All images courtesy of Getty Images
By Andrew DiCecco
For prospective musicians in the 1980s, West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip was hardly perceived as a proverbial boulevard of broken dreams, but rather an inspiration for bullish expectations, unwavering resolve, and boundless enthusiasm.
Flavored with the distinctive aromas of cigarettes, Aqua Net hair spray, and leather, Sunset Boulevard’s 1.5-mile stretch often overflowed with aspiring rock stars and eager concertgoers alike lining the sidewalks outside the scene’s most prominent music venues, including the Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy, Gazzari’s, or The Central.
While many like-minded hopefuls prowled the Sunset Strip in those days, few possessed the work ethic and tenacity of Seattle transplant Taime Downe, a well-connected scenester who worked at a popular rock ‘n’ roll clothing store on Melrose Avenue called Retail Slut and moonlighted at The Troubadour as a stage light operator.
In 1985, when Downe founded Faster Pussycat, the local scene flooded with anticipation. It wasn’t long after Downe met Bay Area guitarist Greg Steele at Retail Slut and subsequently made contact with drummer Mark Michals and guitarist Brent Muscat that Downe’s brainchild began to take shape.
Bassist Kelly Nickels was the last to join, stabilizing the lineup for a short while.
When Nickels was hospitalized due to a debilitating motorcycle accident on the way to rehearsal at a crucial juncture in the band’s career, Darling Cool bassist Eric Stacy stepped in to fill the void. Stacy’s multifaceted bass playing, which incorporated R&B and funk elements, was quickly recognized as a key component to unlocking the band’s musical potential and ultimately securing a deal with Elektra Records. As a result, the band’s classic lineup was born.
“We played a rehearsal with Kelly,” Muscat recounted. “By this time, I think we were rehearsing in North Hollywood, and we all, I think, felt sad at the rehearsal because it was obvious that it wasn’t working.”
While still unsure of who they were musically, Faster Pussycat enlisted former Poison producer Ric Browde to assist them in navigating their 1987 self-titled debut album on a truncated budget, inadvertently creating a seminal record that would become an enduring landmark.
“We had to write songs in pre-production because we didn’t have enough songs,” Downe recalled. “We weren’t together long enough to have an album’s worth of material.“
As apparent as its imperfections are, Faster Pussycat eloquently captures the essence of the Sunset Strip as it was at the time: sleaze, debauchery, and excess. Downe’s trademark gravelly, raspy snarl and discernible attitude are infused into each punk-inspired track, while Steele, Stacy, Muscat, and Michals (more on him in a moment) enrich the songs with catchy hooks and palpable energy, further enhancing the album’s charm and appeal.
My attempts to obtain any new information regarding Michals, the embattled drummer whose whereabouts have been unknown for nearly two decades, proved fruitless, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge his role in laying the foundation of the band’s classic sound. Whenever I think of Michals’ playing, it’s the echoing drums that open “Bathroom Wall,” a perennial mainstay in the band’s setlist, as well as his execution on “Where There’s A Whip There’s A Way” and “Poison Ivy” from the band’s gold-charting follow-up, Wake Me When It’s Over, that immediately come to mind. On the sophomore album, which proved to be the final to feature Michals behind the kit, the enigmatic sticksman showcased his gradual maturation as a musician.
“I liked Mark’s style, actually,” former Faster Pussycat guitarist Greg Steele recently expressed. “He had a different style. I really liked it a lot.”
Recent interviews with Taime Downe, Greg Steele, Brent Muscat, Eric Stacy, producer Ric Browde, manager Vicky Hamilton, and guitarist Mitch Perry allow us to take you through a time capsule to West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in the mid-1980s, when a band few believed in took a burgeoning music scene by storm.
Faster Pussycat’s classic lineup provides perspectives on how they met.
Taime Downe [singer and founder]:
I met Greg when I worked down on Melrose at this place called Retail Slut. Greg and his friend came in, and he was in some other band from the Bay Area. But I was working, and they were like, “Is it OK if we put one of our flyers up?” Greg had just moved down there, so we just got to shooting the shit and exchanged numbers. Brent wasn’t even in the picture until afterward. I met Mark [Michals] at a show at The Roxy back in the day, our old drummer, and Mark was friends with Brent. It was all early, and then we tried out a couple of different bass players. We had this guy Walter in the band for a little bit in the very, very beginning – our first few shows – and then Kelly Nickels became the bass player. [Kelly] was my buddy; he was in a band called Angels in Vain and they moved out from New York. It was like the whole beginning of that scene out there in L.A., and New York, too; I was friends with a few people in New York that would come out, and I’d just moved down from Seattle, so we were all new kids in town, so we were just all trying to figure out what the fuck is going on here and just partying. Plus you’re twenty or twenty-one, so everything’s new.
Greg Steele [guitarist]:
[Taime] was working at Retail Slut. I went in there with a buddy, met him, and he talked to my buddy and said, “Do you know any guitar players?” My buddy’s like, “Yeah, this guy.” So, then, he was like, “Alright.” He didn’t have a car at the time, so I had to go down to Retail Slut, pick him up, and then we’d go to my place and just jam on guitars a little bit. At the time, he was working at The Troubadour, too, so then I’d take him down to the Troubadour. I mean, he had some guys that he wanted to start the band with, but we just started there; just started rehearsing, and pretty much got out and started playing clubs right away. So, it was pretty quick, actually.
Brent Muscat [guitarist]:
By the time I was a senior, there was one point where I got in a band with my brother and some other older guys, it was called Shanghai. We were playing the clubs, I think we played some clubs in Hollywood, and around that time, Poison was playing the clubs – I don’t think they were signed yet – Guns N’ Roses were just starting to play. I mean, it was just the beginning of the scene, so I would say probably it was close to like 1984-’85. The other guitar player, his name was Taz, his mom was dating kind of like a mafioso type of guy. He gave the band money to buy equipment and tried to get us going, got a producer for us and stuff. It was funny because as soon as Taz got money, he got greedy. It was just like, “Let’s kick Brent out,” that way they didn’t have to buy me a guitar. They didn’t have to spend any money on me; just all the money for them. It was just purely money. It was like, “Let’s become a four-piece instead of a five-piece, just ‘cause we can split the money four ways.”
So, basically, I got out of [Shanghai], but I was kind of jamming with other people, and I was really into it. I was ready; I had my little look down and I had my guitar. I was pretty ready to get right into another band and do it. I had a – I wouldn’t say my girlfriend – but a girlfriend who was living up in Vegas, and I’d come up from L.A. and see her sometimes. She called me one time, and she knew what I was up to and that I was out just out of a band, and she had told me, “There’s this guy up here, a friend of ours named Taime, and he’s looking to start a band and needs a guitar player.” I’m like, “He lives in Vegas?” She’s like, “No, no. He lives in L.A., he’s just up here visiting and hanging out up here in Vegas.” I’m like, “Put him on the phone.” So, she put him on the phone, and I spoke to Taime, and he’s like, “Yeah, I work in Hollywood at The Troubadour and do lights.” He goes, “I wanna put a band together. Come out and meet me one night when I’m doing lights at The Troubadour.” I go, “Cool.” And I was ready to go, so I’m like, “Well, when are you comin’ back to town? When are you gonna be there?” He goes, “Well, I’ll be back, I have to work – whenever it was – I have to work Friday night and I’m doing a show there.” He goes, “I’ll just put you on the guest list.” It was, like, two days later or something. So, I was like, “Okay.”
