Shugaazer: A new name, but a familiar voice.
Paul Laine talks about his new band Shugaazer and his role and future in Danger Danger.
Shugaazer has been a while in the making - I know you have been working on songs for some time now. Just how long did the writing process take and then the recording?
The idea of forming this band started many years ago....I had always been writing songs for Shugaazer (the band that never was) and every time I had to do a D2 record, Steve and Bruno would choose some of that material, and that's what would end up on their album's.
This album in particular was about a year in the making-8 months writing it and about 4 months recording it.
How many songs were written and/or recorded for the project that has resulted in the 10 tracks included on the final album?
Probably somewhere around 30 songs were written to various stages before Chris and I decided on the 10 that made the record....When I set out to do this, there was no deal on the table...I thought to myself, I am going to make the record that I want to make, sing about what I want to sing about, and if the only people that are interested in this record are my friends...so be it. I never really expected for everybody to like it as much as they do.
At what point did you decide to go for a new band name over a Paul Laine solo album?
I never wanted to be a solo artist when I got signed to Elektra...I didn't even want to be the singer....I didn't feel that I was good enough back then. I thought I was better suited to the songwriter/guitar player role...It was the label's idea that I be the solo artist, and of course that meant I also had to be the singer.
Shugaazer is a tidy four piece - tell us about the other three guys - what they do, where they came from?
The writing core of this band is Chris Matheson and myself...I met Chris while I was working on a demo for his band in my studio...I thought, this guy is the first guy I have met around here that has the same kind of ear for music as I do...plus he is an incredible guitar player...very natural and fluid. He has great songwriting chops and never lets his ego get in the way when we write together...it's always about the song. Shane Demers came next on bass...he had played in various other acts locally and abroad and we all just really liked him...his playing and his personality...I think it is so important if you are a group to have a great relationship outside the band....it makes it that much better when you have to work together....Roland Churchill came last...We recorded the Album with Pat Steward, who drummed for Bryan Adams, the Odds, Jimmy Barnes, Matt Good ect...He had also worked with me before, as you know, on the "Stick It In Your Ear" album...He highly recommended Roland, and that was enough for me.
How do you describe the more modern approach of the band? Where does that musical inspiration/influence come from?
I have always just written the kind of songs that I would like to listen to...nothing more...If you think it's modern...great...if you think it's dated - I don't really care. Perhaps this isn't the best attitude to go though the business with, but songwriting is such a personal thing, and I have to like it before you do.
As far as influences go, the older you get, the more you have to draw on inspiration-wise...I love everything that is good. From Abba to Zappa, I'll listen to it all.
Danger Danger are a classic melodic hard rock band, yet Gildersleeves featured some modern production effects and a more updated sound. Was that your influence and is that continued on in Shugaazer?
I have nothing to do with how a D2 record turns out...that is all Steve and Bruno's decision...I don't write with them, I don't record with them...I send in my songs, they write theirs. They send me the tapes to sing on at my studio, I meet them in N.Y. when I have to go on tour...I don't think that I have influenced them at all, and I think that my contribution has been minimal.
When it comes to working on their material, I sing the songs exactly how they told me to sing them, and when it come to mine, they leave me alone.
To me, tracks like Beautiful and Enough and even Song 4 Lennon are related D2, but have taken another step forward. Do you consider the same?
Well...I know that they would never choose any song like that to be on one of their albums. It's hard for me to think of in the context of D2...outside people are a better judge of that. Since I don't write with and formulate a concept of any D2 album with Steve and Bruno, I don't think of any of my songs sounding particularly D2...in fact I have been chastised for writing different sounding material that perhaps hasn't fit into the D2 mould, and criticized for not sounding like Ted...I just think that I sound like me, and for the first time in a long time, I can stand on my own without being compared to somebody else.
How about most modern rock tracks like Stepped Into My Universe and Get The Hell Outta My House - where does the musical inspiration for those come from?
Again...when it comes to writing...there is no pre-conceived plan...I wrestled with putting Stepped Into My Universe on the record...everyone else just love the song so much that I had to...Chris wrote Get the Hell Outa My House, and I wanted that song on the record and he didn't...so figure that one out.
Are you happy with the results for the debut album? Is it as you envisioned?
