The Gauntlet: What have you been up to?
Jeff: I'm sure you know Universal Digital
has a new download label that they signed me to. I was able to release some of my more obscure and collaborative efforts through them. I am also working with a guy named Jeremy Colson. He is Steve Vai's drummer and he has worked with Satriani. We also played together on a Michael Schenker record. He lives right by me near San Francisco. I have a killer drum set in my home studio and we are just knocking out some pretty aggressive tracks.
The Gauntlet: So will this material be released as your solo work?
Jeff: Yeah, I haven't put out an instrumental record in quite some time and I have a lot of backlog of material that I want to get recorded. It is just coincidental that Jeremy is home from the road as Vai isn't going out for a while. My old bass player, Dan Webster, is helping us three-piece this. It's just great. We are using Taye Drums. They are a Canadian drum company. They are just brilliant. They placed a set of drums in the studio and we got it all mic'd up and they are just fantastic. They were made by this guy Ray Ayotte. He started running this company. The drums are like DW, really thin maple shell but more clever hardware. They sound fantastic. I happen to have a great drum room in my studio and people come to my studio just to cut the drums.
The Gauntlet: Will you be bringing in anyone for vocals for this material?
Jeff: This is just going to be an instrumental project. My other project I have on the side is called Mathers Army. This is myself, Joe Lynn Turner on vocals, Bob Daisley, and Aynsley Dunbar. We have done three albums and have a forth in the can. We need to just get everyone together and cut it.
The Gauntlet: That's great. Sounds like the creative juices are flowing.
Jeff: That's one of the things. I wake up, get my metronome going, watch some political news, practice for a couple hours and get ready to start recording. This drummer Jeremy Colson is so aggressive. It's exciting writing these bits and pieces when we get him in to cut. We didn't have that type of freedom with the Night ranger brand. This harkens back to my heavier days. I was looking at your website and getting off at what you got going on here.
The Gauntlet: Do you stay current with what is happening with some of the heavier bands today?
Jeff: If I was listening to a lot of stuff, I would be listening to that. If not that, some real great played bluegrass. Some of the best players ended up in Nashville. I respect great mandolin playing and banjo. I grew up on bluegrass, so it's either metal or bluegrass for me.
The Gauntlet: You can play in a folk metal band and get your bluegrass fix.
Jeff: Bluegrass music from the US is a well recognized musical form. If I listened to a lot, I would be listening to the heavy stuff or bluegrass. But let me tell you something. I have not listened to much in so long. I have over 90 pieces I still have yet to record. So I really don't spend a lot of time listening to music. I have to get this out of me while it's formulating. What do you think of all this with another Kennedy getting busted.
The Gauntlet: Too early for me. I hate when bartenders come forward for their 15 minutes and that is clouding my judgment.
Jeff: It's gotta be hard for them living in the shadows of the Kennedy's. When I was twelve, I was in the back of my dads dodge pickup truck making a speech with Bobby Kennedy and Governor Brown. I got to tell everyone to vote for Bobby a week before he was shot. It was up a Sacramento College. I was too young to appreciate these things, but it was pretty wild shit. My father is still very active in staying up on everything. He does consulting. He has subscribed me to Foreign Affairs Magazine, The Wilson Quarterly and the Washington Spectator. I stay pretty current. I try to be up on everything, especially for a rocker.
The Gauntlet: I can't wait to hear your next album with all these political influences.
Jeff: [laughs] Yeah…this lick was influenced by Kennedy's son! I tend to separate those to pretty efficiently. I don't let it creep into my music too much. I write very emotionally, but generally it's about things that please me. I don't have a tendency to write negative music. I just did a track called "Squirrels and Kerosene". It's really up tempo.
The Gauntlet: So is it like Rebel Meets Rebel? They are basically Pantera with David Allan Coe on vocals. It's Nashville meets metal with great guitar riffs.
Jeff: I haven't heard of them.
The Gauntlet: Sales are awesome for it. I read first week sales were close to 40,000 Soundscan. The music is great. What do you think of Universal's new download label?
