INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Drummer Brent Fitz, currently with ECONOLINE CRUSH, is probably best known to many for his great work alongside Bruce Kulick [ex-KISS], John Corabi [ex-MÖTLEY CRÜE] and James Hunting in UNION. Together they recorded and put out three classic albums, the self-titled in 1998 and THE BLUE ROOM in 2000 as well as a live record. He has thereupon, among other things, toured with VINCE NEIL [of MÖTLEY CRÜE] and can be heard on the 2003 live album LIVE AT THE WHISKY. Earlier this year, while his friend Eric Singer was away touring with KISS, Brent helped out in ALICE COOPER when band was doing a string of shows in Australia. This is when we managed to catch up with him for some cool insights on his career.
You are right now touring with ALICE COOPER and filling Eric Singer’s place when he’s busy working with KISS, how did you get this gig?
Obviously I’m friends with Eric. It actually goes back to the time when I worked with my band UNION with Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer and I’ve been friends from back then. I think even in the early 2000 I had a chance to play with ALICE COOPER but I was at the time still working with VINCE NEIL and didn’t feel like I wanted to move over. I wanted to stay with Vince, everything was cool and that’s when Tommy Clufetos came in to play with Alice. Now with Keri Kelli and Jason Hook, both ex-VINCE NEIL guitar players, playing with ALICE COOPER, it just kind of makes sense that we all work together.
Besides Eric, Alice has obviously had a bunch of different drummers along the years. Was it a challenge stepping in those shoes for this tour?
Yeah, there’s like a momentum created by all these other great musicians and not just drummers. If you look at the original band, it’s really hard to even think how you’re going to match that original magic of those five guys, because it was a BAND. I would say that all I can do is not to try and emulate Eric Singer or Jimmy DeGrasso or Tommy Clufetos. While I think all the drummers have left their stamp, some of the early magic was created with Neil Smith. So if I’m gonna set my radar on one drummer I’m gonna start with him and kind of work in his Keith Moon-ish style.
Is possible that you might continue to work with ALICE in the future?
I can’t predict it because I have commitments already. I’m very involved in my other band, ECONOLINE CRUSH, our new record [“Ignite”] just came out. On the flipside, if I don’t do the tour as Alice’s drummer, in a perfect world, there might actually be an opportunity for my band to actually play with Alice on tour at some point as an opening act. I’d be honored to.
Brent behind the kit in Alice’s band in Melbourne 2008
As you said, you’re now also a member of ECONOLINE CRUSH, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Well, there’s a KISS connection, which is cool because they had done some reunion dates as an opening act. The singer Trevor Hurst and I are both from Winnipeg, I’ve known him for many years. We’ve both crossed paths and been in different bands, but never been in the same band together. We’ve both had mutual respect for each other, so I was a fan of the band back in the day. I had moved to Los Angeles but had always kept my ear on what was going on in Canada and ECONOLINE were huge on the radio, lots of music videos etc. I was always rooting for Trevor and then we just crossed paths a couple of times. Then eventually we went to the Juno’s [an award show] this past year and thought maybe it was kind of time we both worked together. He said he was making a new record and I said I’d love to be involved. The guitar player in ECONOLINE CRUSH, Kai, had actually worked with Tommy Lee in METHODS OF MAYHEM. So ironically with him working with Tommy and myself working with Vince [Neil] there was this MÖTLEY connection again. We’ve made a new record and it’s very UNION feeling to me. It’s got the name ECONOLINE CRUSH that people are already familiar with, but I relate it as a new band. Yes, we’ll play some of the other material as well, but it’s a new band.
A lot of people are probably curious to know what the situation with UNION is right now. You haven’t actually split up, officially anyway, have you?
That’s true, but I think we’ve chosen to do other projects, John [Corabi] is very much a member of RATT, Bruce [Kulick] is very much a member of GRAND FUNK [RAILROAD] and I’m a member of ECONOLINE CRUSH. I would say that that band had a certain energy, you know, being a band, four guys just going out there and playing, you might call it the best band that nobody ever heard. A lot of people in a lot of bands, they categorize people with this post-grunge things and that’s where we got lumped into. There’s two guys from KISS and [one] from MÖTLEY CRÜE, it pigeon holes a band sometimes. I came in as some guy from Canada, when I played with UNION there wasn’t a long track record. Than band still has a lot of my heart and soul on those original records and should we do another record it’d be awesome, it’d be great. I know we could, John still sings great and I work with Bruce [Kulick] all the time on his solo records. Jamie [Hunting] and I always had a really good working relationship, obviously he played with me in VINCE NEIL, because I brought him in the band. Again there’s the million dollar question… who knows?
So, in retrospect, do you think it was perhaps a mistake putting emphasis on the involvement of KISS and MÖTLEY CRÜE members in UNION?
