An Interview with Chris Hager of Rough Cutt

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Photo Credit: Stacey Shell

Like most Rock-influenced teenagers growing up in the 1970s, the source of Chris Hager’s musical roots were Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. However, it wasn’t until the San Diego-based guitarist connected with singer Stephen Pearcy in 1976 that his vision of assembling a band poised for relevance began to come into focus.

A year later, Mickey Ratt was born.

The creative tandem, along with bassist Tim Garcia and drummer John Turner, eventually migrated to Los Angeles in 1980, where they contended with a slew of contemporaries determined to emerge from the depths of a crowded L.A. music scene. After slugging it out in some of the area’s more unassuming venues, Mickey Ratt eventually graduated to Gazzarri’s, a once-prominent nightclub located on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, and became a house band.

As integral as Hager was to the origins of Mickey Ratt, however, the vibrant guitarist left the band in 1981 to pursue other opportunities. When it appeared his latest band appeared to be at a crossroad, Hager was propositioned by Ronnie and Wendy Dio to join Rough Cutt, where he would replace recently departed axe-slinger Jake E. Lee.

I recently spoke with guitarist Chris Hager to discuss the origins of Mickey Ratt, the budding Rock scene in Los Angeles in the 1980s, the rise, fall, and resurgence of Rough Cutt, and more.

Andrew:
What bands do you consider to be your most prominent musical influences?

Chris:
The original Alice Cooper band was probably my biggest. I think Sabbath was right up there; we would listen to tons of Master of Reality, the first record. It was new; it was fresh. Sabbath were the creators of heavy metal, in my opinion; I’d never heard anything like that before. I was also into some [Deep] Purple; Also, I was into some Southern Rock as well, like Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Andrew:
Tell us about the backstory. How did you get into music?

Chris:
Right around 1973, I was heavily listening to rock music. I had this one friend in particular, and we would go over to his house after school – smoke a bunch of weed – he had all the latest Sabbath and Cooper, and we would listen to all that stuff. His name was Mark Alexander, and he also happened to have an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar. He was kind of more into noodling and playing, but man, when I heard that stuff – especially those tones that were coming off those guitars – there was just something that struck a chord and really resonated with me. I could pretty clearly remember thinking, “I wanna do that. I wanna make those sounds myself.” So, that was the genesis of it.

Andrew:
You mentioned the impact Alice Cooper had on you as a young musician. Have you had a chance to catch any recent shows?

Chris:
Recent [being], maybe, three or four years ago or so. When I was out playing with Stephen Pearcy’s band, we did some benefits, and Alice was there, and he got up and played. That was actually when I got to meet him as well and hang out with him a little bit backstage. In fact, I’ve got some great pictures of him and I and Stephen together.

Andrew:
I actually saw Alice live when the band opened for Mötley Crüe maybe six years ago. I was blown away by the band’s performance.

Chris:
Get this – that was my first rock concert; it was the Billion Dollar Babies Tour. It was in an arena. So, I’m sitting there, not knowing what to expect, and all of a sudden, Alice takes the stage, and there’s just this whole theatrical – there’s guillotines, mannequins, all these crazy props, and stuff. That’s the other thing that made an indelible imprint in my mind. I can remember just being high for three days just from the excitement of that concert.

Andrew:
If you could, Chris, take me back to the initial formation of Mickey Ratt.

Chris:
We actually met – Stephen [Pearcy] and I go back even further than that – to about 1976. I was living in South Carolina at the time; we moved back there for like five years, and that’s where I went to high school, started playing, and all that. I came back to San Diego, and I had this one childhood friend, and it turned out that he started playing guitar at the same time I had. He was just doing jam stuff — and I had already been in three bands at the time, so I had played with some better players than me who had helped season me a little bit – so I said, “Look, man, we gotta put a real band together. Do you know any singers?” He said, “Well, I met this one guy named Steve at the boardwalk.” I said, “Well, let’s get him over here!” So, we were just rehearsing in my friend’s garage, just doing covers at the time, and we brought Stephen in. He was just kind of this trippy guy; he was kind of shy, and he came in and stood in the corner. We couldn’t really hear him that well, but we could tell that he could sing; he looked great. The funny thing about it is that he asked me for a ride home, and I said, “Sure.” So, on the way home, he really opened up. He goes, “Man, this could be done.” And I was like, “Man, what are you talking about?” And he’s going, “This could be done, man. We can do this. We could be huge.” I had never heard anybody talk to me like that before, ya know? He definitely had the fire. It was sort of the perfect combination, and so he and I became fast friends. About a year or so later, we broke off, and that’s when he came up with the name Mickey Ratt, which was from a comic book; we just added another ‘T’ to avoid copyright infringement. This Mickey Ratt was sort of the antithesis of Mickey Mouse, right? He was sort of this dope-smoking, womanizing, beer-drinking glut. It was sort of funny because there were a few parallels there! [Laughs].

