomplished guitar player, so no worries there. It’s pretty much all the Gimmes who you know and love. As long as they know what they’re doing and play the set instead of playing with themselves, it always works out. Chris can usually never do it because he’s always busy. Mike is busy as well. So we work it out.”

Slawson said he enjoys being in a band with Fat Mike.

“I don’t have a word to describe it, but it’s interesting. I’ll put it this way: Ever since this ’90s (punk) resurgence, it’s gotten really white and middle class, and he kind of did a back-turn and flipped that,” Slawson said. “He was kind of one of the figureheads of the middle-class punk movement where everything sounds like it’s a fucking Toyota commercial, and he’s not living that kind of life anymore. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming, but I just see it for what it is—it’s rock ’n’ roll.”

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are planning another live record in the near future.

“We were talking about doing a live record at a quinceañera, just like we did with Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah,” he said, mentioning the band’s 2004 album. “(We’ll make it) more likely down here, though. We have them up in San Francisco, for sure, but they’re always bigger with so many more people down here.” 

I mentioned to Slawson that the Coachella Valley just might be the place for the album, given the quinceañeras here can even run all night.

“Really? Wow. Well, I figure there’s also Orange County, Los Angeles County or Ventura County, but yeah. In someone’s yard or something—I think that would be funny. We can learn and play a bunch of Spanish songs.”