Interview by Luc Brunot.
Original version of the interview published in Bands Of Dixie #107 (November - December 2015)
A lot of readers are keeping in mind the noteworthy Gig Michaels interview from 2012
. It was natural for Bands Of Dixie to offer a new interview with this colorful figure. The opportunity was a little overdue but finally the new Swamp da Wamp album is out... We talked about it with Gig.
January 2016 addition: this interview was done September 2015. Gig Michaels died January 3, 2016 just hours before his 52nd birthday. The death of this fabulous and endearing artist is a great loss for all the music lovers.
We're hosted on your website by the video of "My Drinking Song". I love the video but also the song itself. A high quality production, a song with a catchy chorus and above all this incredibly friendly atmosphere. We feel so good listening to that. Is the song "a hit"?
Well first of all I want to thank you for your support, it means a lot to us. This track is our first single and is doing quite well. Is it a «Hit» song? That would depend on how you judge a «hit». Labels look at charts and numbers, I look at reaction from our fans and yes, I think it's a hit! Lol but we'll see if it breaks into the charts over the next few weeks and then maybe even the suits will agree with me. I would love for you to ask your audience what they think too, those are the people that matter.
In France, I don't know if we could release a video to the glory of alcohol. Don't you have, in the US, legal constraints?
I'm glad you brought that up. You see My Drinking Song is NOT glorifying drinking alcohol, and yes while it has references to partying and having fun, it's really about friends and family getting together and hanging out. I point to the 3rd verse that goes like this;
(IF YOURE LOOKING FOR THE PARTY, WELL YOU CAN FIND IT IN THE KITCHEN
EVERYBODY TELLING LIES, LIES, LIES, LIES OH MY...
ITS ALL ABOUT THE FRIENDS AND ITS ALL ABOUT THE FAMILY
SO ANOTHER ROUND OF SHOTS FOR MY GOODS FRIENDS
ON THIS SATURDAY NIGHT....)
Because we play a lot we tend to have people over to our house instead of going out on the town and no matter what, everybody always ends up in the Kitchen hanging! Lol So you only have friends and family in your home ya know what I mean... so it is somewhat heartwarming as well.
Alcohol, it is not always happily sweet drunkenness, it may also have much darker side. Isn't it the "Devil In My Whiskey" theme?
Yes sir! I think Ozzy said it best with Demon Alcohol! Lol Devil in my Whiskey is definitely about the dark side of drinking. Its sort of a fight song in which the person is trying to kick it but cant, but a great jammer!!
Swampdawamp became Swamp da Wamp. You launched, I believe, a referendum among your fans about the band name change. Did you think of changing the name more radically? Why?
We actually split the name up like that so people could read it more easily! Lol.. And believe it or not it has made a positive difference for us. The branding looks better too. We started to change our name radically last year under the advice of Mick Jones from foreigner. Well all I can say now is that I'm glad we stuck with Swamp da Wamp. It's hard sometimes in this business to not follow your peers advice, and it wasn't just Mick, but sometimes if you stick to your guns, so to speak, your heart will lead you in the right direction.
"Short Stories From A Long Road" was from 2011 and It took four years before the release of "That Easy". I've read that, these last months, you still faced a lot of difficulties - as you already had in your career - with the departure of your long time drummer, David Lee, and a guitarist. Were it four difficult years?
It has been a tough time, but it came and went with a lot of good times in the middle lol, I mean we never stopped playing or writing and we kept in touch with our fans. We lost our label support and drugs and alcohol got the best of a couple of the guys and we just grew apart morally and socially. It was painful but then I look at the new record «That Easy» and I find the peace of some of my best work ever. It takes pain to write about reality, and 90% of all I write is reality for most, whether it's my reality or someone I know of. We are back in top form now with the addition of Robert Vines on the drums, we're even tighter than we've ever been, so we're all pretty stoked now on the road be able to rip it up with precision.
The atmosphere of "Rollin'" is very different from the cool mood instilled by "My Drinking Song". This dirty rock talks precisely about the bad relations with some former band players. Did you need to write the song to let off some steam or to send them a message?