For some reason, I don’t think I was even driving at the time. I think I had a driver; I don’t think I had a car, but I lived probably about an hour outside of Hollywood. I guess you could call it L.A., like out in the suburbs. I had this friend who drove, he was kind of a roadie, his name was Desi – he was actually in that movie the Decline of Western Civilization: The Metal Years – but he was actually promotor and he drove us around. He actually helped a lot of bands in Hollywood. He was actually younger; I think I was probably eighteen and he was probably sixteen. Just barely driving. But I remember I called him up, “Desi, I need to go out to Hollywood. Can you pick me up?” I think he picked me up and dropped me off at The Troubadour. When I first saw Taime, I saw this guy walk across the stage – he was working – and had this blonde, crazy big hair, and I just remember these big, bushy, dark brown eyebrows. And it just didn’t match. He looked like a character out of Sesame Street. He looked like some kind of crazy Muppet or something. He looked funny to me. He had like crazy black lipstick and fingernail polish on. He’s working lights, but he’s like walking across the stage in crazy rock clothes. I remember I just thought, “That guy is interesting looking.”
Eric Stacy [bass]:
Champagne was kind of like my first band that actually played parties and shit. Actually, from ’78 to ’80, I was in boarding school in Northern California with a bunch of other rocker-hippie kids from L.A. and my roommate was this guy named August [Worchell], who later became the guitar player for Johnny Crash, and we just kind of did our first band, man, and we called it Champagne. We kind of just played high school gigs up in Northern California and backyard parties and just did [Led] Zeppelin songs, but it was the first chance I had to play in front of a crowd and play at parties and stuff.
Darling Cool was after I came back to L.A., after that boarding school experience in 1980. Around ’81 or ’82 or something, I hooked up with this fantastic, really talented singer named Greg Darling. At the time he was really, really talented, in a white soul, Elton John, Hall & Oats kind of way. So, we started this band called Darling Cool; it was sort of like a white-funk rock band. It had Greg Darling on vocals, myself on bass, and August, the same guy who later played with Johnny Crash, he was playing guitar, and we started gigging around Hollywood, man. At the time, Greg Darling was really good friends with Vicky Hamilton, and so he started coming to rehearsals and telling us, “Hey man, this chick Vicky Hamilton, she’s working with Guns N’ Roses right now and trying to get them a deal. She’s already gotten Poison a deal. She used to do publicity for Mötley Crüe. She’s really got her ear to the ground, and she’s a really cool chick to know in Hollywood.”
So, [Greg] was telling us about Vicky, and Darling Cool started playing around town. We were doing gigs with all the same bands; Faster Pussycat was around. The early, early, earliest stages of Faster Pussycat was starting to play around Hollywood with this guy named Walter on bass. I was in Darling Cool, and Vicky liked Darling Cool – she was coming to see our shows – and I remember one show we were doing the Whisky [a Go Go] and I remember Vicky came walking in with Taime, and they were standing right at the edge of the stage watching us, and it looked like Taime was really digging it and getting into it. So, through Vicky, I met Taime, Brent, and the guys in Faster. It was kind of just like this little clique of bands. We would all just hang out, and we would do shows together in Hollywood.
Faster Pussycat’s Classic Lineup Comes Together
In the wake of a debilitating motorcycle accident, a new bassist enters the picture, ultimately completing the classic lineup.
Vicky would have barbeques at her house on Sundays, and one Sunday, I was down there hanging out. The guys from Faster were there, and at the time, Kelly Nickels was playing bass for Faster. I had known Kelly for a long time; we were friends and got along real good. So, this one Sunday, Vicky had a barbeque at her house, and it was fun – everybody was drinking, having a good time, eating hot dogs, listening to good music – and eventually, the guys in Faster were like, “Well, we gotta split. We gotta go to rehearsal.” So, Taime, Brent, Kelly, Greg, and Mark Michals, they all split to go rehearse, and I hung out at the party for a little while longer, and then I went home.
We were all at our manager’s house having a party. Kelly was drinking and got on his motorcycle – we were actually driving to a rehearsal at that place across from Hollywood High [School], Fortress – and I can remember on the way there, Kelly got into a motorcycle accident. Basically, in front of that Hollywood High School there. We drove up and we saw a motorcycle on the ground, and we saw Kelly like a hundred feet up from it. We ran up to him, and his bone was sticking out of his leg.
Vicky Hamilton [manager]:
Such a fun day, turned horror story! I had a housewarming party, and Taime and Kelly came on bikes. They left halfway through the party, as they had rehearsal. I got a call from Brent just after they left, and he was very upset. Kelly had been hit on his motorcycle and his leg was broken in several places below the knee. I met the band at the hospital. They wanted to amputate Kelly’s leg! Taime said to the doctor, “We are not family, and you have to wait ’til they get here.” Kelly Nickels wasn’t his real name! So, by the time we found out his real name and called his parents, they figured out they could save his leg. He walked with a cane for a long time. I also managed Darling Cool and had their bassist Eric Stacy stand-in for Kelly. However, Eric stayed in Faster Pussycat and Kelly joined L.A. Guns.
Then, that night I got a phone call from Vicky, and Vicky’s like, “Hey, can you talk?” And I was like, “Yeah.” She said, “We’re on a three-way call; I’ve got Greg and Taime on the line, and we need to talk to you.” And I’m like, “Alright. What’s going on?” And they’re like, “Well, when the band went to go to rehearsal today, Kelly was on his motorcycle and got hit by a car and he’s in really, really bad shape. He had a compound fracture, and they were talking about taking his leg. It was really nasty.” And they said, “Listen, we don’t know how long he’s gonna be gone, but can you at least fill in for Kelly for a while with Faster?” And I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll do double gigs.” I was playing with Darling Cool, and then I started playing with Faster, so I was kind of playing with both bands. Actually, there were a couple of times where we were on the same bill, where I literally did play with both bands.
Once Eric was in the band, we couldn’t go back with Kelly. Kelly got better and came and jammed with us, and we knew – like we played with Kelly one time – and we just go, “We’re a different band.” It’s like, we played with Kelly and it’s not the same band anymore. And we’re better with Eric. And that wasn’t anything against Kelly; Kelly was a great guy, and he had a great look. Kelly was a great bass player for what he did; I think he fit L.A. Guns’ music probably better. But I think L.A. Guns, at least at that time, was more metal, and I would say that [Faster Pussycat] were more rock ‘n’ roll with like a bluesy, kind of Rolling Stones base. It was great that Kelly got into L.A. Guns, and I was happy for him, but we had to let Kelly go, basically. We played with him, and then we just probably got together and said, “Well, we gotta keep Eric.”
