October 23 2014
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Yesterday a man died doing his job in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. A man trained for battle but not for anything as cowardly as the act that would claim his life. How does anyone prepare for that? Sadly this stuff shouldn’t be happening anywhere. Especially in one of the most peaceful places in the world. Cpl Nathan Cirillo died today in some insane act of terrorism but accomplished nothing but taking a father from his child and a son from his family. The country still stands strong as ever with ever more determination and resolve in memory of a fallen soldier who had given his life to protect the rest of us.
In a bizarre twist of fate I write this from Hamilton, Ontario the very city Nathan had once called home. It has been especially affecting to be so close to the story geographically. I could have been in Vegas or LA or Tokyo but by chance I am here and the grief is palpable. But it is grief supported by strength and purpose to look forward to a time when this kind of senselessness will be a thing of the past. When the inhabitants in this world can look past our differences and find comfort in our unavoidable similarities.
I can only pass on condolences to Nathan’s family and thank Nathan for looking out for people like me so we may live the life we have.
Thank you, Nathan. You will never be forgotten.
What a nasty way to wrap an otherwise glorious trip to my Motherland. I have been to many stops like a Canadian Gypsy. I found myself in Vegas for two days before vanishing north. I have come to the realization that as of this month I have lived in Vegas for eight years. eight years is a long time. Especially considering I had no intention of staying upon my arrival. I came down to work with my friends, Kurt and D from the Underground Rebels. I had reached a fork in my road and it took me south. I told myself I’d stay till the holidays then make my way home. One thing led to another and you probably know how the rest goes. I found a new life for myself playing music with my friends. What more could I ask for? It was anything but an easy transition but nothing worth doing ever is. Shortly after my arrival I was off to Europe with Brent Muscat’s Faster Pussycat. I had never been to Europe until 2006. How could this be? All these years playing music and this was my first time. We came back and put together the Sin City Sinners which really sealed my long term Las Vegas plans. Life with Slash started almost five years ago now. Time has and continues to race by. I have a birthday coming then a new year will be on our calendars. We will be halfway through the decade they call the 2010s. Never had a ring to it did it? Neither did the 2000s. In just over five years from now we will be living in the ‘Twenties’. What a weird concept.
I am thankful for all that has come my way these past eight years. It is unbelievable to me that this much time has passed. It will be ten years before I know it. That will be a landmark.
Of course there is still so much to come…
My blogs usually come much more succinctly but my gypsy ways get in the way of productivity sometimes. So much time has passed since I last checked in that the tour has ended, the album has been released and another tour is less than two weeks away. A tour to see some of my favorite people in the world. In the UK. In Europe. We have been woodshedding under the tutelage of the mighty Aerosmith. We come to you with blades sharpened and a lust for blood. Of the Rock And Roll kind anyway.
Funny thing, the road. Looking back on our first show of 2014 at Hampton Beach July 9th it seems like a year ago and a week ago at the same time. I told myself at the beginning of the tour that it would be September before I knew it and sure enough I remember looking at my phone one day and seeing September 1. Midway through the tour everything seems to be moving at a pretty good rate. Not too fast. Able to take all of it in. Then BAM it’s 2 months later.
I had every intention of doing a kind of wrap up blog when we ended the Let Rock Rule tour with Aerosmith but with the enormity of what is left this will be coming in two parts. Last time, I wrote my song by song guide to the new album, World On Fire. Hope you enjoyed.
This one is gonna be a biggie. Get comfortable. You have been warned.
When last I checked in I was in the Garden State getting ready to play the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey in support of the mighty Aerosmith. This was a very cool show. A lot of the New York City people came out for it making it even more of an event. A long list of people showed up. Everyone from Donald Trump to our pals from That Metal Show. I never saw Trump but I did spend a lot of time with Don Jamieson and, of course, Eddie Trunk. I hadn’t had a whole lot of time in the past to chat with Don so it was cool to get to hang. Jim Florentine was not there. Not sure what he was up to.