Yes I did, both! Lol!! After months of hearing about comments being made public by former mates, that simply were not true, I felt like I needed to do something. None of us ever air our dirty laundry on social media, that is just so amateur and ugly. So all the while they were slamming us on facebook we never responded, we took the high road. Our true fans and friends know who we are and what we're about, we don't involve ourselves in petty issues nor do we hold any malicious intent, we just rock their faces off and they hate it!! Lmao! It's amazing at how many people want you to fail, or just cant handle seeing you gain any success before them, but I say theres enough room for every band that has good music.
The choice of the song title "That Easy" to name your new album was also a nod to these difficult times?
Indeed it was man! Lol. It was such a tough time we all joked about it being so easy lol,
Didn't you plan at first to use another song title, "Changes" for the album title? Why this earlier choice?
Yes. «Changes» is another great trac on the Cd, and that theme represents where we were and or are in life. We needed a title at that moment and we were leaning hard on «Changes». «That easy» was still in production at that time and it wasn't until I wrapped up the vocals that we all were like in shock at how it turned out. For me, as a vocalist, I was aiming for new dynamic in my delivery and with this dark love, bloody vampire song I really think that I found it!
In the current line-up; we still find Keith Immann, who has been in the band for a while, and, on keyboard is Duke Rivers who was once part of the band. He was an original member, right?
Keith, who we refer to as «The Wizard» has been here for 7 of the 9 years, so I consider him an original. Duke was an original member yes.
Can you introduce Nick Nguyen (guitar and violin), Jonathan Parker (drums) and Rich Basco (bass)?
Nick Nguyen has been with us now for going on 4 years. We met on one of early Simple Man cruises with Lynyrd Skynyrd and he sat in with us on violin and he's been with us off and on ever since. He's been a full timer for the last 2yrs. Nick is a hell of a guitarist. He stems from Nashville and runs with the big name players there. Rich an bass has been here now for over 3 yrs. Rich is one of the best bassists I know. When he auditioned way back when, he pulled off those Mike Brignardello runs right out of the chute!! Something most bass players couldn't even consider. He is also a loon to hang with!! Lmao!! He's a from Philly and a sports nut to boot and if you are familiar with Philadelphia Eagles Foot ball, those people are all nuts! lol Lastly, Jonathan Parker was filling in the interim after David Lee and hung out until we inducted Robert Vines. Robert comes from South Florida and also kicks that ass on the drums as I mentioned earlier.
You also hired a girl, Adrienne Nixon, who's singing background vocals. Is it the first time the band features a backup singer?
It's the first time I am featuring one, but we did have a girl prior to her joining and the idea was to have them both on the back ups. Adrienne was so much better, the other girl quit! You'll be seeing Adrienne stepping out more over the next couple years.
"Happy Anniversary" is not a festive birthday, the mood is rather romantic. How did the idea of a duet with her come for this ballad?
I had actually written that one as a duet long before I met Adrienne. You can find an earlier version on «Short Stories From A Long Road» in which I sing myself. At that time I was entertaining some Nashville women for the part anf the one I picked got stuck in Vegas on the scheduled night to track it and due to the budget, we had to just let it go for the moment. I always knew I would cut it again with the right singer, and Adrienne is it.
She also gives you the answer for "Two Wheels". It reminds Jim Dandy and Ruby Starr to Donna Nolan Wilson in his CD review. What are for you these two strong personalities?
I consider this a compliment for sure. This song is absolute fun man! I compare it more to Meatloaf and Ellen Foley doing «Paradise By The Dashboard Lights».... Another great song, lol..
A back-up singer, it reminds also a bit the Honkettes. Do you plan to hire again a second female singer and, why not, third?
You may see another female in the future, but for now Adrienne and Nick singing harmonies is doing the job just fine.
Would you also like to have a horn section?
I would love to! Funny you bring that up. A lot of the riffs I come up with on guitar are more like horn section parts and stabs. I bet you'll hear some on the next album.
Your previous records were on your own label, Big Penny. Why did you go with Pure Heart Records this time?
I liked the name of the label, «Pure Heart». I thought it relates to my music very well. My new label is Gig Monster, my label drives the Pure Heart interest.