Eric was to fill in for Kelly until he got better. It was crazy. It just happened so fast. We were on our way from a meeting at Vicky’s to a rehearsal, and it happened. And it was at the same time where we already had Peter Philbin and a couple of other Elektra record company people starting to check us out.
Originally when they asked me, they said, “Maybe like a couple of weeks we might need you.” So, I said, “Alright.” And then a couple of weeks started turning into a couple of months, and then it just kind of went on and on and on. I’d go visit Kelly in the hospital and I would make sure we were cool and say, “Are we cool? I’m not trying to take your gig. I really like you.” You know, but at the same time, he wasn’t getting physically better – because he was really fucked up – and the longer I was in the band, obviously, I was getting closer to them. And then Peter Philbin – the guy who signed Faster to Elektra Records – he had been coming to see Faster for quite a long time. He really liked the band and he really wanted to sign them, but every time he saw them, he kind of felt like something was missing and he couldn’t really put his finger on it.
Record companies saw us with Kelly, and then they saw us with Eric. And when they saw us with Eric, the record companies mentioned that it felt like a different band. Nobody said they wanted to sign us yet, but we were courting them, so they’d come to see us, and each time they saw us they’d go, “You guys sound better tonight. Eric fits the band. The band sounds better than ever with Eric.” They would say straight-out, “We think you should keep Eric.” You know, if a record company is telling you that, and you’re not signed yet and wanna get signed, you’re like, “Okay…” But it was obvious to us, too, so it was like you had to do it, you know?
[Peter Philbin] came and saw us one night – my first gig with Faster was October of ’86 at The Roxy – then the next day, I forget who he was talking to, maybe Vicky, he said, “You know, I think the band is ready to sign now. I figured out why I want to sign them but have been passing for a while. I think that the show is good, I think the image is really good, the songs are good, but I think I felt like the rhythm section just wasn’t there yet.” He said, “Then when I saw you guys tonight, with Eric and Mark playing together, it was just really, really tight. It was on. It was very professional. And I really think the band is now ready to sign.” So, that’s where that headed; all of a sudden, I was faced with this decision where the band was saying, “Hey, you know, we really want you to stay. The label really likes you. They now say that we’re ready to be signed, and we want you to stay in the band.” The first thing I did was, I went and saw Kelly the next day and I said, “How do you feel? If I stay, are you gonna hate me? I don’t want you to hate me.” But at the same time, I had been with the band for probably like six months at that point, and I had been working really hard with them, and who doesn’t want a record deal? So, it wasn’t like I was gonna go, “Well, I’ll just hang in with you guys for the next year until Kelly’s better, and then hopefully he’ll come back you guys will get a deal.” So, I got to tell Greg Darling that I was moving on, and I was gonna stay with Faster, which I did. And the rest is history.
When we got Eric, the band totally got really good. I mean, the band went from – I would say we were kind of like a sloppy, sleaze rock punk band. Just really raw. But when Eric got in the band – not long, probably five, six months in – instantly he brought the musicianship up. He was really a great bass player. I mean, we all had to play to keep up with him, kind of. So, he got in, and he brought more of a funk, kind of rhythm and blues, Rolling Stones, and he really brought some soul into the band, I think. Eric totally changed the band. Our band with Kelly Nickels and with Eric is almost like two different bands musically. The songs were the same, but when Eric came in and played them it just was different.
Eric and Greg explore the diverse influences that inspired their playing.
At the time that I joined Faster, I was coming from Darling Cool, which was almost like a white-funk rock band. We had the rock influences like Elton John and David Bowie and stuff, but we were also very into Prince and a lot of funk stuff. I was very into Larry Graham from Graham Central Station; I had a bass teacher at the time that was teaching me a lot of funk playing, and I was doing a lot of slapping. I was trying to incorporate funk and slap into hard rock, which I think I did. I think that was my style and what set me apart. I listened to a lot of R&B and funk when I was learning to be a bass player. I was very into the band Chic and the song “Good Times.” Nile Rodgers was the guitar player, and he produced Sister Sledge. So, I had a lot of solid funk background, as well as hard rock. One day I would go home and throw on records, and one minute I’d be practicing to Iron Maiden because I thought Steve Harris was great and his dexterity was amazing. And then, the next record I’d throw on would be like Graham Central Station with Larry Graham, who was the original bass player for Sly and the Family Stone. So, my influences were very varied.
I was really into Prince. Prince was my main person that I loved. I mean, I loved AC/DC, Aerosmith, [Ted] Nugent, KISS; all that stuff I grew up on. But bands I played in before, one band I played in for the longest time, we played just a lot of AC/DC type stuff. Then there was another band that was this guy in San Francisco, and he played a lot of funk stuff. Then when I got into Faster, everybody had different influences, so it was kind of like coming up with what we would sound like. So, I was just trying to get to know what the band would sound like. Then my writing style started going towards that style, like what we were doing. But at the beginning, like 1986 or ’87, I mean, that album sounds like what we sounded like then; not very polished, more punky, very simple.
Setting The Stage For Success
The band revisits the two Hollywood rehearsal spaces where they honed their skills.
The beginning was at this dump across from the Hollywood High School. It was called – fuck, I forget the name of it – but we rehearsed there every now and then, and then we rehearsed a couple of different places. We ended up going to a place called Mates, which is still around and is a great studio. I think before the first album, we started rehearsing there, too, but we spent a lot of time there throughout the whole band. Like after the first album, we toured for a long time, came home, and we locked out Mates – one of the rooms there – for like a year-and-a-half. We worked there for the second album and for the third album. We spent a lot of money there. But that was the main studio. In fact, I jumped up with them last New Year’s Day. I went back to Mates because Taime still rehearses there, so I got to see Bobby, who owns it. It’s a lot bigger now; they have different rooms and different locations and stuff, but that’s where we mainly practiced, was Mates. That’s where we spent seventy-five percent of our time.
I think it was called Fortress Studios, I’m not sure if it’s still there or not, but that was the first spot in Hollywood. But to tell you the truth, the very first ones were at Taime’s house and at Greg’s house. I wouldn’t consider it a rehearsal, because it was just three of us together, but the first few ideas came together at Taime’s house and Greg’s house. We were into it, we probably met and were like, “OK, well, let’s rehearse tomorrow.” … “You’re busy? Well, the day after tomorrow.” We were pretty into it and ready to go. I can remember the first room we had; we had a big mirror. It was a great room. On one side of the room, like in front of our stage, there was a gigantic mirror, so we could see ourselves. I could remember that first rehearsal, that mirror was funny because we could see what we look like as a band. And I think it was good because we were performing in front of people, so we got to see what the crowd was seeing. I think that helped a lot because we were a very visual band.
Then when they said, “Okay, let’s start rehearsing for our first real show,” we moved to this rehearsal studio called Mates; it’s in the Valley in North Hollywood. It had, like, four rooms, and one was like a really big room for bands that were getting ready to go on tour. Everybody that was anybody in L.A. back then rehearsed there; KISS used to rehearse in a room, The Cult used to rehearse there, Jane’s Addiction, of course, Faster Pussycat, and Guns N’ Roses. It was kind of near all of our houses.