So, we started doing the rounds in San Diego, and we became the house band at some of the San Diego venues. But the thing about San Diego was, even though it’s only 120 miles from L.A., it’s like two different universes. Culturally, it is really lacking down there, and I would have to say it still is, especially when it comes to rock music. Basically, Stephen said, “Look, we gotta move to L.A. if we’re gonna get anywhere.” He had been going up there and met Eddie Van Halen and was all fired up. It took him a little while to convince me, but once I decided to do it, there was just no going back. So, we moved into this little garage that was sort of fixed up into a room, and this lady, who was the mother of an old friend of his, was kind enough to put us up in there; we rehearsed in there, we slept in there, we partied in there. That’s when we shortened the name; it was M. Ratt for a while, and then it became Mickey [Ratt], and then it finally became Ratt, which is about the time that I left. It was amazing because we were playing all the clubs that were around at the time in L.A.

Honestly, [the scene] was not actually good for the music we were playing; everybody was still wearing skinny ties. Disco was pretty much gone by then, but that whole new wave thing was still the deal. In fact, I remember this one promoter telling us, “You guys gotta cut your hair,” and it was just bullshit. I’ll tell ya who changed that – it was Mötley Crüe. We’re talking about ’81 when their first EP came out on Leathür Records, and they were a phenomenon from Day 1. I remember their first show at the Whisky, and they changed the game. Then, everybody wanted to look like them; everyone wanted to sound like them. The thing is, is that it just caught on, and record companies started signing everybody that looked and sounded like them. And that’s really how it went down. You already had Van Halen; they had been a few years earlier and were already an international phenomenon by that time. Mötley, they were all from the [Sunset] Strip; their pad was right up from the Whisky. So, them, us, Quiet Riot guys, we were all hanging out on the Strip at the time. So, it was about a year and a half after we moved up there that that change started happening. Then it was like, “Okay, cool. Now we can do something.

Andrew:
Mickey Ratt was coming up during an emerging Rock scene in L.A. What was it like playing the club circuit with your contemporaries?

Chris:
Well, it varied. At first, we had to play some lesser-known places; we had to play with some alternative bands at first. Eventually, there was this club called Gazzarri’s — the place had six stages — and we became one of the house bands there; so, we would play there every other weekend. You’d work your way up to the bigger and better stages as your following got bigger. That’s really, in a way, how we sort of climbed the latter.

In the meantime, we were playing there with – the Sweet brothers were in a band called Roxx Regime, and Great White was Dante Fox. So, you had all these people. After Mötley got signed, basically the next tier of signings was Quiet Riot and guys like them. I’ll never forget the day when those guys got signed because we would all hang out down at the bar at the Troubadour. I remember Carlos [Cavazo], and I think it was Frankie [Benali], coming in and going, “Yeah, man! We got signed!” We were happy for them, but hell, we wanted it, too! We were all cool, and it was a healthy competition.

Since there was no social media back then, it was all about stapling flyers to telephone poles, right? You would have six flyers thick of bands who would come and put their flyers up over the other bands. Stephen and I would drive around like once a week or something like that. We’d take a day – he would drive, I’d hop out with the staple gun, put up the flyer, and hop back into the car.

I remember one time I got popped because that was illegal, defacing public property. Being the irresponsible kid, I was at the time, I never showed up. I think it was just a ticket; I can’t remember. I didn’t pay the ticket; I didn’t show up in court. About six months later, some undercover guy shows up at our door and is like, “Chris Hager?” I’m like, “Yeah?” And they hauled me off and threw me in jail! I got out on my own recognizance, but I was in there for the night, I think. It was like, “Holy shit. I can’t believe this!