The producer in me never is, with any record I make, but the songwriter in me is happy with it.
How would you describe the band's sound to those that haven't heard it?
Some people say we are a cross between U2/Coldplay meets Phantom Planet - but hey...who's naming names!!! ;)
I don't know really...I guess that's for everyone else to decide...I'm too close to it!
Any touring plans for the band?
We are definitely a live band...anybody willing to have us come play...we'll show up...We are going to be doing a lot of dates in Canada...most likely Europe as well...I suppose it depends if anybody likes it.
And I gather that this will be an ongoing band that will record future albums?
Yes...as long as the songs keep coming...and we don't kill each other.
Is there any room in the future for a Paul Laine solo album of any description?
At this point I don't know....If I feel constrained somehow and I feel the need to say something writing-wise that doesn't fit into the context of the group I'm in, then I suppose that I will...right now I feel tremendous freedom in my writing....As long as I have that, I am happy.
You have just got back from some European Danger Danger dates. Where does D2 feature in your future plans?
I'm focused on this project right now....D2 for all of us is just a hobby...I think if it wasn't...we'd all be working harder to make it more of a force than it is...besides, I am not the captain of the D2 ship and have no say in the decision making process.
It's been a three year break now since Gildersleeves and the band just released Rare Cuts, which sadly doesn't feature yourself. I hear word of a Best Of release and a live album. Why not just record a new studio album - or is it out of your hands?
Well...I am happy that Rare Cuts doesn't have me on it...I think it was a wise decision on their part, and goes to show what I think most people believe to be the true core of D2 anyways...I know my place in the band, and have never felt bad about it...I even think it would be great if they did a tour with Ted.
I know that the fans would probably appreciate it a lot....the thing is, when you're the replacement guy, you will always be that in the minds of most people who love the band...As far as a " Best of" goes...I don't know...and if there is a live record, at this point I don't see the point.
Will a new studio happen, or is it just too hard to get done?
I don't think so, but you would have to pose that question to Steve & Bruno.
Is it nice to still get requests for the Stick It In Your Ear album?
It is, and I am still flattered at all the nice things people have to say about it...You know...I wrote most of that album when I was 17 years old....I didn't even own a copy of it until about 6 months ago....I never listen to work that I have done unless there is a tour to go on....which is why I always have cheat sheets on stage!!!
Pretty pathetic that can't even remember the lyrics to my own songs!
I hear that you are considering re-releasing the album?
I am seriously considering releasing it again...especially after this last tour, where I had a lot of record store owners coming out asking me if I would....apparently it is quite hard to get, and there seems to be enough people who want it...so...
And will it include the 4 bonus tracks and/or anything else different?
Yes and probably something new as well....
Paul, you have a lot of songs that remain unreleased - could there be any plans to release these at any stage?
I won't release anything in demo form ever again...They will only be released as I intended for people to hear, which of course would be in a new studio album....I really think that you only do that when you run out of options creatively, or you just want to milk your career to the last drop.
What's next at this stage then for Paul Laine?
Devoting all my energies to the Shugaazer album....Right now I am trying to get distribution in my own country, and will begin playing as soon as that happens.
What albums are you listening to right now?
A lot of old stuff...Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" ,ELO's Greatest Hits, Bowie, the Cars, Blondie and Liz Phair's great new album...Also...I discovered this great band from the UK....they're called Feeder...Love that band...very much along the lines of what I am doing, so I guess it's justification in some weird way.
Anything you would like to add?
I would just like to say thank-you to everyone who has ever bought a recording of mine...With the internet piracy going on, it is a lot tougher for smaller artists like myself to forge out a career and make a living from it...music is art...and artists need to be paid in order to sustain at what they do...we think nothing at downloading music for free off the internet, but if we went in to an artist's studio, painter, potter, novelist, whatever and just took from him what he had spent so long to create....I think it would be a different matter..
It is because this kind of theft is an anonymous theft....responsibility and respect for people and their work is always important, no matter what their job is...I am not saying don't listen to music online...I am just saying respect the effort that went into it, and if you truly love what you hear, BUY the album, so the artist has a chance to make more of his art available to you.
Cheers Paul for taking the time out to do this interview - much appreciated.