Initial Gigs Leave an Indelible Impression
With their unapologetic attitude, raw sound, and unique aesthetic, Faster Pussycat catches the attention of Axl Rose.
Our very first gig was at The Central. The Central is a tiny place – it’s still there, it’s called the Viper Room now – but it was called The Central in like 1985. So, our very first show, I was happy because it was like – I don’t think it was that many people, but it was kind of like half full – but for me, it was great … “Oh my God! Look at all these people here to see us!” Even though it was maybe half full – maybe even a third full — it still looked like enough people. It was cool. There were people there watching us. And you know, Axl Rose was in the front, and he was dancing to our music. He was actually doing his snake dance in front of us, and that was awesome, ‘cause it was like, “Wow, look! Axl’s here.”
That was Faster Pussycat’s first-ever gig, and they played what became The Viper Room, back then it was called The Central. From what I hear, Axl was there, and he really loved the band, and he was at the front dancing. My friend, August, the guitar player who later went on to Johnny Crash, who was also in Darling Cool with me, he was also at that show that night. I remember him telling me, “Yeah, man, I went and saw my friend Taime’s band play at The Central last night. They’re called Faster Pussycat.” And I’m like, “Are they any good?” And he goes, “No, actually they suck. But they suck in the coolest way possible. They’re like the New York Dolls, man. They’re so cool.” That was a compliment coming from August.
The first show I ever did with [Faster Pussycat] was October ’86 at The Roxy. I remember at that gig, Izzy [Stradlin] came up on stage and did “Starfucker,” The [Rolling] Stones song, with us. All the bands back then were friends, and they’d all play in shows together and supported each other.
I think our second or third show we actually opened for Gun N’ Roses. I can remember it was The Whisky a Go Go – I think it might have been the third show, maybe – Guns N’ Roses were headlining. I think that band that kicked me out, Shanghai, they were playing, and we just smoked Shanghai.
When Guns N’ Roses were living with me, Axl brought home a flyer of Faster Pussycat and showed it to me and said he wanted them for the opener of the Whisky show. That is where it started. Then I became friends with Taime which led to me managing the band.
We did a number of shows with [Guns N’ Roses]. They were amazing. I remember I went to the Troubadour in ’85 and saw them, and I was like, “Fuck.” They were just so fuckin’ good. They were worlds better than other bands like ourselves at the time. They were just more talented and better writers. I just remember when we were rehearsing at that one dump, they came driving up in this beat-up old car, and all of ‘em got out of the car at the same time. I was like, “They look like a band. These guys look fuckin’ cool, and they look like they were all meant to be in that band.” I think Axl came to tell us we were doing that show or somethin’ with ‘em. They were great. They were so good.
The Best Cathouse in Town
Founded by Taime Downe and Riki Rachtman, Cathouse officially launched on Sept. 23, 1986, inside the legendary Osko’s Disco, before the club’s deterioration prompted a move to its famed location on 836 North Highland Avenue.
Well, Riki [Rachtman] was my roommate. Riki was a club promoter in terms of doing a dance club. Like, he played dance music – it wasn’t rock – but he’d occasionally slip an ACϟDC song in there. So, we were roommates, and we decided to do a rock club together just so we could throw a party without having to clean it up and whatnot. That was it. My friend Joseph [Brooks] was the DJ, so we all did it together and it just took off. It was the place to be. It was just a cool hang. It was a rock ‘n’ roll dance club. I think the first thing we did there was like a GNR acoustic thing; it was for like the Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide EP release, I think. [The Cathouse] was part of the whole scene. It helped everybody because it was a meeting place for every fuckin’ thing. And then everybody that came there, even if you weren’t an L.A. band, bands came through. Even later, we had, like, Mookie Blalock; Alice Cooper played the fuckin’ Cathouse. You got fuckin’ Guns N’ Roses…
So, two nights after, Vicky called me with Greg and Taime on the line and said, “Can you fill in for a while?” It was a Tuesday night, and it’s funny, because the Cathouse had just opened two weeks prior, and it was on Tuesday nights. So, they said, “Would you be able to come down and rehearse with us tonight?” And I said, “Yeah.” And so, at that time, they were rehearsing at – I forgot the name, I think it was called Fortress – but it was this little rehearsal studio on Hollywood Blvd and Highland, and that’s when I did my first rehearsal with them. It was that night that I got the call. Rehearsal went really good, and the songs sounded really good, and I remember after we were done rehearsing them all going, “Hey, so, you wanna go out with us?” And I’m like, “Yeah, sure. Where are you guys going?” And they’re like, “Like two weeks ago, we just opened this club called Cathouse. It’s brand new, and it’s kind of slowly starting to pick up a following, and we’re gonna all go over there and hang out. You wanna come and hang out and have some drinks?” So, I was like, “Yeah, totally.” So, we went to Cathouse and hung out and started getting to know each other.
I was the club promotor. I threw the fuckin’ party; it wasn’t Faster Pussycat. Well, it was in the sense that it was my club, you know what I mean? I created it; me and Riki created it. It was our hang, and everybody was our guests. That’s where everybody wanted to go when they got to L.A. The word spread. It was just fun; it was just tons of hot chicks, all the bands were there, all the strippers. It was a party. We had a line down the street. People wanted to play it, but we’re like, “It’s not a live venue.” Later, down the road, we’d bring in a stage, like maybe every couple of months, and have someone play. And by that time, I wasn’t really doing it that much because we were so busy touring and shit. We’d get so many offers, “We gotta play your club!” We’re like, “It’s a dance club.” And the shows we’d do would be unannounced; they’d be leaked out that day like on KNAC.
Making Their Mark on the Sunset Strip
A fast-rising band stands apart from its contemporaries and cultivates a devoted following.
It went pretty quick. A lot of the factor was, too, a lot of our early shows – we did a show with Poison and Andy McCoy’s Cherry Bombz early – it was probably like our third gig. And like our fourth gig was opening up for GNR at The Whisky – the re-opening of the Whisky. The Whisky had been closed for – fuck, I don’t know, a decade – so they reopened the Whisky, and we played with GNR. Plus, Izzy was my first friend in L.A. when I moved down there. Izzy would always come up on stage. We went to Europe with GNR back on our first record, I think it was right when Appetite came out. We went over with them on like a seven-date tour.
It actually happened pretty quickly. Back then, it was really competitive and there were a lot of bands, but some of the bands didn’t really stand out. They’d start out getting Tuesday night gigs, and maybe they would get a little better after six months and start playing Wednesday nights or whatever. But then there were those bands, for whatever reason, it could be that they were musically really great, like Guns N’ Roses, or it could be like Faster Pussycat, where they had something really cool about them. Faster was never the musical giants that GNR were, necessarily, but Faster had a really excellent, cool vibe about them; they were like a real cross between The Stones and The Dolls. So, between just being a cool band and word getting out and building a following really quickly – and the fact that we kind of were the hosts of this new, Tuesday night club called Cathouse that was growing, and growing, and growing each week — Faster Pussycat kind of all of a sudden was starting to become one of the bands that everybody wanted to be seen with. Everybody wanted to go to the shows, and it was always a really big event when we played. We didn’t have to work at making it a happening; it just became a happening. People just took on it right away, dug it, and wanted to be a part of it.