Yes, but I can understand where maybe the record label or someone investing in this project might want to try and use some of KISS’ or MÖTLEY CRÜE’s momentum, so there’s too sides to look at it. For me being the non-member of KISS and MÖTLEY CRÜE, I could have cared less. It was like this is a great band, this is the four of us and we’ll go out in a van if we have to and tour America and just work this like a band. Unfortunately John and Bruce had already been working hard with some other bands and I’m sure that for them it might have been a different mentality than me. We did have tour busses, we had vans, we did small clubs, we did theaters, we did all different levels and not only in America because we also did shows in South America and Europe. So we were able to tour the band, it was great because it was new band, and the expectation might have been there because it was guys from KISS and MÖTLEY CRÜE, but in a weird way it didn’t have a much of that, it didn’t sound like MÖTLEY CRÜE, it didn’t sound like KISS. So I think, we did the right thing, this is what it is, it’s UNION and it’s a new thing. If had just come out from the starting gate without any KISS fans to come to see us, or MÖTLEY CRÜE fans, you know, we might have been playing to crickets. It’s really hard, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Brent, John Corabi, Bruce Kulick and Jamie Hunting
The first UNION record was produced by Curt Cuomo, who also worked with KISS on the CARNIVAL OF SOULS record. Do you think it was his involvement that influenced the kind of grungy sound of that album?
It wasn’t Curt, I think it was a little bit more Bruce [Kulick]. There was some underrated music on CARNIVAL OF SOULS, maybe it wasn’t as good of a KISS record, but it was a good record, just like the record that John [Corabi] did with MÖTLEY CRÜE. And I bet you those guys, looking back, Nikki Sixx and maybe even Tommy Lee can go “You know what, that was a great record!”, but it might not have been a good representation of MÖTLEY CRÜE. Maybe the CARNIVAL OF SOULS record isn’t as KISS oriented, you know for the overall sound of KISS, the PSYCHO CIRCUS record had a more rounded sound, and it was more in the KISS vein. Again, maybe over time people will come back and re-listen to those records and realize there was some good music there. Bruce was just able to hear a very modern sound with the CARNIVAL OF SOULS record which also translated into the UNION stuff.
The second UNION album THE BLUE ROOM had a bit more traditional sound to it, was it a conscious decision to go that route?
THE BLUE ROOM is the record that I would listen to… less. Only because with the first record, the songs were made from early demos from like the roughest of ideas, some of the stuff we worked on was very… if we liked the energy of a recording, we kept it. Those kinds of things, some of the drums tracks had to be reintroduced on the album after we had already recorded a whole song and I had done demo drums and then we went in the studio and re-recorded the real drums on the top, but without a click track. I was in there trying to play with myself and not sure if this is going to be tight. So a lot of heart and soul went into the first album, the second album song-wise had really good structured music, and Bob Marlette was really great with getting us on a schedule and coming up with parts in songs and completing them, but it also had a more militant approach. We worked on songs and as we started to play them live I felt like I wanted to change my parts. Only thing for me on “The Blue Room” is… it was done in a more studio oriented way. The first record was just more innocent I guess, we didn’t know where we were going with it. On the first record I was just like “Wow, this is killer!” and on the second record you go “Well, alright.”, maybe we needed a third record for me to decide how great THE BLUE ROOM is. That’s probably the right answer, we need a third record to decide the fate of THE BLUE ROOM!
In-between the two UNION studio albums there was a live record called LIVE AT THE GALAXY. What made you decided to put a live record out after only one studio album?
We had an opportunity, so we took the chance to do that and I think it’s good, I think the songs breathe a little bit more on the live record. There were some cool cover there, we always played good CHEAP TRICK, and we always seemed to have scrappy energy that came across with some of our cover tunes. We love THE BEATLES so we had to throw in some BEATLES tunes. It was just for the fans, we’d done a bunch of touring in South America and stuff. We recorded it in L.A. at the Galaxy Theatre, it’s a good little fun record.
Although UNION did quite a bit of touring, instead of teaming up with other acts you mostly just headlined your own shows, was there a particular reason for that?
My opinion at the time, when we were on Spitfire, they had ALICE COOPER and DIO, was that we should have gone on tour with DIO. I’ve done that with some other bands that I’ve been in more recently where you have the same management or the same label, it just makes sense to do a package. We didn’t have that opportunity, we just went alone. We did Sweden Rock Festival in 2000 that was cool.
UNION last played some shows in 2005 but with Eric Singer on drums. What was the deal with that?