For the rock nerd in me there were some exciting people. The amazing, Jack Douglas, producer of many Aerosmith records was on hand. He’s also done a myriad of other legendary work including Double Fantasy, John Lennon’s last album. That’s a big deal. He, of course, worked with Slash in the Snakepit days.
Also there was Bob Gruen, the legendary New York photographer. He’s photographed everybody, Lennon, New York Dolls, KISS, Aerosmith etc. The man is a legend. These are the kinds of people I get excited about.
Blasko from Ozzy’s band was there with some of the Black Veil Brides. Like I said it was one of those nights. I still have to ask myself what Donald Trump was doing there. I guess he either- A-knows Steven as a fellow reality TV competition guy or B-has good taste in music.
Newark was a great show. New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, these are the states that are renowned for having very loyal rock fans. There’s lots of others too but I have always had a good time in Jersey.
From there we were off to play the Fox Theater in the Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. This was one of our own 2 hour shows which is always a pleasure after rocking the one hour mini sets with Aerosmith. I know I’ve said it a thousand times but it’s always weird being in a casino when not in Vegas. For us Vegas folk casinos are just such a big part of our lifestyle that to see them anywhere else is a little bizarre. For a moment you feel like you’re at the Golden Gate downtown or maybe the Four Queens but no you’re somewhere in Connecticut. Very surreal. Our crew guys were floating through the casino like smoking and drinking ghosts throwing money in machine after machine. But, of course, that’s just what casinos are built for.
I did an interview with Bass Player magazine while in Connecticut that should be in the January issue. Look for that.
The show was a real blast. We powered through our two hours. It never feels that long. It cranks along. Good people in Connecticut.
Our next show was in Bristow, Virginia back in the company of Aerosmith. It’s funny how tight the two camps had become on the tour. We really did enjoy the company of their crew. In the catering area there were not two divided camps. We sat together and enjoyed one another’s company. The Aerosmith crew would jam Aerosmith songs and we’d all be there to cheer them on. Frank jammed a couple times. They kept wanting me to sing but that never happened. Good buncha people.
The show was a blast. After the show we got to meet producer, Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette’s family and they were delightful. Elvis had told a story of how he and his brother had gotten Slash’s autograph when they were young. Elvis’ brother verified that tale. I’ll leave that story for him to tell at his leisure. Feel free to ask him all about it. He goes by the name of Elvis Liberace on Twitter. Tell him Todd Dammit sent you.
The Bristow show was outstanding. It was always a bit sad having to get on the bus while Aerosmith was still playing. Driving off into the night to the strains of Walk This Wayyyyyyyy…
Next up we found ourselves in one of the great Rock And Roll states, Michigan. Clarkston, Michigan to be exact. This was a big night. It was Joe Perry’s birthday. There is a true bond between Slash and the gang called Aerosmith. Slash and Joe have an especially close bond. Slash once purchased an invaluable guitar that once belonged to Joe. Joe parted with the guitar during hard times. For Joe’s 50th birthday Slash returned that guitar to him as a gift. I think that seals a bond that will never break.
That night Slash joined the guys on stage again but this time a gigantic cake was wheeled out for Joe as well. It was awesome to be a part of such a special day. Slash is a kid in a candy store up there with his childhood heroes. It puts a big smile on my face to get to watch him live that dream again and again.
Our set was amazing but I have to admit to a bittersweet melancholia creeping up on me as the tour was starting to close in on itself. We were kids at summer camp and we never wanted it to end.
Now we was back the Motherland. Crossing the border into Canada for the third time of the tour. We immediately pulled the bus over and got our fill of Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts. Welcome to Canada!
We spent the night in Toronto then flew on to Sydney, Nova Scotia. I’d never been to Sydney, Nova Scotia before. In fact, for a Canadian I really haven’t gotten back east nearly enough.
Oddly enough We were flying into Nova Scotia on the 13th anniversary of 9/11. The strange thing is that on that actual day in 2001 I was eerily in eastern Canada. Moncton, New Brunswick to be exact. Not exactly a return to the scene of the crime but enough of a ‘too close for comfort’ coincidence for me. It is a heavy day no matter what. Never to be forgotten.