Individually, we weren’t all super great musicians; we were all green. But when we came together as a band, the chemistry of our band somehow worked, I thought, really well. Our little part that we brought by itself might not have been that big, but it fit just right.
Flyer Wars on Sunset
The incessant jostling for promotion on Sunset Boulevard manifests itself as flyer wars between bands seeking to gain a competitive advantage.
We were lucky because Taime worked at The Troubadour and he worked at Retail Slut, so we had all day long to promote. The people that came into Taime’s store, because it was like a rock ‘n’ roll store, were all rock ‘n’ roll people from Hollywood. If they weren’t from Hollywood, they were close enough, because they were there shopping. They were like from the city or two over; not too far away. Even people from Orange County, California would probably come up, but it wasn’t too far. During the day, we were at Retail Slut, and we’d hand out flyers. I could remember that. I’d be with [Taime] and we’d be like, “Hey, what are you doing this Friday? Come to our show!” And then at night, we’d rehearse, and then we’d go, “Hey, Guns N’ Roses are playing at The Troubadour, let’s go down and flyer the front.” So, we’d go in the front of The Troubadour and kids were hanging out, and we’d hand out our flyers. We’d take a band photo shoot, and we’d basically put the flyer together and then just run copies. We’d get pink paper or something, and we’d run Xerox copies of it, and we’d just hand out flyers.
The flyers weren’t flyers of today, like little corner pages. They were a full-on, big ‘ol sheet of paper, printed up with your fuckin’ mug or your band logo on it – or both – and this town would just be plastered everywhere. Then you have all the poles and they would glue it up on all the telephone poles and streetlight poles, going over everybody else’s shit. Some would be out there at five in the morning when it’s still dark. Yeah, it was crazy. Poison was the king of that. They’d have so many of their minions doing their shit for them, just all over; in the Valley, in Hollywood. Every time, you would turn around and go, “Oh, shit,” and see those fuckin’ turquoise and pink fuckin’ flyers from the face level all the way up – like ten feet up. It’s like, “How the fuck did they get up there?” I have no idea. It would be on the side of a truck and the ladder, who knows? Slop that paste and slap ‘em on there. We never really fuckin’ flyered over anybody else’s shit, unless it was stuff that you knew was up there for a while. Then we’d go, “Okay, they had their turn.” But if something was fresh, we didn’t do that. But there were bands that did that, and there would be other bands that got pissed.
There were some bands that were more into the flyer thing. Like, Warrant was always going out and flyering, and Poison was always going out and flyering, and they would go out and flyer over your flyers and whatnot. We weren’t really into doing that, because a lot of times, to go out and do those flyer wars and flyer over other band’s flyers, you’d have to go out at like three in the morning. So, for us, flyers were more of a way to meet chicks. We would just kind of hang out on the Sunset Strip; we’d each grab a hundred flyers and we would just stand in front of The Rainbow [Bar & Grill] out on the Sunset Strip, and when a pretty chick would come by, we’d hand her a flyer and say, “Hey, come to our show.” So, for us, and some of the other bands that I knew, it was more of like a pickup line or something, like, “Here’s our flyer. Come and check out the band.” And they would see this cool-looking band and be like, “Oh, yeah. We’ll definitely be there.” Next thing you know, you’re getting their number or going home with them.
Oh, it was crazy. I mean, we’d go out every night. At that time, you practiced, and then just go out and paste flyers over other people’s flyers, and then they’d paste them over yours, and then we’d go to shows and hand them out. I mean, Taime was quite the go-getter, he knew a lot of people, so we got good opening slots, like with Guns N’ Roses; he was good friends with them, so they were like “We want these guys to open.” Vicky wasn’t our manager at the time – she was their manager – and she’s like, “I don’t even know who these guys are,” and Axl’s like, “I don’t give a shit. They’re playing with us.” So, we got good shows right off the bat, so we were playing to good crowds right away. It helped us a lot.
Faster Pussycat: Elektra Recording Artists
In overcoming misfortune and initial skepticism, a band few believed in secures a record deal.
There wasn’t really a showcase, it was just that we were playing clubs a lot. Our manager, Vicky Hamilton, was good friends with a guy named Peter Philbin, who was the A&R guy at Elektra, and she came and said, “Oh, Peter’s gonna come to you with some different record labels.” And he was like, “Yeah, they’re OK. They’re not ready.” And then we played more shows, and the more shows we played, he’d come back and say, “You guys are getting better and getting better,” because we were pretty sloppy. And then he was gonna bring the head of A&R out – we had a show in Arizona, and the head of A&R came out – and I think everybody in the band was fucked up. It was horrible. So, I think at the time they were gonna sign us for like $75,000, which is really not much, and after that Arizona show, they were just like, “These guys are horrible,” and they ended up only giving us like $30,000. That’s why the album sounds the way it does; we had no money to do the album. At that time, bands were getting a couple hundred thousand to do their albums, so they really had good-sounding albums. Our album was basically made as a demo tape.
Peter Philbin became involved early. I mean, we were months old. Like, three months old. We started getting managed by Vicky Hamilton, and she managed Mötley and Guns N’ Roses prior to us. She was local, in the hood, and was friends with other friends. So, we just kind of went the path. Vicky helped get Peter in the mix. And we like even fucked up shit. We did a gig that was so bad, and it necessarily wasn’t even our fault; it was like the club. We did a gig in Arizona, I remember. I remember we had a deal in order, and I think we lost, like, twenty-five grand off the deal because we were so shit. That’s what I’ve been told, but I’ll believe it. Everything was going so fast that it didn’t even matter.
Elektra was ready to sign us, basically. They even flew in New York record company people into Phoenix to see us play. Stupid idea, because we played on a weeknight in Phoenix; we were a Hollywood weekend band. We weren’t like an out-of-town, weekday band. If you don’t see the screaming fans, and you don’t see us on Sunset Strip – and you don’t see it sold-out – you don’t get the magic, you know what I mean? So, [Elektra Records] came into Phoenix, and our probably $100,000, maybe $200,000 – whatever they were thinking, probably a quarter-of-a-million record deal – probably turned into like $50,000. So, $250,000 probably turned into like $50,000. They basically told the guy, “We don’t see what you’re seeing with this band.” And of course, because we’re playing a school night in Phoenix, and the club’s maybe a quarter filled; nobody’s there. It wasn’t a great show of ours. We really weren’t about the music; so, if you’re coming just to hear the music and see us, it wasn’t about that. It was us performing for a live crowd. You can’t do that if there are no crowds.
