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Interview with Davy Vain
16 October 2011
(interview by Alexandra Mrozowska)
Since 1989 and the debut album of his band Vain being released, Davy Vain is the person usually associated with a solid dose of music that fits straight in between glam and sleaze metal. “Infectious to listen to”, as reviewers of the following albums from the Vain’s back catalogue used to put it… Years later, Davy Vain is also a producer and sound engineer known from working on everything from thrash metal to contemporary pop/R&B... but still, rocking out in front of Vain is what gets the best of him! Therefore, we caught up with Davy to talk about the newly released ‘Enough Rope’ record and remember the good and the bad times for this major sleaze rock act.
Vain’s newest effort ‘Enough Rope’ will be released via Music Buy Mail next month. It’s your sixth album since 1989 debut… are you still excited by looking forward to this? Has your approach towards recording music and playing live changed through the years?
No, not really. Recording is a bit different now. In the past we would do ten songs, all in one session. Now I like to record the songs in different sessions doing two to three songs at a time. That way each session is fresher and the drummer only has to focus on less songs… what a lot of people don’t know is that is what the main focus usually is when you record the first day getting the drum sound and performance right. If that’s killer, everything else sounds great. It’s like the foundation of a house.
What can we expect after ‘Enough Rope’ in terms of music and lyrics? Are there any surprises?
I sing in some lower ranges then usually here and there… and the rest you will have to see, or it’s not a surprise is it!
Since the tracklist was officially announced, can you name any personal favourites on the new album?
It changes all the time , but ‘Greener’ and ‘Hot Stage Lights’ are on the top now .
Comparing ‘Enough Rope’ with the previous one (2005 ‘On the Line’ release), what are the differences? Are there any?
Well for me ‘On The Line’ had some highlights but the new record is much harder hitting and the best we have done since the first one .
Vain’s new album features a cover that twenty years ago could have been regarded as a bit controversial… for PMRC activists at least! What was the idea behind this?
It’s not really intended to shock anyone. Right before I went to play a festival in Europe I talked to the photographer and the model (both Russian women and artists/models). I told them the name of the record was ‘Enough Rope’ and was not sure what I wanted on the cover but I wanted a girl and maybe a rope but not lame. They said they would do some test shots and I could check them out when I got back. Me and my guitar player went to her home to see what they came up with. When we saw that shot we just yelled “That’s it”! I did not even think of it as bondage, it looked more like art to me and had energy to it. She said ok and she wanted to do it over since it was just a test but we said this is rock and roll and we don’t do it over – that’s it! And we might have another cover too with me tied up! Haha!
Now let’s look back a bit. According to your official website, you have founded Vain after having recorded a demo that was produced by Kirk Hammett. Might be a little trivia, but still – what was the point of co-working in the studio with Metallica’s axeman while being a glam metal musician yourself? Were you leaning towards thrash metal at the time?
No, not at all. When I first started the band I wanted it to be as over the top as possible. I wanted a band of all stars that could play killer and have really long, big hair and big stage persona. Kirk, at the time, was getting into producing and heard a tape of me someone played him - he thought I had unique voice and wanted to work with me, so we recorded...
During the early period of Vain’s career, you opened for Guns N’Roses while playing local club gigs. Later on, after ‘No Respect’ was released, you supported Skid Row on a European tour. Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, those two were the most notorious bands, infamous from their wild and reckless lifestyle. Touring and performing with them must’ve been quite crazy just as their backstage parties – what are your memories from those tours?
Well let’s just say it was all the girls you could handle every night. But the first Vain tours we did headlining clubs was as crazy as anything I have ever seen. Not that I ever did anything bad – I’m shy. Haha!
Vain’s sophomore effort ‘All Those Strangers’ was supposed to be released back in 1991, but has finally seen the light of day not so long ago - in 2010 on your own label Jackie Rainbow Records. What was the reason of having it shelved for almost two decades?
Because it was originally on Island Records and we finally got the masters so we put it out because our fans had so many shitty sounding bootlegs of it…
Speaking of Jackie Rainbow Records – do you plan releasing any other albums on this label? What, in your opinion, is the role of independent record labels in today’s industry?
No, it’s just my private label... most labels suck and don’t do anything but the guys I work with at Music Buy Mail - that a friend of mine is on - do more than most major labels.
You’re also a record producer and a sound engineer. You’ve worked on albums from such extremely different genres, such as thrash metal (Death’s Angel’s debut album in 1987) in comparison with contemporary pop/R&B (Christina Aguilera’s 2002 album ‘Stripped’). Do you find this part of your work equally satisfying in comparison with Vain’s career?
No, I love recording and it’s another art form I love and I’m interested in gear and vintage sound. When you become a studio geek, it’s like a hobby in itself and I am lucky enough to have my own killer studio with tons of world class gear... But doing my own music I still get to do that and be the artist too, that’s really what I am. A singer, songwriter, artist and performer. Everything else is more of a job and other outlet.
In 2000, you released your solo album ‘In From Out of Nowhere’. When asked of the reason why to record apart from their basic bands, most of the singers I interviewed so far pointed out to the fact of having total musical freedom in studio. ‘In From Out of Nowhere’ is, however, quite much in phase with Vain’s classic style. Why it is labeled as Davy Vain’s album instead of being just another album in band’s discography?
It really is just another Vain record. I have freedom because I wrote all the songs at the time I thought it was a good idea because we wanted to play those songs live and not a whole set of ‘No Respect’ songs, but now I wish I would have called it Vain because I’m tired of hearing the solo album thing.
From all the albums you recorded, which one is your favorite and why?
I don’t have a favourite, because all the songs I wrote are personal to me and every record has moments that I love, but most people will always love the first one best .
Apart from music, the thing that always attracted people to rock’n’roll music was undoubtedly the image… ‘Rock is to dress up to’, said Frank Zappa. What is your comment on that?
Well, that’s what I like - but all my rock heroes had an image or a star power. Even Bon Scott had that something extra and never had to try… you have it or you don’t and all the dressing in cool clothes in the world is not gonna give it to you .
What are your next music plans?
Getting out there and getting as many people as possible to hear this record. I hope to get the new people that have been coming to the shows! Also a new record they can get moved by and the original fans I think won’t be disappointed with…