Our final show of the Let Rock Rule 2014 AeroSlash tour was September 12th in Sydney, Nova Scotia. It was a both momentous and ‘just another day’ at the same time. I never saw any of the Aerosmith guys that day at all. I never got my chance to thank them for their courtesy, hospitality and the great reward of getting to watch them night after night. We played then they played and then we were gone. I got to watch them for a time from the side of the stage and I tried to drink as much down as I could of the experience. It has been one of the great joys of my life being able to be a part of this past summer with a band I have idolized all my life. I could die tomorrow and feel completely fulfilled. Though I say that at the end of almost every tour. At the end of almost every day.
The Trews played earlier in the day and absolutely killed. I never got to say hi to any of the guys but John Angus, the guitar player, played with Fitz and I at one of our all Canadian music benefit shows in Winnipeg once. He is a monster of a player. I highly recommend you check them out.
Looking back on the Let Rock Rule tour so much of it stands out. One day at soundcheck Brad Whitford was standing down on the floor in front of me watching us play. Being a cheeky bastard I threw Brad one of my guitar picks like he was an audience member. He feigned enthusiasm and ran to pick it up like the most highly invested fan. Part of me was thinking he was gonna punch me in the nose but he laughed and so did we.
We got to spend some time as an apostle to the great Steven Tyler. He would just appear and commandeer the room. I’m not sure where he is at this moment but I know he is commandeering the room that he is in. He is one of the greats in the history of music. Not just Rock And Roll but music. Up there with Elvis and Lennon and Michael Jackson and Miles Davis or whoever your immortals are. Steven is a legend. 100% Getting to shake hands with Joe Perry here and there is more than a thrill. There is Keith Richards and then there is Joe. I am currently reading his book. I just can’t get enough of these guys.
We had played with Brad once before back in 2011, I believe. He is the true gentleman and music fan of the bunch. Always at soundcheck. Always talking guitars. More than once in the catering room Brad came and sat at our table. This bunch of knuckleheads talking about Robocop (or something just as relevant) and suddenly Brad Whitford. That’s the kinda guy he is. Just a good dude. There is a lot to learn from Mr Whitford.
It was great to be a part of watching Joey Kramer’s triumphant return to the stage after a two show sabbatical. I’ve read his book, too. Can’t knock him down. Lots to be learned there too.
Tom Hamilton is one of my bass player heroes. He is untouchable in so many ways. He is rock solid and unflappable. A true honor to get to shake his hand and say hello. As much of an honor to get to be taken to school nightly watching him play.
Ladies and gentlemen, America’s greatest Rock And Roll band-Aerosmith.
Also-all original members. Think about that. Who else can say that?
So then we were suddenly in New York City again. It was a repeat of 2012 where we played the record release party for Apocalyptic Love. two years later here we are with a new bouncing baby boy named World On Fire.
With some time off in NYC our good friend and tour guide, Joe Fahmy, took us around to what seemed like every pizza joint in town. We even went out to Brooklyn for pizza. It’s NYC. Best pizza ever. It must be done.
Frank had never been to the Dakota building before so we had to take him there. John Lennon was shot there almost 34 years ago. How shocking is that? It hardly seems that long ago. It’s a dark thing to take in but as a fan it is a must see. It was night by the time we got there and would have looked not unlike the night it happened. It’s an eerie and dark experience to be sure. We worked our way back to Central Park to look at Strawberry Fields as Frank had not seen that either. It is good to get as close to your heroes as you can. As a firm believer in the magic or music these are holy grounds for me.
Our cd release show was to be aired live over Sirius radio. The show itself took place at Santos Party House. Our next four shows would all be on some of the smallest stages this band had ever performed. The cd release show was great fun. We played Bent To Fly from the new record for the first time and it came off strong. It really felt good. All in all I think the show went really well. I haven’t listened to the recording. I tend to not listen to recordings of what we’ve done. I tend to look forward not back. I think that’s good advice in most things, brothers and sisters.
Of course that very day was September 15th, the day our new album, World On Fire was officially released. What better way to celebrate it’s birth than to play a Rock show?