So, when we were ready to get signed, Peter Philbin, the Elektra Records guy, brought us into the office. He said, “Look, guys. We were gonna give you X-amount of money. To tell you the truth, I believe in you guys, but the New York executives at the label, they don’t get it and they don’t wanna put the money up.” So, it’s like, “This is what I got for you. Take it or leave it.” It was disappointing a little bit, but at the same time, it’s like, “We get a record deal?!” Now here’s why we were lucky; because they didn’t give us a ton of money, they left us alone. They didn’t come in and try to change us. They basically said, “Go record ‘em. Here’s a little bit of money – just enough, probably, to record ‘em – and let’s see what happens.” But nobody cared enough to try to come in and make sure we had hit songs.
Ric Browde [producer]:
A mutual friend named Karen Dumont, who was Doc McGhee’s assistant told me about the band and the Cathouse. She gave me a demo they had done – and the song that stuck out from the demo was very long and needed quite a bit of rearranging “No Room For Emotion.” I liked the band’s sloppy energy, thought they needed help with their arranging and lyrics, all of which were what I things I could help them with, and so I asked Taime if he wanted to work with me.
[Ric] was in the mix kind of from the beginning. He had done Poison’s record, and I was good friends with Rikki Rockett – and through Vicky Hamilton – and Ric was cool. Ric was a nice guy, he was funny, and cracked us up. He was very instrumental, in fact, I think part of the fuckin’ gig in Phoenix that fucked up our shit, Ric got into cahoots with Vicky and Peter Philbin in terms of, “We can do a record with this. We don’t need to go spend a stupid fuckin’ amount of money to do a record with these kids.” Brent wasn’t even twenty; I’d just turned twenty-one. It was fuckin’ crazy. So, Ric had an intricate part with Peter Philbin, going, “We can sign these guys for nothin’ and see what they do.” You know, Peter was a fan of the band; I’m pretty sure he wanted us to get a lot better than we were, but we did on Wake Me [When It’s Over]. We grew a little bit, but we were just kids, you know what I mean? They were so behind us. We even outlasted Peter, I think; they let Peter go but kept us. Ric, I think, helped us get our deal. He was just as important as Vicky – and just as important as our music.
Elektra’s west coast A&R person, Peter Philbin, wanted to give them a demo deal for $35,000. I had recently recorded the hairtosser band, Poison, whose entire budget was $23,000. I told Philbin if he gave me $35,000, I’d deliver him an entire album. He didn’t believe that it was possible so he gave me $50,000 and said I could keep what I didn’t spend. but would have to pay for any overages out of my own pocket. The album ended up costing just under $35,000.
Ah yes, the Arizona gig! Possibly their worst show ever. Spent the night telling Peter Philbin, Howard Thompson, and Bob Skoro (all A&R people who were at the show) that it was a bad night, but the band was really good! Ric Browde was instrumental in getting them signed to Elektra, as he told Peter Philbin that he could make a full record for $35,000 and did it! Ric was coming off a successful Poison record, so Peter was willing to take the gamble.
Before any album, I rehearse the band and go over arrangements with them, as at the time it would have been far too expensive to do that in the studio. I knew none of them were great musicians per se, but I wanted the exciting raucous feel that they had (the band had only played six gigs when I signed them) to translate onto vinyl (they sold records back then).
Recording At Amigo
A young band records its debut album at the storied Amigo Studios in North Hollywood.
I don’t believe I have a one size fits all style. I’m most known for my low-budget work with Poison and Faster Pussycat, but I also did a few adequately budgeted albums, such as Joan Jett’s Up Your Alley, and the Dogs D’Amour Straight album, and two unsuccessful, but outstanding albums with Flies On Fire. There were three reasons I chose Amigo:
- I was able to get the studio dirt cheap ($700 per day with a lockout).
- I had already recorded or mixed three albums there.
- Amigo had free arcade video games that could keep the band busy and out of my hair (or lack thereof) when they weren’t recording their parts.
Michael Wagener was fuckin’ right next door. I remember them having a Tempest machine and Frogger in there, and there were some funky little rooms. It was a Warner Bros. studio back then, and it’s gone now. They did a bunch of stuff in the Valley out there where it was. It was really close to where we used to rehearse; we actually went back to rehearsing there, too, at Mates. Yeah, Amigo, it was cool. Ron Keel was doing, I don’t know if it was a Steeler record, if Ron was playing with someone else, or if it was just Keel. There were a bunch of different people coming in and out because Michael Wagener is friends with everybody. He’s just a good guy, so if he’s in town doing something, everybody’s poppin’ by. So, we got to meet a lot of people just hanging out and doing our shit. I’d go down there during basics because you never know who’s gonna pop in and out. We were all kids then, too, so it’s all like, “Whoa! Cool! So-and-so is here.”
The Bare Necessities
Brent, Greg, and Eric describe the gear they used to make the album, which was restricted by their resources at the time.
I had one guitar and I had one amp. As I said, we were a raw band. I was playing in punk bands before, so I was just like, “Guitar cord into an amp, and maybe you’d have a distortion pedal.” Your amp should make a distortion; if your amp doesn’t, maybe you get a distortion pedal. Maybe a tuner, but not even a tuner, probably; they probably had a tuner separate back then. A lot of times, we were plugging straight into the amp. Just, like, nothing ya know? People are always like, “What kind of pedal did you have?” … “I mean, I plugged straight into the amp. My amp’s modified, I can turn up the gain and get some distortion, and my Marshall sounds good because it’s tubes, but it probably sounds weird because the tubes probably should have been changed six months ago.” [Laughs]. But we didn’t have a bunch of money to get new tubes; we didn’t have money to get guitars. It was like, it is what it is.
My black Les Paul that I still have. I think that’s all I used. And I think I had a 50-watt [head] Marshall with one speaker cabinet in my Les Paul.
The bass I used to record that record was a black Spector. It was the same one that Nikki [Sixx] has on – I think it’s the “Girls Girls Girls” video – where he does a bunch of shoulder rolls down the stage and he’s got the black Spector on. It was that same bass. He ended up giving me that bass after the record was over, and I ended up taking it on tour. It had a bumper sticker that he actually put on, and I left it on for the whole tour; it was a bumper sticker that said: A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste. That was the main bass on the record.
The Magic of Simplicity
In spite of a simplistic production approach and a truncated budget, the band’s inherent essence and aura are sublimely captured.
[It was] just real basic, “Plug in, one fuckin’ amp.” I don’t even know if I changed the tubes in the amp; we really had no money. Like, I didn’t know it at the time but doing the other records that we did, we would go in, we changed everything in our equipment, and we rented different amps so that I could blend amps together to make a guitar sound so that what you’re hearing isn’t just one guitar through an amp and that’s it. Except that first album was like that; all the other albums we used three different amps. I’d record the song four or five times with different sounds to blend to make it sound like one guitar, and Brent would do the same, and then we’d add overdubs.
[That first album], I think we just went in with the equipment that we had at the time and went in and just tracked it as a band, without Taime singing. The band would go in the studio, we’d mic everything up and record it – and then I’m not sure about that album – but the band would play together until we came up with a good take, just trying to get the drums sorted out. Once the drums were done, then we’d come in and Eric would do the bass, and then I’d come and do my guitar parts and just overdub those on top of what we already did. Because when we recorded as a band, we were just trying to get the sound of the drums more than anything. We played together – we didn’t just have [Mark] play drums by himself – we would record as a band. Some of the stuff we would end up keeping if it sounded good, like guitar-wise and stuff like that, but just separate them and fill in later. Just mic up the guitar and play to what I already played.