Andrew:
Those events took place near the end of your time with Mickey Ratt, so at what point did Jake E. Lee join the band?

Chris:
Well, here’s what happened, basically; I essentially left the band. It was just sort of a difference of opinion musically that we were having. I wanted to do something a little more melodic; the stuff we were doing at the time was kind of heavier. Not that it was bad or anything; I just wanted to do things a little differently. So, basically, I left in late ’81, and Jake came after me; he replaced me in the band. Then there was a whole bunch of other people that went through that band – and this is where you get into the whole musical chairs because a lot of the same guys who were in Rough Cutt were also in Ratt.

Sometimes people ask me, “Man, don’t you ever regret leaving that early?” And I say, “You know, kinda,” but the thing is, you never know; Ratt had a chemistry. With me in there, it would have been different people, and you never know if it would have worked out the way it did. So, the way I look at it, Stephen and I remained great friends. In fact, we got together ten years down the line and recorded a bunch of stuff together. We did some demos and stuff that you can actually buy online on Amazon right now, just demos that we did with drum machines. So, he and I stayed close. Once Rough Cutt got signed, it was cool because Stephen would be out on the road, and then they would come home. Then in the meantime, Rough Cutt would be out, and we would come home. I didn’t really have a place to stay, and Stephen would say, “Hey, man. Pull in over here.” He bought this house in Coldwater Canyon, and it was sort of a mansion type of deal, and we called it the White House. It was all white, and it was like this three-story deal; it was cool. There’s just so many stories of parties and just the craziness that went on there. Eventually, even he had to move out of there! [Laughs]. He moved down south just to get away from it, maybe around ’86 or ’87.

Andrew:
So, you left the band in late 1981. From an outside perspective, how did the band, particularly Stephen, evolve into what we heard and saw on Out of the Cellar?

Chris:
Stephen always had a really keen eye, not only for wardrobe but just what was sort of cool in general; he just had a good eye for that. So, we would go out to second-hand stores, and we’d find all this cool stuff. It was just like, “Wow, this would look great on stage.” We’d get this stuff, and Stephen was pretty handy with stitching stuff up. We made our costumes basically from these stores, stuff that we would get. So, we didn’t look like anybody else. Once Ratt had solidified with the album lineup that everybody came to know as Ratt, that was mostly all Stephen. He had that vision; he called it “Fashion Rock,” which really was a good description. It was this sort of this cool fashion, pirate look; it was really cooler than shit, and nobody else was doing it. But, as I say, I can remember as far back as the San Diego days – hell, there would be nights where we would go up on stage with surgeon outfits on! Just weird shit, ya know? Then other nights, we’d find these cool trench coats and fedoras and all this cool second-hand stuff that we just made work. Stephen, you really have to give him credit; he just had a really good eye for that stuff. That rubbed off on me, so I’ll always be grateful for working with him.

Andrew:
How about the sound? Did the sound that you had during your time with Mickey Ratt translate over to Out of the Cellar, or did it deviate a bit?

Chris:
It did. They got Robbin [Crosby] on guitar, then they got Juan [Croucier]. Robbin was a great songwriter; Juan was a good songwriter and a great background singer. Warren [DeMartini], of course, was an amazing guitar player, one of the most underrated guitar players in rock, I think. So, you just had this undeniable chemistry. It took them – they got passed on a whole bunch of times before they finally got signed by Atlantic, but they had it going on. What they wound up doing was what I wanted to do in the first place.

So, anyway, what I did was, I started this band with this singer that we would play at Gazzarri’s with; he was in a band called Sexist, and his name was Steven St. James. We had this idea to start this band [Sarge] and give sort of an army motif. We had this lady that stitched up all our clothing, and she did a really good job. We went out there, and we wrote really simple songs that had a lot of melody and harmony. Steven was a hell of a frontman, and, by then, I was a fairly decent guitar player; it was just a one-guitar band. We did really well; in fact, I think we would have gotten a deal; we had a speck deal to go in and do a recording. This producer contacted us, and it turns out he was the guy that engineered a couple of the Kansas records, and he was looking for a band like us to produce. This chick said, “I know these guys,” so we were introduced to this guy Brad Aaron. This was my new thing with St. James, Matt Thorne on bass, and we had Khurt Maier on drums at the time – he later went on to play in a band called Salty Dog. So, we got with Brad – it was a real 24-track studio; it was the real deal. It turned out that Barry Gordy from Motown [Records] was sort of scouting the Strip because he was looking to put together this contrived boy band. Basically, Barry Gordy stole [Steven] out from under me. I couldn’t really blame Steven because he’s being offered money and a deal with a major label. Even though they weren’t a rock label, they were still a huge label. It was funny because the guitar player turned out to be Marq Torien [BulletBoys]. So, you could just see all of the branches. It was the hardest call I had to make to our producer.