There was no time to celebrate too much as we had to be up beyond reason early to appear on Howard Stern’s show. To be honest when it first came up I assumed Slash was going to go in and do his usual rap with Howard. Then someone said, ‘No. You’re all going in and you’re going to play.’ That didn’t make any sense. It’s a radio station. There’s nowhere to set up and play. Sure enough that was exactly what was about to happen.
Everything had happened so fast that there was little time to mentally prepare for Howard. Aerosmith, travel, cd release. I think we were all so mentally focused on being up that early, playing that early, being able to SING that early that I think the fact that we were going to be performing 5 feet from the ‘King Of All Media’ had kinda escaped us.
That morning I dragged myself out of bed and as always was the first one downstairs in the lobby. Punctuality is key. Lesson two today. I was caffeinating heavily as we drove over to the station. I was so delirious that I still had no concept of the gravity of the situation. Suddenly we were being ushered into the green room and it all started to hit me. I’m a fan. I follow Howard. i recognize this green room and hallway from the videos I’ve watched of Howard.
Then Gary Dell’Abate walked in and shit got real. ‘Wait a second. I’m at the Howard Stern show,’ my fatigued brain thought. Wow. This is for real. A quick hello from Gary with some prep then I made my way to the studio.
As I walked into the studio Howard was speaking into his microphone. That’s what he does. He was actually on air as I walked by him. He waved at me like ‘Hey’. I waved back. What a trip. That’s Howard Stern and I’m in his dojo. He is the best in the world at what he does and I am on the bridge of his Enterprise.
If you’ve not listened to our segment on the show you should. It is yet another beyond surreal moment in this career for me.
First things first we are playing on rented gear. Always a crap shoot. On top of that we are playing at a comparatively low volume to how we play in our environment. There was the plexi glass shield around the drums to stop the bleed of the drums and cymbals into our microphones. Beyond that I couldn’t hear my voice at all. I was so wrapped up in the moment that I didn’t put my headphones on. Myles had his on so he could hear himself sing. Me? I was flying blind. I just started shouting and hoped for the best. I have played in Vegas for years in every type of circumstance. Before that I had played in every type of live set up imaginable. I am well prepared for any such situation. Rented gear and no monitors doesn’t faze me at all. Let’s do this!
It was a blast to play. Howard was all smiles ear to ear as we were playing getting his own little private concert. We all know he loves Rock N Roll and that had to have been a blast for him.
After we played Howard was very complimentary on many things including Myles and I singing together which was an exceptional thing to hear. It is rewarding when someone acknowledges your hard work. Especially someone like Howard.
The interview was a blast and one for the history books. I did not expect Howard to speak to any of us directly so to hear Howard Stern’s voice say my name was beyond surreal. It was downright weird.
It was an amazing experience as are most on the USS Conspirator. We took some pictures and exchanged a few words and then we were all on a plane to a couple days at home before the next chapter began.
The Takeover Of Los Angeles!
But I’m going to save that tale for my next blog. Expect it much sooner than it took for this one to come around.
Brothers and sisters, The Walking Dead is back! Hell yes! Boardwalk Empire finale this Sunday. Double hell yes! It’s a great time to be alive!
You should all read Questlove’s book, Mo’ Meta Blues. If you’re a music fan like me you will love it. That book has opened up a whole other world for me musically. I am enjoying digging into things beyond my comfort zone as a player. Things like funk, blues and even jazz. That’s right-Todd Dammit is diggin’ on jazz. Who knew? That’s the beautiful thing about music. It’s always growing and changing and if you can’t find anything new you like there is a wealth of music behind you to explore. It is a journey I have spent my life enjoying. Thanks Quest for showing me even more.
Grab brother Joe Perry’s book. He is the pinnacle of cool!
Stay tuned for Part II coming soon. Until then remember the things that are important. Hold on to the things that make you happy. Let go of the things that make you anything but. Love and be loved.
Thank you, Nathan Cirillo. You will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, little brother.
Big love, brothers and sisters.
Your loyal and humble servant