We were in and out of there like bing, bang, boom. I mean, we just went in and played, and we were done. What you hear, it wasn’t super intricate; it was like, “This is my one Marshall, and it needs new tubes, but this is what it sounds like when we play live.” So, when you hear the record, you hear amps that the tubes are about to blow. [Laughs].
Honestly, I think to this day, far too much attention is paid by engineers and producers to the sound of the instruments – and watching meters. My philosophy is to pay less regard to the technical stuff and instead capture the energy and not worry about mistakes that only producer nerds or musicians hear. The people who bought records in those days wanted excitement that accompanied pictures and videos of a band they wanted to either have sex with or look like.
Song Origins: “Babylon”
That was a bunch of my friends, like Matt Dike from Delicious Vinyl and shit. You know, we were good friends with all those people, too; Def Jam and Rick Rubin. Those guys had come out to L.A. – they’re all a bunch of New York people – and we got to be friends through clubs and different shit and through other mutual friends that I had out here. So, we had fun with them. They helped me put the idea together; we just kinda did a little L.A. Beastie Boys rock mix-up with it. It was fun. Like I said, we were at Amigo, and Ric came in and did scratching, Mitch [Perry] came in and did a crazy lead. We didn’t know we were gonna use it; Ric was like, “You want Mitch to come in and do a lead?” Because he was playing with another one of our friends at that time, too. But that was cool; that just came about. And Brent did the “Pussycat!” That was our first sampling shit back in the day. Ran that thing into the sampler and did some shit. Like I said, when we did that, we were all kids. So, everything was new to us.
At the time, I was the youngest guy in the band, so I was a kid. I would just do crazy stuff. Like, I’d be on stage, and I would just start rapping or yelling or screaming stuff out. I was just like a kid, literally. I mean, I was pretty much a high school kid. So, I just remember I’d yell stuff when I’d be playing. I think in the studio, we were doing something, and I just went, “Pussycat!” Just yelled it in my regular voice, and I think Ric Browde just kind of tweaked it, sped it up, or did something — tweaked the pitch for it — and then did something where it goes, “P-P-P” and made it do that rapping, kind of scratching thing or something.
“Babylon” sucked big time as a raw track. The band wanted to emulate the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right (To Party).” At the time, I never had sampled anything as a producer, as it was new technology to me. We were lent a sampler/delay and I started playing around with it. I took Brent’s vocal from the track where he said/rapped “Faster Pussycat” and played around with the sampler – and created the “Pussy Pussy Pussy Pussycat” sample that is used throughout the song. It took the song from banal white boy rap garbage to a different level and helped create the band’s identity.
The only thing I remember was being in the actual studio and coming up with the lyrics together. The actual music of it? I have no recollection. Like, “Don’t Change That Song,” I wrote pre-production. I remember writing that and sitting and doing music for that and stuff, and then Taime would later do the lyrics. A lot of times back then, Taime didn’t really have set lyrics, so live, he’d just sing whatever; like nothing that became those songs. Just kind of mumbled or whatever through it. “Babylon,” I remember us coming up with the lyrics in the studio, I do remember that. There was a room next to where we were recording, and we just went in there and started writing.
The really crazy guitar solo on “Babylon” was actually Mitch Perry. He played with Michael Schenker and stuff, and I had known him since the 70s, back in The Starwood days. He was friends with Ric Browde, our producer, and so Ric needed like some really crazy guitar outro solo, and Brent wasn’t quite that good back then. So, Mitch came down, listened to the song once, and just knocked out this amazing solo in one take. Everyone was like, “Oh my God,” and I remember Brent was like, “Holy shit, I have to learn that to play it every night!” Which he did, and it made Brent a better guitar player. So, that was really cool, too.
Mitch Perry [guitarist]:
I remember loaning my blue Charvel Strat to Ric Browde so Brent could use it whilst recording. There was a big ding on the guitar (there still is, actually!) that Ric convinced Brent was his fault, and I remember we had a laugh seeing the relief in Brent’s face when he found out he wasn’t the guilty party! I remember finishing the solo fairly quickly, it was a great track, and therefore pretty comfortable to play with. I’m really glad I got to be a small part of this record, and I’m really proud of what Taime and the guys accomplished with it!
Song Origins: “Bathroom Wall”
It was kind of a play on shit. We started doing the Cathouse and stuff – even before that – it was a line out of a movie. Then we went in to do the Cathouse, too – the original Cathouse – and their bathroom there was just fuckin’ ridiculous. It was covered in everything. Just all it was was phone numbers and shit talk. It was just funny. Then we were just hummin’ shit and it turned into a fuckin’ song. I have no idea. It was like, “Really? We’re gonna do this? OK.” It’s just a blues beat with the mind of that fuckin’ crazy bathroom at the Cathouse.
Song Origins: “Don’t Change That Song”
Right when we were doing pre-production for the record, we were doing a song called “Venus” by Shocking Blue, and right when we were in pre-production – we were going into the studio the next week – and fuckin’ Bananarama comes out with that fuckin’ cover. And we were doing it in the club days; like when we first started Faster, that was a song that we started doing. I wanted to do it before, in the Bondage Boys up in Seattle, but I didn’t get around to it because I left and came down to L.A. But right there, we had ten songs, and we knew that was out. So, we wrote “Don’t Change That Song” in like an hour or so, put it together, then I went home and wrote the lyrics and came back to rehearsal. We rehearsed it a few times, and that was the last one for the first record.
Record Release Party
Faster Pussycat’s highly anticipated record release party was held inside Osko’s Disco, the site of the original Cathouse, located at 333 South La Cienega Blvd.
It was at Osko’s before we moved it over because I remember Gene Simmons being there. We just did a gig, and it was off the hook. It was one of the last nights at Osko’s before we moved; I think we moved it when we went on the road because it was falling down. It was the club that did Thank God It’s Friday. A big disco in Los Angeles. That was the building where we did the first Cathouse, and then we moved it when it was being condemned. So, it was cool; it had all these secret rooms and shit. We did our record release party there. That was the same place that we did that acoustic thing with GNR. Those were the two craziest nights at that club.
Greg reflects on the band’s first tour.
I grew up an Alice Cooper fanatic, so playing with him was great. His crowd was older, though, so it was kind of like, “Who are these glam guys?” And they’d throw shit at us, and fights, and stuff like that. The David Lee Roth crowd was a little bit younger, I think, so that was a fun tour. On the Alice tour, we had Motörhead playing, too, so that was cool. But I know we’d come home for bits of time in between the tours, and that’s when I wrote “House of Pain.” I have a videotape of us driving on the David Lee Roth tour, on our bus, and I’m playing “House of Pain.” We had done it as a demo; it didn’t have any lyrics, but just the music of it. And we’d go in and do demos when we’d come home, and then go back out with somebody. We were always writing. It was great back then; that’s when touring was touring. I mean, now, people are like, “I’m doing a world tour,” and it lasts like five weeks. Ours was like eight months here, six months there.