We were set to go in in two weeks; we had done pre-production already. I just dreaded it because [Brad] was a formidable guy — he was a no-fuck-around guy. It was like, “Oh, shit. This guy’s gonna drop me like a hot potato.” I said, “Brad, I got some bad news, but I got some good news, too.” He goes, “Well, what is it?” I said, “Well, Steven’s left the band. The good news is, I got another singer.” He goes, “Well, okay. Let’s set up an audition, then.” It turns out; this singer was another guy from San Diego named Rob Lamothe [Riverdogs]. Rob came up and did this demo with us and did a great job. So, we finished up this demo, and I think it was a different band. When he heard us, Brad said, “Well, this is a completely different band.” We were like, “What do you mean it’s a different band?” He goes, “Well, it’s not the same band. You’ve got a different singer which makes the vibe completely different. But I like it.

We did the CD, but right around that time is when Jake E. Lee left Rough Cutt for Ozzy. And Claude Schnell [keyboards] was in the band, and of course, he left to go play with Ronnie. Ronnie and Wendy Dio came down to the Troubadour to see us, and afterward, they approached us. It was Paul Shortino, David [Alford], and Craig Goldy in the band at the time. What happened was, they basically propositioned us and said, “Hey, listen; we like you guys. How would you feel about joining up?” We kind of knew the Sarge thing was done. Rob Lamothe had his own aspirations; we knew he wasn’t in it for the long haul, so we sort of jumped on it. Plus, when you’ve got Ronnie Dio telling you that you’re great and that this could be a really great thing – how are you gonna say no to that!?

Andrew:
Where was Rough Cutt’s sound and inspiration derived from?

Chris:
I’d say originally, Ronnie’s music had a big influence on Rough Cutt; the stuff he did in Sabbath and the stuff he did – this was right at the time that he was doing his solo stuff. I think a lot of the influence was coming right from there. So, what Ronnie did was, he took us into the studio – he was in Sound City [Studios] just finishing up Holy Diver, I’ll never forget it – he brought us in there and said, “Hey, you guys wanna come by and have a listen?” It just blew us away; we’re sitting in this control room listening to these freshly – the songs weren’t even completely mixed, but they sounded amazing. They finished up, and he extended his time a little bit, and we brought our equipment in, and we recorded a two-song demo with Ronnie producing. You’re definitely going to get some influence from working with a guy like that.

Everybody knows that Ronnie was the quintessential rock and heavy metal singer, but what a lot of people don’t know is he was also an amazing producer. He produced this demo for us, and that was the instrumental one that got us signed on Warner Bros., which is the label he was on as well. Wendy, of course, played a big part in that; she was managing us. Being involved with Wendy and Ronnie did a lot for us. We were basically on tour with Ronnie; we were out playing arenas for six months at a time one year, and we went out for another three months another time. I think what happened, though, was once we progressed in our writing, we kind of found our own niche. It still had those metal roots, but it was a little bit progressive. We all made contributions; I had a lot to do with the writing, and Paul did, and Matt and David. But what we came up with was this unique sound that I don’t think anyone had really heard. And we got that, partially, by working with Tom Allom, who produced the first record; he was the Judas Priest producer. He and his engineer, Mark Dodson, they were a team and obviously into the heavier side of things. So, they took us and polished us, yet made us heavy at the same time. It was pretty cool.

I think we made a mistake by trying to get a little bit more commercial on the second record; we still had some good songs on there, but I think we were trying a little bit too hard to be more commercial, and I think that was a mistake for Rough Cutt. I think we should have stayed with what we had before, but there’s a lot of people that tell me it’s their favorite record.

Andrew:
Would you consider the 1983 “L.A.’s Hottest Unsigned Bands” compilation to be an instrumental component in pushing the band towards prominence?