For "That Easy", you worked with Glenn Tabor as the producer. Why?
I've known Glenn for years and always wanted to work with him. He's a multi Grammy Award winning producer that thinks a lot like I do. He gained complete trust from me during this album. Glenn has a way of bringing out the greatness that you may possess and always keeps you comfortable in what you're doing. That is Very important as a producer. I love having another set of ears outside of the band working on the music, his suggestions almost always worked.
The credits don't mention any additional musicians except guitar player John Ledford. For this new record, you didn't used additional session musicians to enlight the album?
We did use a couple local session players that did some cool stuff, ut we wanted to keep the cd jacket as simple as possible. There was barely enough room for whats on there! We'will most likely reveal them on the Vinyl album insert, which is coming soon!
Is John Ledford the guitarist who left the band some months ago?
No, John is our guitar tech who let get up and jam with us often. He's a great fill in!!
In our previous interview, you mentioned the importance of the songwriting. "She's Country" is one of the few songs - the one and only on the album - that is not from you. It seems it was not easy for you to sing? Why finally did you include it?
Yea I don't usually get the «vibe» or the «Heart felt meaning» from a song if I don't write it. But that's only if I'm going to sing it, I mean I get the feeling from music as a listener big time, it's only if I have to deliver the feeling, it needs to come from my heart. There are of exceptions, like «Shes Country». I decided to cut it now because of our history with the song, having tracked it before Jason Aldean ever heard of it as you know. We ROCK it lol!!
You explained that the reasons of the songwriting importance come from your childhood. You said " I went thru some shit as a fat kid and held in the abuse from others to the point of becoming damn near suicidal". The result is the song "Fat Boy" and your involvement in anti-bullying . Would you like to talk about that?
Yea, and I still battle with my weight, it sucks. We are more involved now than ever in the anti-bullying movement with some big happenings coming this fall!! I cant announce anything yet but I will certainly let you know as soon as I can.
The song was already released on "Short Stories From A Long Road". Why did you record a new version?
My honest answer is this; for a better production of the song and to have it be a part of this record, to get the attention it deserves that it did not get on that record...
You are involved in a lot of charity works, like Veterans Foundations. And, like a lot of other bands you display your support to the American troops. In France, this is something that strikes us. Same thing for the religious convictions displayed by a lot of artists like the Charlie Daniels Band or Lynyrd Skynyrd. Swamp da Wamp seems more discreet on the subject. Is it just an impression?
We are pretty discreet about it. I think it's a fine line between actually helping the charity and using the charity for personal gain. Theres a lot of crooked folks out there that do it to get the media attention. Unless it's a large event you won't hear us shouting thru the streets about any of our affiliations. I am also very much into politics, but you will not hear any of that shit coming outta my mouth either! lolol
You also support the Native American Heritage Association. Is it related to your family roots?
Yes, my Grandfather on my Moms side, was full blood Native American. My Dads Dad was French Canadian and his Dad was Scottish... and more! lolo
I saw that you were recently billed together with Blackfoot. Is it a coincidence or again, is it related to these roots? Actually, I don't even know if there are Native American in this new Blackfoot...
By the way, how sounds the new Blackfoot line-up?
We're planning on doing several shows with Black Foot in the coming months with Ricky Medlocke in the line up, that will be exciting! The band without Ricky is just as awesome my friend, we really dig those guys. Very hard hitting and tight....
Thus, you have Scottish ancestry. When will you come to play some gigs in Scotland and continue with a French tour?
We are working the record throughout all of Europe and the UK and talking with promoters about a tour over there in the early summer 2016
Among the concerts, you told us that cruises were special, with a great atmosphere. Did you play many others cruises?
We did 3 Simple Man cruises and 3 Rock Legends Cruises and all of them rocked ass! Its not a typical cruise by any means man, you have to try it!
You were supposed to release your first double live album on February 2013, "Live From The Rock Legends Cruise". What occurred to that project?
That project wound up having legal issues surrounding it.
What can we wish you for the future?
Live love travel and rock n roll!!
Giig Michaels 2
Rest in Peace Gig!