Jeff: They have some fabulous people working there. There are great people there and that makes all the difference. When you have the human connection in any business, it's destined to be more successful.
The Gauntlet: That's why I like this. Universal didn't pick a couple interns to make a digital label. They selected music industry veterans who know the music business first.
Jeff: I agree with you. The business is changing to dramatically and so quickly. We were having a discussion last night about what's going to happen to CD's and record stores. Do you think they will go the way of vinyl?
The Gauntlet: I haven't been the biggest fan of CD's from the start. I have a SACD player now, but none of my promo copies I get from the labels are enhanced with SACD technology.
Jeff: So you must hate mp3's.
The Gauntlet: I am on the fence actually. I think the concept is good, but is far to often misused. I don't care for the quality either.
Jeff: Yeah, they suck. The reason you can make a song fit in an email is they take out of the song every piece of music that the program deems unnecessary. They do suck, but it's a great way to show performance. But the sound quality sucks. It should be used for only sharing parts and checking out concepts. Do you know with those iPods and iTunes, you can go into advanced, and import the songs in lostless. It leaves the songs in large files, but leaves the quality intact.
The Gauntlet: How have you been embracing this new download technology for Universal Digital? Do you re-mix anything for the digital formats?
Jeff: I produce and engineer my own stuff. I haven't specifically focused on that. I try to make things sound as best to my ear as possible. I do notice things out there sound a little different once they become downloads. I believe that the ears of the public have become immune and tuned into this technology. I think I'd be displeasing myself if I got too picky about it.
The Gauntlet: How many tracks will be released through the Universal Digital label?
Jeff: They signed me up for some tracks and the people there are great so we'll see how it goes. If it is an equitable arrangement and they are happy with what I am coming up with we'll see what more we can do. I don't know if they are interested in my new instrumental music, but we'll have to get into that when they are in a finished state.
The Gauntlet: The songs being released aren't b-sides or filler material right?
Jeff: No, Absolutely not. They are songs I have done and haven't released. Actually a couple have been released, but only released on obscure labels in Europe. Steve Walsh from Kansas sings on a couple of them and Aaron Hagar, Sammy Hagar's son, sings on one. He does a great job. These are songs that mean a lot to me personally. They are very credible from every aspect but have a lot of meaning to me. I also put on a song called "Your Lips to God", which was written with my friend Alex Call who lives in Nashvile. He wrote that song "8-6-7-5-3-0-9" for Tommy Tutone. I also wrote a song called "Simple Man" about a past relationship about a lady who has a child. It was a chance for me to get some collaborative work out there that I want people to hear. It is another side of me, many sides of the box. That makes me really happy that people can get a chance to listen to.
The Gauntlet: So these songs aren't really something for your fanclub, but are something more for the general populous?
Jeff: Oh yeah. They are absolutely mainstream offerings. It's also the non-aggressive side. It's about the song craft itself. There is some rock stuff in there, but it is the middle to softer stuff on there. I felt it would be great to have some of these songs out there. That is always a quandary for me, how to mix the presentation. I am going through this now. I have all this bluegrass metal, and then some classical guitar. I got to figure how to package it so it's not so diverse it doesn't turn one side of the audience off.
The Gauntlet: Do you see this as the future of releasing music?
Jeff: Absolutely. I think this is the way to release. The download market is going to probably be the final great way for everybody to get out there. I don't know how long record stores are going to be around. I think artwork is one of the things that is missing. I remember getting the albums and opening the sleeves up and the artwork was really extensive. Some of that has been taken away from the audience with the advent of downloads. It's an element that goes hand in hand: visual and audio.
The Gauntlet: This technology is still so new, so hopefully Universal can think of something to counter that.
Jeff: It would be nice to buy a CD that is a double sided CD/DVD. You put it in the DVD player and it shows images that evoke emotions you hear in the songs. You can release things being both visual and audio.
The Gauntlet: I think you are onto something. Maybe go for a more of a Pink Floyd/Lazerium show vibe.
Jeff: Yeah, I better call a camera man.