Chris:
I wouldn’t say it was a major instrumental piece, but it certainly helped. I think the biggest thing was just the sheer number of tour dates that we did; we were out there for months. One of the packages that we did was with Accept and Krokus, with Rough Cutt opening. So, we were introduced to a lot of different audiences, and I think that really was what gave us the following that we had and put us on the map. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the record sales that you needed to make money and keep going. There’s a couple of reasons for that, but I’ll give you the main one; once we got the deal, Ted Templeman signed us, and we wanted Ted to produce us – and he wanted to produce us as well – but he was busy with Van Halen. And then, right around that time, [Dave Lee] Roth was going out and doing his solo record, and Ted was producing that as well. Basically, what it boiled down to, is [Ted] was too busy for us. We waited and waited almost a year, and that was a mistake because some of the people that were at Warner Bros. at the time we got signed weren’t there anymore; our A&R person was no longer the same person that had signed us. So, we kind of got lost in the shuffle because we were nobody’s baby; we were nobody’s pet project because we’d been sitting there on the shelf. Now, we did wind up with Tom Whalley as our A&R guy – who later became president of Warner Bros. – but they didn’t give us the push; it was mostly promotional.

We were playing 4-5 nights a week – just cranking – and you would go to the record stores, and there would be one or two records in there. People wanted to buy them, and they weren’t available. And that was because the field people – with the exception of a few – weren’t doing their jobs because they weren’t getting the push from the top down… “Hey, we wanna push these guys and make sure they’re on the radio in every town that they go to.” While that happened on certain occasions, it didn’t happen nearly enough. The main thing is when you wait that long, it’s like there’s nobody that’s really in there that wants you to do well because they’re the ones that found you and you’re gonna be their crowning achievement.

Also, at the same time, radio and MTV sort of switched up for a while. You had Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, and all that being played by the time our record came out, and it was weird; they sort of transitioned off of metal, and then they went back to it later, but by that time, it was too late. I mean, we were on MTV for a while, but it just wasn’t enough. I think we were on rotation for six weeks or something, but that’s not nearly enough. So, all these things happened that sort of kept us from achieving the goals we wanted to achieve.

Andrew:
How much did having a producer of Tom’s caliber impact the recording process on the self-titled debut?

Chris:
Well, he was a musician himself, so Tom helped us a lot with the arrangement. If you look at the song “Black Widow,” for example, he really made a contribution to that song. He actually flew in kick drums and would splice them in where they needed to be – now that shit’s really easy with pro tools, anybody could do it – but back in the time, you had to do it with tape, so it took a lot more skill. He was an amazing mixer; if you listen to the mix on “Black Widow” or “You Keep Breaking My Heart” or “Dreamin’ Again,” and listen to everything going on in the background, [Tom] was a master at that. So, I learned a lot working with Tom.

Andrew:
The follow-up album, Wants You! was released in 1986, which was a booming time for the genre. What do you believe prevented it from achieving mainstream success?

Chris:
So, we had Jack Douglas produce that; Jack has produced everyone from John Lennon, to Cheap Trick, to Aerosmith; he did the first five Aerosmith records. So, he was like a God. He made the record sound good; it was a completely different style from the first. Again, I think if we would have stuck to the format on the first record and kept it sort of heavier without trying too hard to be more commercial, I think we would have done better. Also, they picked up that option, but by then, the first record had hit like 125,000. Record companies are banks, man, and if they’re not seeing investment on return, they lose interest. By that time, it was kind of a lost cause.

Andrew:
Did you all sense that at the time?

Chris:
I don’t think we wanted to acknowledge it; we did get rotation on one of the songs for a while, but it just wasn’t enough. I’ll never forget the night that Wendy – we were out somewhere in upstate New York – we’re on the bus, and we were arguing, and I remember Wendy telling us, “You guys lost your record deal!” And we were like, “What the fuck! Are you kidding?” I guess, in a way, I wasn’t surprised, but it was kind of a blow. Let’s be honest – it was devastating.

Andrew:
Rock music was revered in Japan. How was Rough Cutt received, and is there a memory that sticks out from Super Rock ’85?