Taking a look back at the first album, the band offers some thoughts.
There were a couple of things that really stood out. One of the things that really stood out that was really neat was it was like the first time where we all kind of realized at the time, “Hey, you know what? We really have a chance to be rock stars. We’re in a Warner Bros. studio with a major label, spending a lot of money, paying to do a record with us,” and not many bands were that far along and had that chance. So, it was really cool every night when you drive to the studio, you knew, “You know what? There’s a lot of bands that would kill to be in our spot that aren’t. And we are.” And it just felt really cool to be like, “This is our job now. We’re getting paid to do it. Our rent’s being paid. We’re professional musicians.” So, that feeling of like, “We’re actually making a record,” and also, that feeling of, “We’re making a record and this record is gonna be around a long time after we’re dead.” That feeling of leaving something for eternity was really bitchin’. It felt really cool, like, “You know what? No matter how long we’re on this planet, this record’s always gonna outlive us and be around forever.”
The magic of our first record, I think, is when you hear it, you hear what the Sunset Strip sounded like in 1985 and ‘86. You hear it. Nobody came in and changed anything. Nobody said, “You gotta write a hit song. We need a ballad.” Nobody brought in a songwriter. It was like, what you hear is what you saw on the Strip.
I know a lot of people, and I understand, like the first album because it’s just raw, and you hear me, before “Ship Rolls In” turning up my guitar. All that kind of stuff is cool and was just left in there because that’s just the way it was for us. More punk-sounding, rawer, and not very polished at all. I look at it as like a demo tape, really.
My blueprint vision was just catchy songs. I didn’t wanna be pretentious in any way. You look back at some of the shit now – ‘cause I’ve been doing that a lot, gathering shit because it’s been so many years – and it was just like, “Jesus, what the fuck was I wearin’ there?” It’s like, “What was I thinking?” But it’s what you do when you’re a kid. I just wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll; I didn’t really give a fuck what anybody thought.
When we put the record out, we got a new manager who knew how to get us on tour and knew how to put us to work. He didn’t care. He knew, like, “You guys are new, you gotta go out and work and get out there.” He didn’t care who we opened for, he just was like, “Tour, tour, tour.” You have a day off? Go play a club by yourself. You have a day off? Go do a radio station. I mean, we worked. So, like, after a year of being out, man, you’re out every day; you’re at record stores signing autographs, and you’re at radio stations, and you’re opening up for Alice Cooper – and then on the Alice Cooper off night, you’re playing a little dinky club in Chicago or something somewhere or Seattle, Washington – and you’re starting to get in magazines. So, we worked, and worked, and worked. I mean, that first album, every single record sale or CD sale, I would say we worked to sell it. So, I can remember the big thing that helped is that Elektra was going, “We’re fuckin’ actually making a profit off this band? The band we didn’t believe in is actually making a profit and selling records?” So, it insured us to have a tiny bit of a chance to make a couple more records.
A Landmark Album Remembered
While the individual paths of each band member have differed, their first album will remain a unified memory. In celebration of 35 years since Faster Pussycat’s self-titled debut album, Eric, Vicky, Greg, Brent, and Taime offer their final thoughts.
I will say, the one thing about the first record that’s really cool is that it may not have the songwriting maturity of the other two, and the band was just starting out, but it captures a time a Hollywood that came and went. A lot of bands tried to recreate that, and that feeling, and that scene, and some people still do it to this day – they hang out at The Rainbow thinking that it’s still 1987 – but when you listen to songs like “Cathouse,” and “Smash Alley,” and “No Room For Emotion,” they really do a good job of capturing the feel of the Sunset Strip glam rock sound of the mid-80s in L.A.
Also, I’ll say that a good friend of mine, this girl named Bekka Bramlett, her parents are really well-known; in the 60s music scene, they were called Delany & Bonnie, and they were a very, very famous American R&B rock duo. In their touring band, Eric Clapton was in their band, and George Harrison would come tour with them, Leon Russell. But they had a little girl named Bekka, and Bekka Bramlett is the one that came in and sang backup vocals on the first record as well as the second record. So, that was a really cool thing, too, just seeing my friend Bekka coming in and singing on our record. I thought that was pretty cool, as well.
Gosh, I think it would be how proud I was of them when they played Cathouse and announced that they got a major deal. Also, there was a great photo shoot they did with Janis Garza. That was a fun day!
I think just for the first time, getting a tour bus and going on tour, and playing shows, and getting to play arenas. All I ever wanted to do was do music and go play in an arena, whether it was me headlining or opening. But at that time, you’re always looking ahead; you’re not really thinking, “Oh, that’s great.” For me, it was always gonna end the next day. I was worried that someone in the band would die, and they wouldn’t release the first album – because I think there was like five or six months between recording the first album and it coming out – and it was like, “God, I just wanna get it out, so it’s out.” You know what I mean? So, I think it’s just coming out, and doing all that stuff for the first time – doing in-stores, and interviews, and playing shows with people that I grew up idolizing. The whole two years, everything was new, so, it was like, “Oh, man. This is awesome.” It was exciting. It was cool.
Probably touring. Touring saved me. We had a small record deal, so there was no money. When other bands got record deals, they got money to spend and stuff. We got nothing. When I was recording, I was living in Hollywood in a one-room, one-bathroom – I don’t know – studio-type of apartment. It had roaches in it, and I think I was living with, like, three or four guys. We were all just sleeping on the floor. It was gross. So, when I got to tour, it saved me from living in squalor in Hollywood. I was so happy to have my own bunk and clean clothes. And when you go on tour, in some ways, you’re treated like a rock star. You’re going out, and people are happy to see you. You have a backstage pass, and people are opening doors for you. You know, if you’re opening up for a big band like Mötley Crüe, KISS, or Alice Cooper, you have food backstage. You have a hotel room, then, all of a sudden, there are girls everywhere. It was like, “This is the life.” [Laughs]. To tell you the truth, when you become like a rock star, it’s such a high that it’s hard to give that up.
[Also], after our first record came out, driving down Sunset Boulevard and hearing it on the radio for the first time. Or hearing some girls driving alongside you, and they’re blasting your record. For me, hearing it on the radio was just like, “Wow.” And I could remember, during the first record, we’re somewhere, like, Denver, Colorado, getting off the bus, and girls would pull up and they just got the music blasting out of their car. It’s just the best feeling, like, “Wow, people are getting off on something you made and just loving it.”
Everything was new. Everything was just a new adventure. It was just going to the record company office for the first time. Raiding Elektra’s record closet and bringing home a bag of free stuff. Just the whole excitement. When I think of that record, I don’t think of all the songs on it, I don’t think of all the people that pull all the shit together to do it – which is very cool – I just think of the excitement of doing something like that for the first time. You can’t ever duplicate it.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is the Senior Editor for vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.