What happened was we were scheduled to do some dates in Japan as the original band, what happened was I the kabash on it, not by choice, but after working with VINCE NEIL I started working with this Canadian band called THEORY OF A DEAD MAN. At the time I made a judgment call, I talked to Bruce about it, had a heart to heart and say I really wanted to pursue this situation and he gave me his blessings. Because of the fans and with Eric and I being close friends, it didn’t make sense for UNION to pull the gigs. So Eric was invited to do the gig, but it wasn’t like he’s in UNION now, it was great that he was willing to do that. I’m very thankful.
In 2005 a live DVD from UNION called DO YOUR OWN THING LIVE was released, whose idea was that?
Well, Bruce is the band leader on just the fact that he’s very diligent, a hard worker and knows how to be the leader in the band. He’s usually the one suggesting things and we’d all agree on those things, but Bruce is very much the catalyst. He had a lot to do with the DVD, some of the footage came from different people. Bruce and I, we watched it a lot and talked about what should go on it, it was a band effort for sure.
Union live at Sweden in 1999
After the UNION thing got put on hold, you still kept working with BRUCE KULICK on his solo stuff, right?
Yeah, I’ve done his first two and his soon to be released third record, we did that in L.A. a little while ago, so three for three so far. Eric [Singer] plays on the records too and I think Bruce had Kenny Aronoff play a couple of tracks, he’s a great drummer. We just get along great, we understand each other, and we both love the same types of other bands, THE BEATLES, anything with a lot of melody. I kind of understand where Bruce is coming from all the time, we just work great together.
With you two working together on it, and even John usually involved too, isn’t it almost worth considering putting it out as UNION?
It’s probably just the politics of the band. Like the band that I’m currently in, ECONOLINE CRUSH, has been around for a few years and had released some records before me being in the band, there was a time when the lead singer Trevor [Hurst] had opted to do, basically, his own thing. Sometimes when people are really familiar with the name, the name kind of carries on, it’s larger than life. I think the expectation when we do UNION would be that Jamie [Hunting] would have to be involved and that would be my preference. If we do some new music [as UNION] I’d love Jamie to be the bass player, he’s so musically gifted, probably one of the best musicians I’ve ever worked with. We all contributed to UNION, it wasn’t always the smoothest process to get the end product. Actually, for the most part, for a lot of bands that I’ve been in it was a pretty diplomatic band.
Have you any idea what Jamie Hunting [UNION’s bassist] is up to right now by any chance?
I don’t. He kind of, after UNION and VINCE NEIL when we worked together, took a little break from touring. When we toured with VINCE NEIL it was a little bit less about the music and more about the entertainment and you know… there was a lot of shenanigans and fun. We kept the partying up a few notches when we toured, I think we were all just exhausted for a little while and took a little break. We weren’t really partying in UNION, we were just out there trying to make our band happened and with VINCE NEIL we were having fun, Vince is a great guy and he loves to have fun, we were all enjoying being on tour. I think after VINCE, Jamie wanted to take a little chill pill for a while, hopefully he’ll resurface. I need to call him.
Keri Kelli, Chuck Garrick, Brent and Jason Hook
Like you said you toured with VINCE NEIL a lot, how did you end up joining his band in the first place?
Here’s the classic line: “It’s who you know.”, but it’s also “Who knows you?”. When I had come out of UNION, I toured a bit with GILBY CLARKE [ex-GUNS N’ ROSES] and just after that I was doing a bit of studio work and played on some stuff for THE BULLET BOYS actually. Then out of the blue I got a phone call, I’d been recommended by some people that had worked with Vince or had worked with me. They’d heard that not only could I play the drums but also the piano, which was an asset apparently.
Needed for the song “Home Sweet Home”, right?
You’ve got to do it, it’s got to be in the set, great song. So people had called around and my name had come up several times, so I didn’t audition, it was like “Great, you’re in the band.”. I just came down and started rehearsing with Vince and was asked, I believe, about a bass player. I didn’t think too hard because I had so much great touring experience with James, so I recommended him. We then all just got into a rehearsal place, it just gelled right away and we put it on the tour.
The live album from VINCE NEIL with you on it, LIVE AT THE WHISKY: ONE NIGHT ONLY”, came out in 2003. Any particular reason there aren’t any of Vince’s solo songs on that record?
I don’t know the whole story on that, but I was there the night we recorded and we did play some solo stuff. I remember playing “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” and I think we did “Breakin’ in the Gun” off CARVED IN STONE, maybe “25 or 6 to 4”, you know the CHICAGO tune. Anyway I know we had some songs [other than MÖTLEY CRÜE] in the set, but it’s not my decision what get put on the record. It would have been cool to have some of the songs from his solo albums on there, but it just never made it to the record. C’est la vie.
So true. Thank you for your time, Brent!
MORE PICTURES OF ALICE COOPER SHOW IN MELBOURNE