Chris:
There’s an old saying that everyone’s huge in Japan, and there’s a lot of truth to that. I remember coming in, getting off the plane, and literally hundreds of fans just swamping us. The chicks would wait for us downstairs in our hotel, and in the morning, they were down there with presents, gifts, and letters they would give you. They would follow us when we went to eat. Anybody that ever has been over there I’m sure, has had the same experience. It made you feel like you were a hundred feet tall.

We were over there twice, so the first time was Super Rock ’85 – it was Foreigner, Sting, Dio, Mama’s Boys, us, a couple of other bands. I think Foreigner was the headliner. There’s footage of that; if you Google it, there’s four songs that were professionally videotaped. It was an all-day and all-night event; it varied from 30-60,000 people; it was in this huge field, and it was raining off and on. So, we didn’t get on until about four in the morning, and it was funny because as we were playing, you could see it starting to get light out. We got on stage, and it was dry, and it started raining, and I was thinking, “Oh shit, man. I’m gonna die. I’m gonna be electrocuted.” But it all worked out well, and it actually turned out to be a good show.

The second time we went over there, we did four shows. They had these 800 seaters. It was really trippy because you’d go on really early, like 6:30. They were all seated, so you’d play a song, and you’re kind of like, “What the fuck is this?” Then, after the song is over, they stand up and clap, then sit down again and get quiet. It was a sign of respect. That was January of ’07, and those were essentially the last tour dates that we really did.

Andrew:
You went on to do Woop & the Count after that. Let’s hear about that project.

Chris:
Man, you’ve done your homework. That was a cool project; Woop [Jeff Warner] was from Black ‘N Blue and was really an underrated guy because he was an amazing songwriter and he could sing. In fact, I have the demo that we did with Brad Aaron – it’s one of the best-sounding records that I’ve ever been on, man. It sounds amazing. Woop had this real grit that you could sort of equate to AC/DC a little bit. I remember doing the demo with Brad, taking it down to Atlantic Records, and they listened to it for a week. By that time, it was like 1989-1990, and it was just over. They weren’t interested in signing any more hair bands. But the songs, I think to this day, stand up.

Andrew:
Last question before we sort of put a bow on the 80s era. You were in L.A. for the entirety of the golden years, so can you talk a little bit about the evolution of the Sunset Strip?

Chris:
As I say, when Stephen and I first moved up, it was still the skinny tie, new-wave thing. There were heavy bands, but they weren’t playing in any of the good venues because the good venues wanted the stuff that sold. That changed around ’81 with the coming out of Mötley, Quiet Riot, and a few other bands. But, the way I remember it, it was Mötley that really made that change, and they defined the era. Everybody wanted to be like them. Then you have Quiet Riot and Great White and then Ratt. Once that all went down, it was just cemented into the persona of the Strip. So, every weekend, that whole area from Gazzarri’s to the Whisky – which is about a three-block area, with the Rainbow and the Roxy in between – was just inundated with people wearing black with spikes, stiletto heels, spiked hair, and hair down to their ass, it was crazy times, man. And we all indulged. It’s just one of those phenomenons that took off and basically lasted a decade, and then things changed about as quickly as they started. All of a sudden, you had grunge and Nirvana, and all that stuff was gone.

Photo Credit: Cheri Santiago

Andrew:
Once the decade turned, you became a music producer, engineer and got involved with IT. Tell us more about that.

Chris:
The music producing part, after working with the guys that I had worked with, I learned how to do that. Around ’90-’91, I set up home studios at both Robbin’s place and Stephen’s place. Especially over at Stephen’s is where we started recording other bands because Stephen had started this little label, Top Fuel Records. So, we started recording bands, but we were doing our own stuff, too. So, I got better at doing it as time went on.

The other thing is, around ’93, I really got burnt out on the whole scene. That’s when Woop, those guys were from Portland, said, “Hey, listen, man, I just bought a recording studio up here. Will you move up here and help me run it?” It was one of those things where I had to think about it really hard. I thought, “Ya know, I’m not doing anything. There’s nothing happening here because grunge is ruling right now.” So, I packed everything I had in this little Toyota, drove up, and cleaned my act up when I got up there. We started recording and producing local bands; he had a trident board in there, the whole nine yards, so I kind of cut my chops.

What happened, the computer aspect of it – I’ve always been an electronic geek, it’s always been something that’s interested me since I was a kid – so when computers came out, I was like, “Wow, man. This is like a whole new world.” When I realized what you could do with computers and music, I went out and built a computer and researched what were the good sound cards. I put a high-end sound card in it, and what we did, was we started offering – now we could add digital effects to the songs. We could put the songs in the right or and do transitions, and crossfades, and all that stuff. I was doing that for a while, and then people were starting to ask me, “Could you help me with my computer?” And I realized that I could make a lot of money doing that. I kind of took a little break from music, went out, and learned computers. I’m glad I did it; it turned into a pretty successful little business. I moved eventually back down to San Diego in ’97, I think. I had a business and had some employees; we were doing network installs for doctors and medical corporations. Around 2013, I think I’d had enough of all that and was really itching – I’d done a couple of projects here and thee in between, but I really hadn’t done a hell of a lot over about a 15-year period. That’s when I was asked to come play in Stephen’s solo band. I was like, “Hell, yeah!

So, I really had to brush up and get my chops back to do that. I did that and went out and started touring with Stephen. I did that for about five years. We went out, and I’ll be honest with you, man – I really didn’t think I was gonna be doing that anymore. When I got back out there, I was like a kid in a candy store; I had a lot of fun, man. Then, Rough Cutt got offered the Monsters of Rock Cruise. That was good money, so we decided to get back together and go do that cruise. Then we started getting some offers to do some other shows, and it was like, “Shit, let’s put this back together.” So, we did, but it really wasn’t the same; each person sort of had a different agenda, and I don’t think everybody’s heart was really in the right place. I think we did two cruises and a handful of shows. We started recording some stuff, then a couple of the guys just weren’t into it.

I found myself without a band, but David and I still really wanted to play. That’s when I went out, picked up the phone, and got ahold of my old buddy [Steven] St. James. I said, “Hey, man. You wanna get together and write some songs?” He was like, “Hell yeah.” Then David came over and listened to the stuff we were doing and said, “Oh, man. Yeah, let’s do Rough Cutt with Steven!” We still wanted to do a two-guitar format, so we grabbed Darren Housholder. He plays with Jizzy’s band, and he’s played with some other notable people, but he is a shredder and a good guy. So, basically, Rough Cutt is back with a new lineup. This time around, I think our songs are a lot more cohesive, and I feel really good about the direction that we’re going in. Our first single and video release, we just hit a quarter of a million views on that, and we’re getting nothing but good feedback on it, and we’re starting to get a lot of offers and so on.

Photo Credit: Joe Schaeffer

Andrew:
That was actually the lead-in to my next question. Rough Cutt released its first video in 35 years, entitled “Black Rose.” Where did the inspiration come from?

Chris:
I said, “Look, guys, let’s just make this mostly about us playing on stage, and let’s build a simple story that we can cut to and fits the song.” Our bass player, Jeff Buehner, was really instrumental in helping get the right people. I think he was the one who got Priya Panda, the actress who played the part in the video. So, I didn’t really have a hell of a lot to do with the video – although I did write the song. [Laughs] I also have to give Matt some credit on that because he did a lot of the melodies, phrasing, and all that stuff when we were still together. So, he was definitely instrumental with that aspect of the song. Then Steven came in – we re-did the verses, and he added another take to it – and we really liked what he did. We’re really happy with how it came out.

Andrew:
Thanks for your time, Chris. To wrap things up, what is next on your docket?

Chris:
The Rough Cutt thing is on the front-burner, but also, I’m just increasing my skills right now. I’ve got a pretty nice little pro tool setup at my place, and I’m actually just getting started on doing submissions for TV. I’ve got a couple of friends that are doing it, and one friend, in particular, is doing really well. So, that’s something that I’m working on. When I’m not working on Rough Cutt stuff, I’m coming up with licks and ideas for that. I think that’s gonna be my fallback deal once I’m too crippled to get out there and play or whatever happens. [Laughs] I’d like to do both at the same time, although sometimes that can be a little hard. I want to be able to be independent and create music over here and not have to depend on bands or anything else to drive income.

Interested in leaning more about Rough Cutt? Check out the video below:

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Shredful Compositions, by Andrew DiCecco, here: https://vinylwritermusic.com/shredful-compositions-archives/

About Post Author

Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s <i>Trunk Nation</i> with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.
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